Mystery of the Missing 1258 A.D. Eruption Solved?

Mystery of the Missing 1258 A.D. Eruption Solved?
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A view of the Rinjani caldera in Indonesia, a possible candidate for the missing 1257-8 eruption. by NeilsPhotography If you’ve been following the news out the AGU Chapman Meeting of Volcanoes & the Atmospheremeeting going on this week, you might have seen some interesting news about the missing 1258 A.D. eruption. I wrote about the eruption a few months back, speculating on some potential volcanoes that could be the culprit for this climate-altering event. However, trying to match a sulfate signal on the poles with a volcano somewhere on the planet is hard, so finding that “smoking gun” is a challenge to say the least. However, Franck Lavigne from the Panthéon-Sorbonne University’s Laboratory of Physical Geography in Meudon, France claimed to have solved the mystery. It isn’t that simple, though. Lavigne will not reveal the site of the eruption until his study is published (it may or may not be submitted for peer review at this point). So, instead of sharing news of his discovery, he showed the data he used to “solve” the mystery … but never revealed what volcano it was! What harm could come from Lavigne revealing his location before the article is published, especially if he is willing to show data that supposedly correlates the sulfate and ash composition in the polar record with the terrestrial record of the mystery volcano? Overall, this is shocking behavior for a geologist at a large meeting such as this – people commonly discuss data and information that has not be published yet, so why Lavigne chose to do this is beyond me (unless you want to think theatrics are part of the rationale). The consensus of people at the meeting (N.B., I am not at the meeting) is that the mystery volcano is in Indonesia. Lavigne wouldn’t confirm or deny this assessment, but it got me thinking – what might a contender be for a caldera eruption in Indonesia during the 13th century. Indonesia is filled with volcanoes, and as I mentioned a few weeks back when I discussed a recent study by Salisbury and others (2012), we really don’t have a lot of good ages for Indonesian eruptions prior to ~1800 A.D. However, one very likely candidate might be the ~6 x 8.5 km Rinjani caldera. Rinjani hosts a caldera that may have formed in the 13th century, so it not only fulfills the role of being a large eruption but also falls within the right century. We don’t have any good ages for the caldera eruption beyond some charcoal dated at 1210-1260 A.D. However, with the evidence that Lavingne’s volcano is in Indonesia and how little we know about the caldera eruption at Rinjani, it makes sense that Rinjani could be an excellent candidate for an eruption that could be matched with the polar sulfate and ash. At this point, all we can do is wait for Lavigne’s study to be published, but we might be able to narrow the search for the 1257-58 eruption to Indonesia – and even to a target caldera that might be the weapon of choice. Source: Wired

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