1600 Eruption Led to Global Cooling, Social Unrest

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Eruptions linked to social changes have been observed before, namely with Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815.

The year afterward was known as "the year without summer." Crops failed, and famine and social conflict ensued. These culmination of events may have even prompted European emigration to the U.S., Verosub said.

(Read about a "lost kingdom" found recently on the island of Tambora.)

More Climatic Evidence?

Shanaka de Silva, a geology professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis, has researched the socioeconomic impacts of the Huaynaputina eruption.

While the new research does not shed light on the actual eruption, it does make the case for global impacts, said de Silva, who was not one of the authors.

"They're relying on their data to make the case for climatic impact, [and] I totally agree," he said.

The Huaynaputina research also builds upon what is known about eruptions and their climatic influences, study co-author Verosub said.

If the research is right, there could be other undocumented volcanic events that have led to cooling, he said.

"I wouldn't claim we proved it, but we certainly proved it is worth looking at this more carefully."

The researchers will next head to Spain, where records from the Spanish colonial empire may hold more clues.

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