Skip to main content
Skip main navigationClose Drawer MenuOpen Drawer Menu
Research Article
30 August 2023

Active Volcanoes, Active Imaginations: Fire-Spitting Mountains and Subterraneous Roars in the German Territories in the Summer of 1783

Publication: Global Environment
Volume 15, Number 3


In the summer of 1783, a sulphuric, dry fog that lasted for several weeks covered much of Europe. As a result, the sun, moon and other celestial objects appeared 'blood-red'. Speculation in Europe was rife as to the cause of this unusual weather. In Iceland, the Laki fissure had erupted; from June 1783 to February 1784, it released the greatest volume of lava of any eruption on planet Earth in the last millennium. The ejected gases travelled to Europe and beyond via the jet stream. Unaware of the Icelandic eruption, some contemporaries from the German Territories hypothesised that the dry fog emanated from a local source, namely one or more supposed German volcanoes. This paper traces the reports of these 'eruptions' from the perspective of environmental history and presents translations of pertinent newspaper articles that have, for the most part, remained unstudied, in order to evaluate the possible reasons for the emergence of this idea.

Get full access to this article

View all available purchase options and get full access to this article.

Information & Authors


Published In

Global Environment
Volume 15Number 3October 2022
Pages: 456 - 489


Published in print: October 2022
Published online: 30 August 2023


  1. volcanic eruption
  2. fog
  3. weather
  4. media history
  5. newspaper



Katrin Kleemann [email protected]
An environmental historian working on volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and maritime history. Currently, she is a postdoctoral researcher at the German Maritime Museum / Leibniz Institute for Maritime History in Bremerhaven, Germany. Katrin studied history, cultural anthropology and geology at the University of Kiel, the Free University Berlin and LMU Munich. She was a member of the international and interdisciplinary doctoral program ‘Environment and Society’ at the Rachel Carson Center. Her book A Mist Connection. An Environmental History of the Laki Eruption of 1783 and Its Legacy will be published in De Gruyter’s ‘Historical Catastrophe Studies’ series in 2022. Email: [email protected]

Metrics & Citations


Other Metrics


Cite As

Export Citations

If you have the appropriate software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice. Simply select your manager software from the list below and click Download.

/graphql/ContentItem/ContentItemCitedBy.xsl needs to be defined for the product

Cited by

  • Weather and climate and their human impacts and responses during the Thirty Years' War in central Europe, Climate of the Past, 10.5194/cp-19-1863-2023, 19, 9, (1863-1890), (2023).

View Options

Get Access

Restore your content access

Enter your email address to restore your content access:

Note: This functionality works only for purchases done as a guest. If you already have an account, log in to access the content to which you are entitled.

View options


View PDF







Copy the content Link

Share with email

Email a colleague

Share on social media