Ringvorlesung des Collegium generale: Erschütterungen

Far-flung shocks: How tropical volcanic eruptions triggered societal crises in 17th century Northern Europe

Mittwoch, 01.05.2024, 18:15 Uhr

Bild von Heli Huhtamaa

Veranstaltende: Collegium generale
Redner, Rednerin: Prof. Dr. Heli Huhtamaa, Historisches Institut, Universität Bern
Datum: 01.05.2024
Uhrzeit: 18:15 - 19:45 Uhr
Ort: Auditorium maximum, Raum 110
Hochschulstrasse 4
3012 Bern
Anmeldung: Hier Anmelden
Merkmale: Öffentlich


Large volcanic eruptions have substantial climate impact potential, and volcanic aerosol forcing is attributed as the main driver of summer temperature variability on interannual-to-decadal timescales before the industrial period. These volcanic-induced climatic disturbances can, in turn, cause severe societal consequences far away from the eruption location. For example, the climatic impacts of large 17th century eruptions triggered devastating famines across the northernmost Europe, such as the Russian famine of 1601–1603 (following the 1600 Peruvian Huaynaputina eruption) and the Ill Years of Scotland 1695–1697 CE (following the 1694 unidentified tropical eruption).

In general, previous research has focused on detecting similar large-scale societal crises following large volcanic eruptions: famines and dynastic collapses. Although these stories can be captivating, it may be difficult to distinguish the differences between coincidence and causation with such broad narratives. How much eruption-related climatic shocks on the one hand, and existing socio-environmental conditions and emerging human actions on the other, explain the detected human calamities?

Consequently, this talk assesses critically these eruption-climate-society causalities on various temporal and spatial scales, starting with the global climate system and ending with a single peasant farmer. By bringing a micro-historical perspective into discussion, this talk aims to demonstrate the importance of recognizing human agency when we are examining the societal consequences of abrupt and unexpected climatic shocks.

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