09 Nov 2021
09 Nov 2021
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Recession or resilience? Long-range socioeconomic consequences of the 17th century volcanic eruptions in the far north

Heli Huhtamaa1,2, Markus Stoffel3,4,5, and Christophe Corona3,6 Heli Huhtamaa et al.
  • 1Institute of History, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 2Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Climate Change Impacts and Risks in the Anthropocene (C-CIA), Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of Geneva, 1205 Geneva, Switzerland
  • 4Department of Earth Sciences, University of Geneva, 1205 Geneva, Switzerland
  • 5Department F.-A. Forel for Environmental and Aquatic Sciences, University of Geneva, 1205 Geneva, Switzerland
  • 6Geolab, Université Clermont Auvergne, CNRS, 63000, Clermont-Ferrand, France

Abstract. Past volcanic eruptions and their climatic impacts have been linked increasingly with co-occurring societal crises – like crop failures and famines – in recent research. Yet, as many of the volcanic cooling studies have a supra-regional or hemispheric focus, establishing pathways from climatic effects of an eruption to human repercussions has remained very challenging due to high spatial variability of socio-environmental systems. This, in turn, may render a distinction of coincidence from causation difficult. In this study, we employ micro-regionally resolved natural and written sources to study three 17th century volcanic eruptions (i.e. 1600 Huaynaputina, 1640/1641 Koma-ga-take/Parker, and 1695 unidentified eruptions) to look into their climatic as well as socioeconomic impacts among rural agricultural society in Ostrobothnia (Finland) with high temporal and spatial precision. Tree-ring and grain tithe data indicate that all three eruptions would have caused significant summer season temperature cooling and poor grain harvest in the region. Yet, tax debt records reveal that the socioeconomic consequences varied considerably among the eruptions as well as in time, space, and within the society. Whether the volcanic events had a strong or weak socioeconomic effect depended on various factors, such as the prevailing agro-ecosystem, resource availability, material capital, physical and immaterial networks, and institutional practices. These factors influenced societal vulnerability and resilience to cold pulses and the resulting harvest failures caused by the eruptions. This paper proposes that, besides detecting coinciding human calamities, more careful investigation at the micro-regional scale has a clear added value as it can provide deeper understanding on why and among whom the distal volcanic eruptions resulted in different societal impacts. Such understanding, in turn, can contribute to interdisciplinary research, advice political decision-making, and enhance scientific outreach.

Heli Huhtamaa et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on cp-2021-147', Joseph Manning, 13 Dec 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Heli Huhtamaa, 15 Dec 2021
      • RC2: 'Reply on AC1', Joseph Manning, 15 Dec 2021
        • AC2: 'Reply on RC1', Heli Huhtamaa, 18 May 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC1', Heli Huhtamaa, 18 May 2022
  • CC1: 'Comment on cp-2021-147', Timothy Newfield, 24 Mar 2022
    • AC3: 'Reply on CC1', Heli Huhtamaa, 18 May 2022
  • RC3: 'Comment on cp-2021-147', Katrin Kleemann, 15 Apr 2022
    • AC4: 'Reply on RC3', Heli Huhtamaa, 18 May 2022

Heli Huhtamaa et al.

Heli Huhtamaa et al.


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Short summary
Natural proxy data and written sources reveal that large 17th century eruptions had considerable climatic, agricultural and socioeconomic impacts far away from the eruption locations. Yet, micro-regional investigation shows that the eruption-climate-society causalities were commonly indirect, as various factors, like agro-ecosystem, resource availability, institutions and social networks, dictated how the volcanic cold pulses and related crop failures materialized on the grassroots level.