A gloomy cloud of black ash blocks the sun from Europe to Asia. An outbreak of bubonic plague coincides with a pervasive cold snap. Harvesting fails hunger, darkness and misery abound.
All these states were in the whole year 536 BC. Omnipresent throughout the northern hemisphere. The year was a turning point in an era of unprecedented devastation. It was so bad that this year researchers are marking the worst time to live in human history. Or as Harvard History Professor Michael McCormick Science said, "It was the beginning of one of the worst times when it was alive, if not the worst year."
Although the origins of the black, ash-colored cloud were previously a mystery, a new paper published in the journal Antiquities suggests that a massive volcanic eruption in Iceland triggered the 18 has months of darkness. Two more outbreaks in the years 540 and 547 would reinforce the cloud.
The ashes blocked the sun and led to cold temperatures that drove the harvest and led to hunger. In the darkness spread 542 AD. An outbreak of bubonic plague throughout the Eastern Roman Empire that killed droves and gave way to an economic downturn over 30 years.
The study – by McCormick, history professor of Nottingham University, co-authored by Christopher Loveluck and the glaciologist Paul Mayewski of the Climate Change Institute of the University of Maine in Orono – measured ice samples in the Swiss Alps for signs of pollutants and atmospheric changes, possibly the Illuminate the origin of the dark cloud. During the study, the researchers discovered in the ice lead-containing pollutants caused by the increase in volcanic activity.
Ironically, historians believe that these pollutants have triggered the revival of the European economy and pulled them out of the deep, depressing gulf some 100 years later. Lead was crucial to silver production, eventually leading to an economic upswing as the sky cleared and the plague subsided. Loveluck told CNN: "There is evidence of a total economic transformation between 640 and 660."
So count your blessing. We have nothing approaching this catastrophic level of desperate desperation. At least not yet.