A new study has found that the largest lava flood in Iceland’s history, which was recorded in an apocalyptic medieval poem, greatly influenced the country’s viking population to turn to Christianity.
The study, which was published on Monday in the journal Climate Change, details the volcanic eruption of Eldgjá, which, according to high-temporal resolution glaciochemical records, occurred somewhere in spring 939 and continued until autumn 940.
Within two generations of the Eldgjá eruption, at the turn of the 11th century, Iceland had formally converted to Christianity. The change was foretold in the medieval poem “Vǫluspá,” which tells of the death of the pagan gods and the coming of a new, singular God.
The scientists and medieval historians, led by the University of Cambridge, used ice cores and tree rings to date the volcanic eruption.
“This places the eruption squarely within the experience of the first two or three generations of Iceland’s settlers,” said Clive Oppenheimer of Cambridge’s Department of Geography, one of the authors of the report.
“Some of the first wave of migrants to Iceland, brought over as children, may well have witnessed the eruption.”
The Eldgjá eruption is known as a lava flood, which is a rare type of prolonged eruption, releasing large amounts of sulphurous gases.
The eruption had a major effect across Europe, with historians findings accounts of a blood-red sun in Irish, German and Italian chronicles from the time period.
The haze of sulphurous dust also caused one of the coolest summers in the last 1,500 years back then.
“In 940, summer cooling was most pronounced in Central Europe, Scandinavia, the Canadian Rockies, Alaska and Central Asia, with summer average temperatures 2°C lower,” explained co-author Professor Markus Stoffel from the University of Geneva’s Department of Earth Sciences.
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Source: Christian Post