Decadal-to-centennial increases of volcanic aerosols from Iceland challenge the concept of a Medieval Quiet Period

Imogen Gabriel*, Gill Plunkett, Peter M. Abbott, Melanie Behrans, Andrea Burke, Nathan Chellman, Eliza Cook, Dominik Fleitmann, Maria Hörhold, William Hutchison, Joseph R. McConnell, Bergrún A. Óladóttir, Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, Jakub T. Sliwinski, Patrick Sugden, Birthe Twarloh, Michael Sigl

*Corresponding author for this work

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Existing global volcanic radiative aerosol forcing estimates portray the period 700 to 1000 as volcanically quiescent, void of major volcanic eruptions. However, this disagrees with proximal Icelandic geological records and regional Greenland ice-core records of sulfate. Here, we use cryptotephra analyses, high-resolution sulfur isotope analyses, and glaciochemical volcanic tracers on an array of Greenland ice cores to characterise volcanic activity and climatically important sulfuric aerosols across the period 700 to 1000. We identify a prolonged episode of volcanic sulfur dioxide emissions (751–940) dominated by Icelandic volcanism, that we term the Icelandic Active Period. This period commences with the Hrafnkatla episode (751–763), which coincided with strong winter cooling anomalies across Europe. This study reveals an important contribution of prolonged volcanic sulfate emissions to the pre-industrial atmospheric aerosol burden, currently not considered in existing forcing estimates, and highlights the need for further research to disentangle their associated climate feedbacks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number194
Number of pages18
JournalCommunications Earth & Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2024


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