An eruption at Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland over 1,000 years ago may have led to the development of Nordic legend of Ragnarok, an expert has said.
Bardarbunga has been erupting for almost a month, with earthquakes taking place regularly at the site. Eruptions are also continuing at Holuhraun.
Science journalist Alexandra Witze, writing for the blog The Last Word On Nothing, said stories about Ragnarok – or the Nordic apocalypse – are told across Scandinavia, but they have been mostly recorded as literary works in Iceland.
In Ragnarok, the Nordic gods become involved in a great war, and a series of natural disasters result in the world being submerged in water before being born again and repopulated by two human survivors.
Descriptions of Ragnarok involve the sun turning black, treacherous weather and the whole planet burning.
Witze noted one specific description from 1930, which read: "The sun turns black, earth sinks in the sea. The hot stars down from heaven are whirled; fierce grows the steam and the life-feeding flame, till fire leaps high about heaven itself."
She said the description of the winters leading up to Ragnarok could have emerged from a real-life Icelandic eruption.
Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, a geologist and historian formally from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, said he believes the myth comes from an eruption in the 9th century and proposed this idea in 2002.
He said sulphur from a volcanic eruption could cool the climate for many years. He also notes that Iceland experienced a huge eruption around 870, when Vikings first arrived in the country.
"The eruption would have been a remarkable blast, and it could have temporarily cooled Iceland's climate. Anyone suffering through those winters would surely have passed the stories down to the next generation," Witze wrote.
"And where exactly did this eruption in the year 870 take place? Why, at a volcano called Bardarbunga."