Geoscientist claims to have found mystery volcano that caused mighty 13th century blast

June 18, 2012 by Bob Yirka, report
The eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Credit: Austin Post, USGS

( -- For years, geoscientists have known that a volcano erupted sometime in the mid thirteenth century, with nearly unprecedented force. Skies were darkened and the entire planet experienced a temporary cooling. What’s not been known though, is which volcano it was and the exact year that it blew. Scientists have informally agreed that the event likely occurred in the year 1258. Now however geoscientist Franck Lavigne of Panthéon-Sorbonne University, is claiming that he has proof that the volcano actually erupted a year earlier than that, and what’s more, he says, he knows which volcano it was, but won’t say until his paper has been published in an as yet still unnamed journal.

Scientists can pinpoint volcanic activity by looking at ice sample taken from the polar regions and tree rings that reflect a cold period of activity. The blast that occurred in the has been the object of much attention because of the enormous amount of sulfur found in such ice samples. So much so that some suggest that it was the biggest blast in seven thousand years. They give it a seven out of eight on the volcanic explosiveness scale. Up until now there has been a list of leading candidates for the most likely to have caused such a massive outburst, but no real evidence to point to any of them as the true culprit.

Lavigne, speaking at the American Geophysical Union conference this year, showed pictures of parts of the volcano he says is the one responsible for the blast and instead of giving its actual name or even general location, showed the evidence he’d collected that he says proves it’s the one that blew back in 1257. Most of those in attendance at the meeting agreed that the pictures he showed depicted a volcano in Indonesia, which would narrow it down some, but not all that much because Indonesia has 130 active volcanoes. Lavigne’s proof came in the form of the results of analyses of rocks that had been taken from the mystery volcano, which apparently show a nearly exact chemical match with the polar ice samples.

Unfortunately, not much more will be known about the identity of the volcano until Lavigne’s paper is published and even then, more research by other’s will have to be done before the research community reaches a consensus on Lavigne’s claims; either accepting them as likely the truth about what happened or simply adding his ideas to the list of speculative theories.

Explore further: Iceland's Hekla volcano shows signs of activity

More information: Franck Lavigne: The 1258 Mystery Eruption: Environmental Effects, Time of Occurrence and Volcanic Source, AGU Chapman Conference on Volcanism and the Atmosphere, Selfoss, Iceland, 10–15 June 2012.


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Jun 18, 2012
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5 / 5 (2) Jun 18, 2012
I am curious as to comparison to the 1883 Krakatoa event which has beed described as the largest in rcorded history. That event, I believe, had been estimated to have ejected 80 cubic miles of material, with the force of 200 megatons. For perspective , Mt. Saint Helens event was estimated at 3 cubic miles.
3.3 / 5 (3) Jun 18, 2012
Lavigne probably majored in theater in school (or perhaps he learned the art of publicity from Andrea Rossi). The volcano is probably Rinjani as shown here: http://www.volcan...0604-03=
The 1258 event is supposed to be 8 times larger than Krakatoa.
not rated yet Jun 18, 2012
Maybe it is lake Toba in the island of north sumatera
2 / 5 (1) Jun 18, 2012
not rated yet Jun 18, 2012
Each volcano has a unique mix of chemicals. Per the article, the 1257/8 eruption deposits have an unusually high sulfur content. This in itself is an important clue and the original article mentions that Lavigne had rocks with very similar composition at his presentation.
3 / 5 (2) Jun 18, 2012
Do let us know when this discovery is peer reviewed.
1 / 5 (3) Jun 18, 2012
Another kick in the head to the AGW Hockey Stick. The fabricated one tree temperature reconstruction totally missed this volcano.
1 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2012
The odd thing about these eruptions is that they never seem to progress from TV documentary to history books. One of the biggest eruptions of all may have happened around 535 CE, triggering the Dark Ages as human civilisations were destroyed by the lack of light, warmth and food. Did it happen? Did the eruption described here happen? If they did, why aren't they in our history books?

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