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No. 96: Nov-Dec 1994

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The 536 ad dust-veil event

Circa 536 AD, our planet suffered a great geophysical calamity, as proved in tree-ring measurements and human records of the period. Until astronomical catastrophism became more fashionable in recent years, the so-called "dust-veil" event of 536 AD was blamed on a huge volcanic eruption. Work by M.G.L. Baillie now casts doubt upon interpretation.

"Now tree-ring data, published by Professor Mike Baillie of Queens University of Belfast, has brought catastrophes almost into modern times. The tree rings show that in the mid 530s -- just about the time civilisation on Earth suffered a sharp setback -- there was a sudden decline in the rate of tree growth which lasted about 15 years. Clearly, something dramatic had happened.

"There are two possibilities: a huge volcanic eruption or a collision between the Earth and a solid object: an asteroid or comet. Ice-cores drilled from Greenland show no evidence of large-scale volcanic activity at that time, so Professor Baillie and others now believe a cosmic impact is more likely. The result would have been to throw up a huge veil of dust and debris, cooling the Earth and producing widespread crop failures."

(Anonymous; "Raining Death and Dark Ages," London Times, July 27, 1994. Cr. A. Rothovius)

In the scientific literature, Baillie has elaborated on the cosmic-projectile theme, adding that the dust veil could also have been created when the solar system passed through a cloud of cosmic dust.

(Baillie, M.G.L.; "Dendrochronology Raises Questions about the Nature of the AD 536 Dust-Veil Event," The Holocene, 4:212, 1994. Cr. L. Ellenberger)

Comment. The scientific literature hints of dust-veil events in more recent times: (1) the white-sky phenomenon of 1912; and (2) the "dry fog" of 1783. See details in GWC1 and GWD4 in Tornados, Dark Days, etc. Ordering information here.

From Science Frontiers #96, NOV-DEC 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987