Three-part documentary series Volatile Earth: Killer Volcanoes, in which scientists who are experts in natural disasters identify the most extreme catastrophes to have hit the Earth and piece together exactly what happened from the ancient debris left in their wake, premieres on Saturday 4 November at 7.00pm on Channel 4.
Archaeologists working at a medieval cemetery in London have found thousands of skeletons in unexplained mass graves. After forensic analysis and investigation of records, they concluded the most likely cause of death was a famine triggered by a catastrophic volcanic winter around AD 1250. A giant volcanic eruption had wreaked havoc on the world in the mid-13th century and studies of polar ice cores showed it released more sulphur into the atmosphere than any other eruption in the past 7000 years, causing summer to turn to winter and leaving millions starving or dead.
But the identity of the volcano was a mystery, until an international team of scientists took up the challenge to track it down. Their investigations led them to a small Indonesian island on the Pacific Ring of Fire. By exploring local geology, studying ancient documents and undertaking forensic tests, they were able to identify the culprit volcano and decode one of the largest volcanic eruptions in human history. But this discovery raises a question: could it happen again, and how would another eruption on this scale impact on the modern world?
Volatile Earth: Killer Volcanoes Episode 1 (of 3) airs Saturday 4 November 2017 from 7.00pm-8.00pm on Channel 4.