Post image for DVD Review: NOVA: KILLER VOLCANOES (PBS)

by Dale Reynolds on December 23, 2017



A thoroughly engrossing documentary on how extreme volcanoes can – and do — influence global climate change, specifically in adding sulfuric acid and ash into clouds which the winds blow everywhere, causing temperatures to drop, for months or years at a time.

The producers wanted to find out how a thirteenth-century English famine, after the discovery of a mass grave of four thousand men, women, and children, caused by a year of cold and snow, happened. Suspicions of the mass-killer Bubonic Plague faded when they realized this London gravesite was a century earlier than the Black Death. It was in contemporary chronicles that documented on the ferociously bad weather, not just in England, but all around Europe, that triggered and aided their scientific path.

Using data gathered from Greenland, North America, Australia, and Antarctica, the search was on for an ancient volcano mega-eruption that could have caused so much havoc – but where? As practical info is gathered, they zero in on a now mostly-defunct volcano in Indonesia, and fortuitously find a contemporary account of a huge volcano explosion which had killed thousands locally.

We watch them using telltale signature-examples of ice and soil layers to finger the still-smoldering ex-mountain, which blew its top approximately 750 years ago. This continuing science of geologists, anthropologists and volcanologists is utterly fascinating. Director Oliver Twinich has amassed focused proof, organizing it into a strong narrative, which means that this DVD belongs in every library, whether school or home.

photos courtesy PBS (last image © Sergey Gorshkov/Minden Pictures/Corbis)

NOVA: Killer Volcanoes
2017 | 1 disc | 60 minutes
released December 19, 2017
available on Amazon or PBS

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