In 2018 a group of Harvard scholars (historians, geologists, and climatologists) concluded that the worst year ever was the year 536 AD. Not the years of the bubonic plague (1347-1352)? Not the years of World War 2 (1939-1945)? Nope. They concluded that 536 was the worst–for the following reasons.

In that year Byzantine historians Procopius and Michael the Syrian wrote that the temperatures were cold the entire year. Modern day geologists and climatologists have concluded (from studies of ice cores) that the temperature dropped an average of 4 1/2 degrees. The Byzantine historians also wrote that the sun “gave forth light like the moon” and “the sun became dark–lasting 18 months.” Each day sunlight lasted only 4 hours, and it was like “a feeble shadow.” They also recorded a mysterious fog that enveloped Europe for 18 months!

They didn’t make this up. The Harvard team discovered that a large volcano in Iceland exploded, and its ash and gasses that were spewed out covered the earth’s atmosphere, cooling temperatures and dimming the light from the sun. I remember the year 1992 very well when Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines exploded. That summer the temperatures
where I lived never rose above 75 degrees. So, it is not a great stretch to see that a volcano can disrupt the atmosphere and temperatures for a year or more.

Even the Chinese recorded at the same time a mysterious yellow ash falling from the sky for months that year. And in the middle of the summer, China experienced snowfall! So, you can well imagine what happened to the crops around the Northern Hemisphere. Crops failed to ripen, there was massive famine, and massive starvation.

But wait, there’s more! A plague hit the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire that same year. If it was not the bubonic plague, it certainly was similar to it, with historians from that year describing it as painful sores erupting on the body, then death soon following. There were no medicines to stop it or prevent it. Historians today estimate 35% to 55% of the Byzantine population dying off. Imagine the death count from neighboring lands.

So, when we think we have it bad today (and it may be pretty tough for you right now), just think about a time when there was no spring or summer, the sun did not give its light, a mysterious creepy fog enveloped the land, crops failed, and millions died of starvation and plague right in front of everyone. If none of that is happening in your life right now, then thank God, and be productive.