Monday, June 22, 2020

Et Tu, Okmok?

A June 22, 2020, article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, entitled Extreme climate after massive eruption of Alaska’s Okmok volcano in 43 BCE and effects on the late Roman Republic and Ptolemaic Kingdom, suggests that the eruption of political unrest following the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. may have been followed by climate unrest unleashed by a massive Alaskan volcano:
The assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE triggered a power struggle that ultimately ended the Roman Republic and, eventually, the Ptolemaic Kingdom, leading to the rise of the Roman Empire. Climate proxies and written documents indicate that this struggle occurred during a period of unusually inclement weather, famine, and disease in the Mediterranean region; historians have previously speculated that a large volcanic eruption of unknown origin was the most likely cause. Here we show using well-dated volcanic fallout records in six Arctic ice cores that one of the largest volcanic eruptions of the past 2,500 [years] occurred in early 43 BCE, with distinct geochemistry of tephra deposited during the event identifying the Okmok volcano in Alaska as the source.
This study, by McConnell et al., suggests that the Roman Republic may have been left quite literally on the ash heap of history.