What does it take for a volcanic eruption to really shake the world? Did volcanic eruptions extinguish the dinosaurs, or help humans to evolve, only to decimate their populations with a super-eruption 73,000 years ago? Did they contribute to the ebb and flow of ancient empires, the French Revolution and the rise of fascism in Europe in the 19th century? These are some of the claims made for volcanic cataclysm. Volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer explores rich geological, historical, archaeological and palaeoenvironmental records (such as ice cores and tree rings) to tell the stories behind some of the greatest volcanic events of the past quarter of a billion years. He shows how a forensic approach to volcanology reveals the richness and complexity behind cause and effect, and argues that important lessons for future catastrophe risk management can be drawn from understanding events that took place even at the dawn of human origins.
Clive Oppenheimer is a Reader in Volcanology and Remote Sensing at the University of Cambridge and a Research Associate of 'Le Studium' Institute for Advanced Studies at ISTO (University of Orleans/CNRS). His research focuses on understanding the chemistry and physics of volcanism, and the climatic and human impacts of eruptions in antiquity. He has carried out fieldwork worldwide in collaboration with archaeologists, atmospheric scientists and other geologists. Since 2003, he has studied the lava lake of Erebus volcano with the US Antarctic Program. In 2005 the Royal Geographical Society presented him with the Murchison Award 'for publications enhancing the understanding of volcanic processes and impacts'. Dr Oppenheimer is a co-author with Peter Francis of a leading volcanology textbook and has contributed widely to television and film documentaries on volcanoes, including Werner Herzog's 'Encounters at the End of the World' and most recently, for Discovery, the History Channel, the BBC, Teachers' TV and National Geographic.
Preface; 1. Fire and brimstone: how volcanoes work; 2. Eruption styles, hazards and ecosystem impacts; 3. Volcanoes and global climate change; 4. Forensic volcanology; 5. Relics, myths and chronicles; 6. Killer plumes; 7. Human origins; 8. The ash-giant/sulphur-dwarf; 9. European volcanism in prehistory; 10. The rise of Teotihuacan; 11. Dark Ages: dark nature?; 12. The Haze famine; 13. The last great subsistence crisis in the western world; 14. Volcanic catastrophe risk; Appendix A. Volcano trumps: notable eruptions of the past 10,000 years; Appendix B. Further reading; Index.