A network of temperature-sensitive tree-ring-density chronologies provides circum-hemisphere information on year-by-year changes in summer warmth in different regions of the northern boreal forest1. Combining these data into a single time-series provides a good summer-temperature proxy for northern high latitudes and the Northern Hemisphere as a whole2. Here we use this well dated, high-resolution composite time-series to suggest that large explosive volcanic eruptions produced different extents of Northern Hemisphere cooling during the past 600 years. The large effect of some recent eruptions is apparent, such as in 1816, 1884 and 1912, but the relative effects of other known, and perhaps some previously unknown, pre-nineteenth-century eruptions are also evaluated. The most severe short-term Northern Hemisphere cooling event of the past 600 years occurred in 1601, suggesting that either the effect on climate of the eruption of Huaynaputina, Peru, in 1600 has previously been greatly underestimated, or another, as yet unidentified, eruption occurred at the same time. Other strong cooling events occurred in 1453, seemingly confirming a 1452 date for the eruption of Kuwae, southwest Pacific, and in 1641/42, 1666, 1695 and 1698.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Schweingruber, F. H. & Briffa, K. R. in Climate Variations and Forcing Mechanisms of the Last 2000 Years(eds Jones, P. D., Bradley, R. S. & Jouzel, J.) 43–66 (Springer, Berlin, 1996).
Briffa, K. R. et al. Reduced sensitivity of recent tree-growth to temperature at high northern latitudes. Nature 391, 678–682 (1998).
Briffa, K. R., Jones, P. D. & Schweingruber, F. H. Summer temperatures across northern North America: regional reconstructions from 1760 using tree-ring densities. J. Geophys. Res. 99(D12), 25835–25844 (1994).
Briffa, K. R., Jones, P. D. & Schweingruber, F. H. Tree-ring reconstructions of summer temperature patterns across western North America since 1600. J. Clim. 5, 735–754 (1992).
Jones, P. D., Briffa, K. R. & Schweingruber, F. H. Tree-ring evidence of the widespread effects of explosive volcanic eruptions. Geophys. Res. Lett. 22, 1333–1336 (1995).
Bradley, R. S. & Jones, P. D. in Climate Since A.D. 1500(eds Bradley, R. S. & Jones, P. D.) 606–622 (Routledge, London, 1992).
Cole-Dai, J., Mosley-Thompson, E. & Thompson, L. G. Annually resolved southern hemisphere volcanic history from two Antarctic ice cores. J. Geophys. Res. 102, 16761–16771 (1997).
Crowley, T. J., Criste, T. A. & Smith, N. R. Reassessment of Crete (Greenland) ice core acidity/volcanism link to climate change. Geophys. Res. Lett. 20, 209–212 (1993).
Jones, P. D. & Briffa, K. R. Global surface air temperature variations during the twentieth century: Part 1, spatial, temporal and seasonal details. Holocene 2, 165–179 (1992).
Lamb, H. H. Volcanic dust in the atmosphere; with a chronology and assessment of its meteorological significance. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. A 266, 425–553 (1970).
Newhall, G. C. & Self, S. The Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): an estimate of explosive magnitude for historical volcanism. J. Geophys. Res. 87, 1231–1238 (1982).
Robock, A. & Free, M. P. in Climatic Variations and Forcing Mechanisms of the Last 2000 Years(eds Jones, P. D., Bradley, R. S. & Jouzel, J.) 533–546 (Springer, Berlin, 1996).
Harington, C. R. (ed.) The Year Without a Summer?(Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, 1992).
Simkin, T. & Siebert, L. Volcanoes of the World2nd edn (Geoscience, Tucson, 1994).
Hammer, C. U., Clausen, H. B. & Dansgaard, W. Greenland ice sheet evidence of post-glacial volcanism and its climatic impact. Nature 288, 230–235 (1980).
Zielinski, G. A. et al. Record of volcanism since 7000 B.C. from the GISP2 Greenland ice core and implications for the volcano-climate system. Science 264, 948–952 (1994).
Moore, J. C., Narita, H. & Maeno, N. Acontinuous 770-year record of volcanic activity from East Antarctica. J. Geophys. Res. 96, 17353–17359 (1991).
Delmas, R. J., Kirchner, S., Palais, J. M. & Petit, J. R. 1000 years of explosive volcanism recorded at the South Pole. Tellus B 44, 335–350 (1992).
Langway, C. C. J, Osada, K., Clausen, H. B., Hammer, C. U. & Shoji, H. A10-century comparison of prominent volcanic events in ice cores. J. Geophys. Res. 100, 16241–16247 (1995).
Morgan, V. I. et al. Site information and initial results from deep ice drilling on Law Dome, Antarctica. J. Glaciol. 43, 3–10 (1997).
Dai, J. E., Mosley-Thompson, E. & Thompson, L. G. Ice core evidence for an explosive tropical eruption 6 years preceding Tambora. J. Geophys. Res. 96, 17361–17366 (1991).
Self, S., Rampino, M. R. & Carr, M. J. Areappraisal of the 1835 eruption of Cosigüina and its atmospheric impact. Bull. Volcanol. 52, 57–65 (1989).
Scuderi, L. C. Tree-ring evidence for climatically effective volcanic eruptions. Quat. Res. 34, 67–85 (1990).
Zielinski, G. A. Stratospheric loading and optical depth estimates of explosive volcanism over the last 2100 years derived from the Greenland ice sheet Project 2 ice core. J. Geophys. Res. 100, 20937–20955 (1995).
Palais, J. M., Kirchner, S. & Delmas, R. J. Identification of some global volcanic horizons by major elemental analysis of fine ash in Antarctic ice. Ann. Glaciol. 14, 216–220 (1990).
Thompson, L. G., Mosley-Thompson, E., Dansgaard, W. & Grootes, P. M. The Little Ice Age as recorded in the stratigraphy of the tropical Quelccaya Ice Cap. Science 234, 361–364 (1986).
de Silva, S. L. & Zielinski, G. A. Global influence of the AD 1600 eruption of Huaynaputina, Peru. Nature 393, 455–458 (1998).
Robin, C., Monzier, M. & Eissen, J.-P. Formation of the mid-fifteenth century Kuwae caldera (Vanuatu) by an initial hydroelastic and subsequent ignimbritic eruption. Bull. Volcanol. 56, 170–183 (1994).
Monzier, M., Robin, C. & Eissen, J.-P. Kuwae (1425 AD): the forgotten caldera. J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 59, 207–218 (1993).
Pang, K. D. Climate impact of the mid-fifteenth century Kuwae caldera formation, as reconstructed from historical and proxy data. Eos(Fall Suppl.) 74(43), 106 (1993).
LaMarche, V. C. & Hirschboeck, K. K. Frost rings in trees as records of major volcanic eruptions. Nature 307, 121–126 (1984).
Delfin, F. G. J et al. Geological, 14 C, and historical evidence for a 17th century eruption of Parker volcano, Mindanao, Philippines. J. Geol. Soc. Philippines 52, 25–42 (1997).
Blong, R. J. The Time of Darkness(Australian Nat. Univ. Press, Canberra, 1982).
Oldfield, F., Appleby, P. G. & Thompson, R. Palaeoecological studies of lakes in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. I. The chronology of sedimentation. J. Ecol. 68, 457–477 (1980).
Stuiver, M. & Becker, B. High-precision decadal calibration of the radiocarbon time scale, A.D. 1950–6000 B.C. Radiocarbon 35, 35–65 (1993).
Lean, J., Beer, J. & Bradley, R. Reconstruction of solar irradiance since 1610: Implications for climatic change. Geophys. Res. Lett. 22, 3195–3198 (1995).
37. Osborn, T. J., Briffa, K. R. & Jones, P. D. Adjusting variance for sample-size in tree-ring chronologies and other regional-mean timeseries. Dendrochronologia 15, (in the press).
38. Briffa, K. R. in Analysis of Climatic Variability: Applications of Statistical Techniques(eds von Storch, H. & Navarra, A.) 77–94 (Springer, Berlin, 1995).
The current development of the Northern Hemisphere densitometric network is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (F.H.S.) and the European Community under ADVANCE-10K (K.R.B.). P.D.J. is supported by the US Department of Energy, and T.J.O. by NERC. We thank E. Cook, T. Crowley, M. Free, V. Morgan, E. Mosley-Thompson, C. Newhall, F. Oldfield, A. Robock and S.Self for advice and data.
About this article
Cite this article
Briffa, K., Jones, P., Schweingruber, F. et al. Influence of volcanic eruptions on Northern Hemisphere summer temperature over the past 600 years. Nature 393, 450–455 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1038/30943
Summer mean temperature reconstruction based on tree-ring density over the past 440 years on the eastern Tibetan Plateau
Quaternary International (2021)
Intra‐Annual Climate Anomalies in Northwestern North America Following the 1783–1784 CE Laki Eruption
Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (2021)
Cryptotephra from the Icelandic Veiðivötn 1477 CE eruption in a Greenland ice core: confirming the dating of volcanic events in the 1450s CE and assessing the eruption's climatic impact
Climate of the Past (2021)
The Holocene (2021)
International Journal of Climatology (2021)