Abstract for presentation at XVII INQUA Congress 2007

Human Impacts of the 1600 Eruption of Huaynaputina Volcano, Peru

  • Kenneth Verosub, University of California - Davis, United States
  • Jake Lippman, University of California - Davis, United States
  • We have been investigating the human impacts of the 1600 eruption of Huaynaputina volcano in Peru. The estimated Volcanic Explosivity Index for this eruption is 6, which is comparable to that of the 1815 eruption of Tambora volcano in Indonesia, which produced global cooling and led to crop failures, famine and social unrest. On the basis of tree-ring data, Briffa et al. (1998) suggested that the most severe short-term Northern Hemisphere cooling event of the past 600 years occurred in 1601, the year following the Huaynaputina eruption. In order gain a better understanding of the nature and extent of this cooling, we have been collecting annual time series that provide information about climatic conditions during time intervals that bracket the Huaynaputina eruption. Among the time series that we have examined are ice conditions in the harbors of Tallinn, Estonia, and Riga, Latvia and in Lake Suwa in Japan: cherry blossom blooming (sakura) dates from Kyoto, Japan; records of agricultural production from China and Russia; tithe records from the Spanish colonial empire; dates of the beginning of the wine harvest in France and the rye harvest in Sweden; prices of agricultural commodities in Europe; and river flows from the Nile and the Colorado. In many cases, 1601 shows up as one of the coldest years, if not the coldest year, in these records. In addition, the worst famines in Russian history took place between 1601 and 1603, which eventually led to the overthrow of Tsar Boris Gudonov. Thus, there is considerable evidence that the human impacts of the Huaynaputina eruption were comparable to those from the Tambora eruption. This result is important because it documents that the Tambora eruption was not an isolated occurrence in the Holocene and supports the idea that such events might occur with a return frequency of as little as 200 years. Thus, any realistic discussion of the societal risk from natural perils needs to include the possibility of volcanically-induced global climate change.

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