The Late Antique Little Ice Age (LALIA) was a period of significant climatic disruption that occurred between 536 and 660 AD. At this time, a series of volcanic eruptions led to a decrease in solar radiation and a global drop in temperature. The consequences of this climatic anomaly were far-reaching: crop failures, famine and social upheaval became the hallmark of this era.
In ancient written sources, evidence of inexplicable large-scale cataclysms of the 6th century AD has been preserved. The German monks described it in the following lines:
“The sun gave us all a sign that no one had ever seen before. It went out for a long 15 months. Instead of sunrises, the light only slightly illuminated the earth for a few minutes. Its light was weaker than moonlight hundreds of times. But we were very happy with that too. However, at some point we simply stopped believing that it would return.”
John of Ephesus in his writings also described “the departure of the Sun from the sky.” According to him, it happened right in the middle of the day. The sky was covered with a black haze. This veil did not allow either the sun, or the stars, or the moon to appear in the firmament. Because of these events, a terrible famine awaited all of Europe.
One of the main causes of the Little Ice Age was a series of volcanic eruptions that occurred around 536 AD. The exact location of these eruptions is still a matter of debate among scientists, but they are believed to have originated in North America and the tropics.
Massive eruptions threw large amounts of ash and aerosols into the atmosphere, blocking solar radiation and causing a weakening of sunlight. This phenomenon led to a decrease in global temperatures and a period of prolonged cooling.
Climate change caused by The Late Antique Little Ice Age has been observed and documented by people on different continents. The Byzantine historian Procopius wrote of a mysterious “dust curtain” that obscured the Sun and caused a year of darkness in 536 AD.
Procopius, claimed that at this time all the birds had flown away and all the animals had fled from the forests. There were no fish in the rivers and lakes. The harvest turned black, yielding no grain, no fruit, no root crops. Dry lines indicate a severe hunger:
“People ate the earth in anticipation of the sun. Their bodies were covered with ulcers, and their eyes were covered with abscesses. There were queues for doctors, but it was extremely difficult to work in the dark.”
Zechariah of Mytilene indicated the exact date of those catastrophic events:
“On March 24, the sun went out right in the middle of the day and returned only on June 24 of the following year. Snow came to our region in early September and lay until May. The frosts were incredible. Many people died from the cold, but more from human evil deeds.“
Similar stories can be found in Chinese, Irish, and Middle Eastern historical records, describing unusual weather patterns, crop failures, and famines.
“After the darkness came an unprecedented drought. Rivers and lakes have dried up. People were dying of thirst and never-before-seen diseases. To survive, children ate fathers, and fathers ate wives. More than 80% of the population died in Xi’an province. They were burned to keep warm and survive the winter that followed the drought.”
Similar evidence has been preserved not only in written sources, but also in verbal myths and traditions of the peoples of the world. Thus, the Sun that went out 1500 years ago is mentioned in the legends of the inhabitants of Australia, South America, Africa, Asia, and Arab countries. The whole world has witnessed this catastrophe. But what could be the cause of these frightening events?
The cooling caused by LALIA has had numerous consequences for the global climate. In addition to dwindling sunlight, this period was marked by widespread droughts, heavy snowfalls, and unseasonal frosts.
These climatic anomalies have destroyed agriculture, leading to widespread crop failures and food shortages. Climate change has also upset the delicate balance of ecosystems, causing a decline in populations of various plant and animal species.
There was a profound impact on societies around the world. Food shortages and famine caused by poor harvests led to massive disasters and social unrest.
The Byzantine Empire, already weakened by wars and disease, suffered further decline. In Europe, climatic disturbances likely contributed to the decline of the Western Roman Empire and the rise of the Lombards in Italy.
In Mesoamerica, LALIA coincided with the collapse of the Teotihuacan civilization, a major urban center that had dominated the region for centuries. Similarly, the cooling is believed to have played a role in the decline of the Moche civilization in present-day Peru.
Modern scientific methods such as ice core and tree ring analysis have provided valuable insights into LALIA. Ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica show a sudden drop in global temperature around 536 AD, corresponding to a period of declining solar radiation.
The tree ring data also show signs of a slowdown in growth rates during this period, suggesting significant climatic disturbance.
Going forward into the future, there was also the Little Ice Age of the 14th – early 19th centuries. Crop failures, famine, early frosts (in July-August), which, in turn, led to the Troubles of the 17th century. Well, as in the LALIA period, the Black Death pandemic broke out in the 14th century, which wiped out 30% of the population of Eurasia. At the same time, Greenland turned from a green island into an icy desert.
The stories of the past are not just stories of days gone by, but rather an integral part of our common human heritage, providing insights and lessons that are timeless.
As we continue our collective journey into the unknown, let us take with us the wisdom of our ancestors and the desire to delve deeper into the mysteries that await us.