Think 2020 was bad? Historians say 536 was worst year ever to be alive
You wake up to a dark, dreary, glum-feeling, Monday-type of morning. For the 547th consecutive day. Just 18 months prior, you were a hard-working farmer gearing up for another bountiful crop season.
But then the skies went dark. From early 536 to 537, they stayed dark.
Across much of eastern Europe and throughout Asia, spring turned into summer and fall gave way to winter without a day of sunshine. Like a blackout curtain over the sun, millions of people across the world’s most populated countries squinted through dim conditions, breathing in chokingly thick air and losing nearly every crop they were relying on to harvest.
This isn’t the plot of a dystopian TV drama or a fantastical “docu-fiction” production. This was a harsh reality for the millions of people who lived through that literally dark time – or, as some historians have declared, the very worst year ever to be alive.
“For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during this whole year, and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear nor such as it is accustomed to shed,” was the grim account Procopius, a prominent scholar who became the principal Byzantine historian of the 6th century, gave in History of the Wars.
“And from the time when this thing happened men were free neither from war nor pestilence nor any other thing leading to death.”
Much more at the link. I was pleased to see the appearance of Michael McCormick, whom I got to see live at the Medieval Academy meeting in Atlanta three years ago. His team has deduced that two volcanic eruptions (one in Iceland, the other in El Salvador) were likely responsible for the prolonged darkness and cooling of 536-37 (although 2.5 degrees Celsius is not the equivalent of 36 degrees Fahrenheit, contrary to what the article suggests). (UPDATE: It’s now been corrected to “2.7 to 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit.”). McCormick also points out that the poor harvests and displacement of people following this event likely contributed to the Plague of Justinian, which ravaged the Byzantine Empire in the 540s. An analysis of tooth pulp from plague victims has established that this disease was caused by Yersinia pestis, the same microbe responsible for the Black Death of the fourteenth century, which can kill up to 60% of the people who are infected by it.
Yeah, it sounds pretty bad – way worse than COVID….