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The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 vs. volcano eruptions and dry fogs - are its "meteoric" descriptions related to the Katla eruption of mid October 1755?
Demarée, G.R.; Nordli, Ø. (2007). The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 vs. volcano eruptions and dry fogs - are its "meteoric" descriptions related to the Katla eruption of mid October 1755?, in: Araújo, A.C. et al. (Ed.) O Terramoto de 1755: Impactos Históricos. pp. 117-130
In: Araújo, A.C. et al. (Ed.) (2007). O Terramoto de 1755: Impactos Históricos. Livros Horizonte: Lisboa. ISBN 978-972-24-1541-5. 495 pp., more

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Keywords
    Earthquakes; Historical account; Portugal, Lisbon; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Demarée, G.R.
  • Nordli, Ø.

Abstract
    The authors consider different sources and views related to the "meteoric" observations of the Lisbon earthquake. The literature explicitly mentions the appearance of a dark cloud, smell of sulphur and a yellow fog or smoke. It is now well known that such manifestations may be related to large volcano eruptions and consequently the transport of tephra or volcanic ash by atmospheric circulation. However, the accounts of the fatal earthquake of Lisbon containing evidence of "meteoric" appearances were steadily interpreted by their authors either as observations in line with Aristotle’s "Meteorologica" or as prognostications from the Bible. Nevertheless, other accounts testify to the emerging new vision of scientific ideas in the spirit of the Enlightenment. The “meteoric” occurrences fitted well in Aristotle’s theory, still the dominant scientific theory on earthquakes at that time. In that view subterranean caverns containing large amounts of gases loaded with sulphur and bitumous matters, are set afire and produce tremors and earthquakes. At the same time, exhalations are freed through cracks and fissures and witnessed as sulphurous gases. Another explanation is taken from the Bible where the wrath of God, punishing the people for their numerous sins and godless lifestyle, is mentioning the same appearances. 118 However, as Aristotle’s view on earthquakes belong now definitely to the history of seismological sciences, a new explanation of these "meteoric" appearances needs to be found. Therefore, the authors of the present paper suggest a possible connection with the Katla eruption of mid October 1755 where large masses of tephra were sent into the atmosphere and possibly transported by atmospheric circulation to the Iberian Peninsula.

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