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Icelandic volcano caused historic famine in Egypt, says Rutgers-based team

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- An environmental drama played out on the world stage in the late 18th century when a volcano killed 9,000 Icelanders and brought a famine to Egypt that reduced the population of the Nile valley by a sixth.

A study by three scientists from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and a collaborator from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, demonstrates a connection between these two widely separated events. The research, funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is the latest addition to NASA's Life on Earth series of Web features at: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2006/volcano_nile.html.

The investigators used a computer model developed by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies to trace atmospheric changes that followed the 1783 eruption of Laki in southern Iceland back to their point of origin. The study is the first to conclusively establish the linkage between high-latitude eruptions and the water supply in North Africa.

"Our findings may help us improve predictions of climate response following the next strong high-latitude eruption, specifically concerning changes in temperature and precipitation," said Rutgers researcher Luke Oman, first author on the study. "Given the sensitivity of these arid regions to reductions in rainfall, our predictions may ultimately allow society time to plan for the consequences and save lives."

Eruptions of volcanoes in the tropics are known to produce warmer winters in the northern hemisphere; however, the new study shows that volcanic influences also can flow north to south, generating an array of repercussions, including both hot and cold weather.

The authors present "new, strong evidence, from both observations and climate model simulations" that high-latitude erupt
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Contact: Carl Blesch
cblesch@ur.rutgers.edu
732-932-7084 x616
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
21-Nov-2006


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