The record of natural disasters is too short for adequate understanding of human vulnerability. Using volcanology, climatology, history, anthropology, and tree rings, we extend the record by documenting a disaster to Inuit of extreme northwest America. Tree rings indicate the coldest summer in over 400 yr in northwestern Alaska was in 1783, year of the Laki, Iceland eruption. European explorers reported famine and population decrease between 1779 and 1791. Anthropological studies indicate possible famine in nearby areas at around the same time. Inuit oral history describes extreme cold in summer causing famine and death a few centuries ago in northwest Alaska. We postulate that Laki, the unusual, cold-induced tree ring, and the recorded and oral histories of famine and death are all interrelated. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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