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Hello and welcome to my personal homepage!

I’m an environmental and early modern historian. In July 2020, I successfully defended my dissertation in history and geology at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich / LMU Munich. My doctoral project analyzed the Icelandic Laki fissure eruption of 1783/1784 and its physical, emotional, and intellectual repercussions on the northern hemisphere. The image above shows the Laki fissure as seen from Mount Laki in August 2016.

About

Katrin Kleemann is currently a visiting scholar at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at the LMU Munich in Germany. She earned her doctorate in history and geology from LMU Munich in July 2020. In her dissertation, she studied the impacts of the Icelandic Laki fissure eruption of 1783 on the northern hemisphere.

The Laki fissure eruption is a fascinating research object as it is not a cone-shaped volcano but a 27-kilometer long fissure in Iceland’s remote highlands that produced the largest amount of lava in the last millennium during its eight months of activity. In Iceland, the eruption caused a famine, which killed about a fifth of the population. Mainland Europe saw many extraordinary natural phenomena during 1783: a heatwave in the summer, followed by three severely cold winters, numerous thunderstorms, earthquakes, but most notably a veil of dust, which lasted for two to three months and had a sulfuric odor. While the population of Europe bore witness to this unusual haze, outside of Iceland it was unknown that a volcanic eruption was taking place. In the spirit of the Enlightenment, contemporaries speculated about the cause of the haze and tried to explain the unusual natural phenomena of their time with reason. They developed several theories on what could have caused the unusual weather and natural phenomena.

Katrin holds a Master’s degree from the Freie Universität Berlin in early modern history and a Bachelor’s degree from the Christian-Albrechts-Universität of Kiel in history and cultural anthropology. She then pursued her doctoral research at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, where she was enrolled in a structured PhD program, the RCC offered an international and interdisciplinary environment that allowed her to combine studies of history as well as geology.

In the summer and fall of 2020, Katrin is teaching courses with Dr. des. Martin Meiske for Junior Year in Munich at LMU Munich / Wayne State University, Michigan, USA, on German environmental history from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century. In October 2020, Katrin will join the chair for economic, social, and environmental history in the history department of the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg in Germany, teaching two courses in environmental history. In the spring of 2021, she will be the Barbara S. Mosbacher Fellow at the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. In the academic year 2020-2021, Katrin is the Envirotech Communications Fellow. She is also the social media editor for the Climate History Network and HistoricalClimatology.com. Moreover, Katrin works as a freelance translator and German teacher.

From January 2018 to December 2019, Katrin was a recipient of a fellowship (Promotionsstipendium) of the Andrea von Braun Foundation. From 2015 until 2017, Katrin was a research associate at the Environment & Society Portal, where she served as Arcadia’s managing editor and coordinated the Virtual Exhibitions, two peer-reviewed born-digital journals for the environmental humanities.

To get in touch, please send an email.

Image source: Visiting Taormina in Sicily in June 2016, in the background you can see Mount Etna. Photo taken by Jack Walsh, all rights reserved.

Research

Today it is well known that Iceland is home to active volcanoes. This fact became quite obvious to most people in Europe and North America when Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010 and its ash grounded international air traffic for several days. In the summer of 2014 the Bárðarbunga volcano was erupting north of Vatnajökull in the Holuhraun lava field and webcams broadcast the eruption 24/7 to anybody in the world with an internet connection. So, while I was writing my Master’s thesis on the Laki fissure eruption’s impacts on the German territories in the summer of 1783,  I could live stream a volcanic eruption that occurred in the remotely located Icelandic highlands. The contemporaries in 1783 had to wait several months for news about a volcanic eruption to reach mainland Europe. In 1783, just like in 2010, the jetstream carried the ash and gases, which were ejected by the volcano, towards mainland Europe. The impacts of the eruption could be felt from North America to Egypt and the Altai Mountains in Asia.

The contemporaries gazed at the sky and witnessed a veil of dust that lasted for two months. In addition to the dry fog, 1783 saw many extraordinary natural phenomena: heat, a sulfuric odor, numerous thunderstorms, a newly emerging island, and earthquakes. The hot summer was followed by three severely cold winters. In the spirit of the Enlightenment contemporaries speculated about the cause of the haze and tried to explain the unusual natural phenomena of their time with reason. Several very creative theories about the dry fog’s and the unusual natural phenomena’s origin were developed, theories of the culprit included two volcanic eruptions which took place within the German territories (the Cottaberg and the Gleichberg), and lightning rods that took away too much (or too little) electricity from the atmosphere. There was speculation that a “great burning ball” (a comet) that passed Earth caused the haze. Contemporaries lived in the time of a subsurface revolution that caused earthquakes in Europe, so that too became a theory. A new island that had emerged off the coast of Iceland, earthquakes and a tsunami in Sicily and Calabria were also fancied as the cause or at least part of it. A possible Icelandic volcanic eruption, most likely caused by Hekla (pictured above), was another theory among many. The most popular theory of the time was that the earthquakes in southern Italy opened the Earth and the gases from the inside of the Earth could emerge, form a sulfuric haze, and travel across Europe.

It took months for the news of an Icelandic volcanic eruption to reach mainland Europe, another decade until the fissure was discovered, and more than one hundred years for the dots between the haze and the eruption to be connected.

The volcanic eruption occurred at an interface between the environment and society, as it is located between natural eco systems and the societal and economic consequences. First and foremost, this project is an environmental history about the Laki fissure eruption and its impacts, how those impacts were perceived differently in different regions, and which explanation and coping strategies and practices were evoked. Environmental history studies the interactions between society and their natural and man-made environment. The topic is nevertheless very versatile and allows me to incorporate many different disciplines: cultural and social history, history of science and history of knowledge, climate history and historical climatology, historical anthropology, and disaster history.

The Laki fissure eruption enables us to learn something about our present and future dealings with climate change. Climate change is something that we can attest scientifically but that we cannot explain adequately for everybody to understand it. The Laki fissure eruption occurred invisibly for the contemporaries due to the distance and the standard of scientific inquiry. Today, invisible disasters still occur, some of which are triggered by climate change, for instance the loss of biodiversity. Researching invisible interrelations is therefore a relevant endeavor far beyond the 18th century.

Some additional information about my doctoral project can be found in the Promotio database.

Image source: Detail of the historical map “Islandia“, by Jean Boisseau. Théatre Géographique du Royaume de France. France, about 1648. The map is in the public domain due to its age. It’s part of a collection at the National and University Library of Iceland.

Publications

Articles

Kleemann, Katrin. “Living in the Time of a Subsurface Revolution: The 1783 Calabrian Earthquake Sequence.” Environment & Society Portal, Arcadia (Summer 2019), no. 30. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Telling Stories of a Changed Climate: The Laki Fissure Eruption and the Interdisciplinarity of Climate History,” edited by Katrin Kleemann and Jeroen Oomen, RCC Perspectives: Transformations in Environment and Society 2019, no. 4, 33–42. doi.org/10.5282/rcc/8823.

Kleemann, Katrin and Jeroen Oomen: “Preface: Communicating the Climate. From Knowing Change to Changing Knowledge,” edited by Katrin Kleemann and Jeroen Oomen, RCC Perspectives: Transformations in Environment and Society 2019, no. 4, 7-14. doi.org/10.5282/rcc/8822.

Kleemann, Katrin. “‘Moby Dick’ in the Rhine: How a Beluga Whale Raised Awareness of Water Pollution in West Germany.” Environment & Society Portal, Arcadia Spring 2018, no. 6. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.  doi.org/10.5282/rcc/8222.

Kleemann, Katrin, and Sophie Mibus. “Altbrief, Brief mit Briefinhalt an Prinz Xaver von Sachsen in Dresden, betr. Beschwerde von Raphael und Michael Hertz aus Schleusingen.Online Collection of the Museum für Kommunikation Berlin 2014.


Edited Volumes 

Kleemann, Katrin, ed. “Ecopolis München 2019.” Environment & Society Portal, Virtual Exhibitions 2020, no. 2. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.

Kleemann, Katrin, and Jeroen Oomen, eds. “Communicating the Climate: From Knowing Change to Changing Knowledge,” RCC Perspectives: Transformations in Environment and Society 2019, no. 4. doi.org/10.5282/rcc/8822.


Encyclopedia Articles

Kleemann, Katrin. Encyclopedia of the Environment, “The Laki Fissure Eruption, 1783-1784.” Grenoble: Encyclopedia of the Environment, 2020. Online ISSN 2555-0950. https://www.encyclopedie-environnement.org/en/society/laki-fissure-eruption-1783-1784/.  (in English)

Kleemann, Katrin. L’Encyclopédie de l’environnement, “L’éruption de la fissure Laki, 1783-1784.” Grenoble: Encyclopédie de l’environnement, 2020. Online ISSN 2555-0950. https://www.encyclopedie-environnement.org/societe/leruption-de-la-fissure-laki-1783-1784/.  (in French)


Conference Posters

Kleemann, Katrin. Impacts of the Laki Fissure Eruption of 1783 on North America. Presented at the 3rd VICS Meeting (Volcanic Impacts on Climate and Society) 2018, Labratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA. doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.18263.78245. 

Kleemann, Katrin. The Laki Eruption and Strange Weather Phenomena in the German Territories in the Summer of 1783. Presented at the 8th Biennial European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) Conference 2015 in Versailles, France.


Conference and Workshop Reports

Kleemann, Katrin. “Communicating the Climate: How to Communicate Scholarly Findings on Climate and Weather in a Controversial Time.Seeing the Woods, 26 September 2017.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Knowing Nature: The Changing Foundations of Environmental Knowledge. Conference Report.Seeing the Woods, 22 June 2017.


Reviews

Kleemann, Katrin. “Thriving in the Face of Climate Change–Lessons from the Little Ice Age.” Review of The Frigid Folden Age: Climate Change, the Little Ice Age, and the Dutch Republic, 1560-1720, by Dagomar Degroot. H-Environment Roundtable Reviews 8, no. 6,  12 December 2018.

Kleemann, Katrin. Review of Making Climate Change History: Documents from Global Warming’s Past, by Joshua P. Howe.  Reviews in History, 7 February 2018. (Review no. 2220.) doi.org/10.14296/RiH/2014/2220.


Translations

Welt-kult-ur-sprung – World Origin of Culture. Edited by Georg Hiller, and Stefanie Kölbl. Translated by Katrin Kleemann, and Iris Trautmann. Ostfildern: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 2016.


Blog Articles

Kleemann, Katrin. “Advice for Planning and Conducting Archival Research.” ActiveHistory.ca, 9 September 2020. (Cross-posted from Environmental History Now.) 

Kleemann, Katrin. “Field Notes: Advice for Planning and Conducting Archival Research.” Environmental History Now, 9 September 2020. 

Kleemann, Katrin. “CO2 emissions from human activities have imbalanced the atmospheric carbon budget, significantly contributing to climate change, contrary to online claim.” Claim Review for Climate Feedback, 11 February 2020.

Kleemann, Katrin. “A Change of Perspective: Visiting the Places of Your Research.” Environmental History Now, 9 September 2019.

Kleemann, Katrin (author) and Hannah Davies (editor). “Beyond Tectonics: How the tectonic events of 1783 were perceived by the population of Europe.Blog of the Tectonics and Structural Geology (TS) Division of the European Geosciences Union (EGU), 4 September 2019.

Kleemann, Katrin. “29 November 1783: The Night the US East Coast Was Awoken by ‘a Small Shock of an Earthquake’.Environmental History Now, 10 September 2018.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Environmental History or Environmentally Minded History? New Scholars Second Meeting.” NiCHE – Network in Canadian History and Environment | Nouvelle initiative Canadienne en histoire de l’environnement, The Otter, 5 March 2018.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Volcanoes, Climate Change, and Society: History and Future Prospects.” HistoricalClimatology.com Blog, 23 November 2017.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Speculating About the Weather: The Unusual Dry Fog of 1783.” NiCHE – Network in Canadian History and Environment | Nouvelle initiative Canadienne en histoire de l’environnement, The Otter, 2 October 2017.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Snapshot: Where Geology Meets Early Modern History. A Millstone Quarry in Upper Bavaria.Seeing the Woods, 19 June 2017.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Eruptions, Earthquakes, & Emissions: Visualizing the Planet’s Heartbeat.Ant Spider Bee, 6 February 2017.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Watch your Step! Moss Conservation in Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland.Seeing the Woods, 18 October 2016.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Snapshot: Beach Litter in a Sustainable Exhibition. Seeing the Woods, 7 June 2016.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Flyover Country App, or What Do Airplanes and Dinosaurs Have in Common?Ant Spider Bee, 4 May 2016.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Worldview: Earthquakes in Munich?Seeing the Woods, 20 April 2016.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Beyond Doom and Gloom: An Exploration Through Letters—A New Virtual Exhibition.Seeing the Woods, 6 April 2016.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Environmental Geology in Spain – From 21st Century Pollution to Fossil Atolls.Environmental Studies Certificate Program Blog, 28 February 2016.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Environmental Geology in Spain – Geology Explains Coral Remains on a Hilltop.Environmental Studies Certificate Program Blog, 27 February 2016.

Kleemann, Katrin, and Maya Schmitt. “Snapshot: Distant Transformations.Seeing the Woods, 22 February 2016.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Environmental Geology in Spain – Retracing a Past Volcanic Eruption.Environmental Studies Certificate Program Blog, 21 February 2016.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Snapshot: Earthquake Simulation at the Museum Mensch und Natur.Seeing the Woods, 9 February 2016.


Other Online Publications

Kleemann, Katrin. “Lernpapier ‘A Mist Connection: The Laki Eruption and Its Legacy.” Andrea von Braun Stiftung, 9 August 2020.

Kleemann, Katrin. “Living in the Time of a Subsurface Revolution: The 1783 Calabrian Earthquake Sequence.” #ASEH2018TWEETS Twitter Conference presented by the ASEH Graduate Caucus, co-sponsored by the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE) and the NiCHE New Scholars Committee, 9 March 2018.


Image source: The image was taken from pexels.com and is licensed under a CC0 license.

Talks

Upcoming:

16 April 2021

Keynote: The Laki Eruption of 1783 and Its Legacy. Combining Cultural History and Geology Approaches for Environmental History. Workshop, “Interdisciplinary and Mixed-Methods Approaches in Environmental History: Potentials and Challenges,” Aeschi near Spiez, Canton of Bern, Switzerland, 16-18 April 2021.


Past:

25 November 2020

Roundtable discussion: Rivers in Colonial Times | Mesa redonda – Caminhos fluviais nos tempos coloniais. Conference “Seminário Amazônico de História e Natureza: Rios de Historia,” Brazil, 24-27 November 2020.

More information can be found here (in Portuguese).

You can watch the entire roundtable discussion here.


20 November 2020

Workshop: Blogging in der Praxis – Wie präsentiere ich meine Forschung oder meine beruflichen Projekte im Internet? Praxisbüro, Fakultät 13, LMU Munich, Germany.

Find more info here.


28-29 August 2020

Paper: Volcanic Pollution in the Summer of 1783 Impacted Human Health and Vegetation in Western Europe. At an online workshop “Flows, Histories, and Politics of Pollution in Europe (17th–20th century)” at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU Munich, Germany, organized by Andrei Vinogradov and Prof. Dr. Julia Herzberg.


16-19 June 2020

Paper:Die ganze Luft roch daselbst wie lauter Schwefel.” Luftverschmutzung und Vegetationsschäden in Europa im Sommer 1783 nach dem Ausbruch der Lakispalte auf Island. Summer university “Umweltgeschichte in Frankreich und Deutschland: aktuelle Probleme und Zukunftsperspektiven,” organized by the German Historical Institute Paris (DHIP/IHA) and tthe École des hautes études en sciences sociales (CHR-GRHEN) in Paris, France. (This summer university was postponed due to COVID-19).


4 June 2020

Talk: Aktive Vulkane, aktive Vorstellungskraft. Vier ‘Vulkanausbrüche’ in den Deutschen Territorien im Sommer 1783. Prof. Dr. Melanie Arndt’s Colloquium at the Historisches Seminar, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany.


8 May 2020

Workshop, prepared and conducted: Academic Blogging: How to Present Your Research Online. LMU Schreibzentrum, Munich, Germany.

Find the course description here.


10 January 2020

Guest lecture: The Imagination of Climate Change in the Past: An Example from Iceland. Dr. Katie Ritson’s Hauptseminar, “‘Klimakrise’ in Literatur und Film” at the Institut für Nordische Philologie, LMU Munich, Germany.


16 December 2019

Talk:  Merkwürdige Nebel, entsetzliche Donnerwetter, erschreckliche Erdbeben und feuerspeiende Berge in Europa im Sommer 1783. Eine Umweltgeschichte des Vulkanausbruchs der isländischen Lakispalte. Prof. Dr. Arndt Brendecke’s Colloquium (Oberseminar Frühe Neuzeit) at the Historisches Seminar, LMU Munich, Germany.


20-25 August 2019

Roundtable Discussion: Future Directions of Climate History. 10th Biennial European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) Conference in Tallinn, Estonia.


13-16 April 2019

Talk: A Mist Connection: The Icelandic Laki Fissure Eruption of 1783. 4th VICS Meeting (Volcanic Impacts on Climate and Society), University of Cambridge, England, UK.


26 October 2018

TalkThe Winter of 1783/1784 in Europe and North America. Little Ice Age Lessons Workshop, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., USA.


25-28 September 2018

Talk: “Also haben wir dennun in unserem lieben Deutschland auch einen feuerspeyenden Berg.” Der trockene Nebel von 1783 und die Vielfalt der zeitgenössischen Erklärungsversuche. Conference “Gespaltene Gesellschaften,” 52. Deutscher Historikertag, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany.


26 June 2018

Talk: “A Violent Revolution of Planet Earth”: Geological Ideas and Extraordinary Phenomena in the Aftermath of the 1783 Laki Fissure Eruption in Prof. Dr. Anke Friedrich’s and Sara Carena’s Colloquium “Advanced Active Tectonics” at the LMU’s Geology Department, Munich, Germany.


25-27 May 2018

Talk: Discrepancy Between Contemporary Descriptions and Temperature Reconstructions: The Summer of 1783 in the German Territories. Conference “Societal and Environmental Change in Historical Perspective: Recent Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Research,” Princeton University, New Jersey, USA.

Click here for more information.


16 February 2018

Workshop, prepared and conducted: Academic Blogging. LMU Schreibzentrum, Munich, Germany.

Find the course description here.


13 January 2018

Talk and Poster Presentation: Impacts of the Laki Fissure Eruption of 1783 on North America. 3rd VICS Meeting (Volcanic Impacts on Climate and Society), Labratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA.

Click here to view the poster.


17 October 2017

Invited Talk: Der Ausbruch der Lakispalte und die Geschichte der Geologie: Die lange Suche nach dem Ursprung des trockenen Nebels von 1783. Prof. Dr. Christian Rohr’s Colloquium at the University of Bern, Switzerland.


18 August 2017

Workshop: Communicating the Climate: How to Communicate Scholarly Findings on Climate and Weather in a Controversial Time, Rachel Carson Center, Munich, Germany. Jointly organized and convened with Jeroen Oomen.

Here you can find the workshop’s program and a conference report.


18 July 2017

Discussion: Participating as a digital humanities specialist, giving students feedback on their digital exhibitions, Dr. Charlotte Lerg’s seminar “Digital History Project: The Cold War in Munich,” Amerikahaus, LMU Munich, Germany.


06 July 2017

Invited Talk: Klimageschichte und die Lakispalteneruption von 1783. Prof. Dr. Julia Herzberg’s Seminar “Kultur- und Wissensgeschichte des Klimas,” LMU Munich, Germany.


30 June 2017

Talk: A Volcanic Eruption Knows No Borders: The Laki Fissure Eruption and the Dry Fog of 1783. 9th Biennial European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) Conference in Zagreb, Croatia.


25 May 2017

Pre-Circulated Paper: Lifting the Fog of Ignorance: Europe and the Laki Fissure Eruption of 1783. Knowing Nature: The Changing Foundations of Environmental Knowledge at the Renmin University of China, Beijing, China.


10 May 2017

Talk: Lifting the Fog of Ignorance: The Icelandic Laki Fissure Eruption of 1783. 5th PAGES OSM (Past Global Changes – Open Science Meeting) in Zaragoza, Spain.

Click here to watch the presentation.


27 May 2016

Talk: A Strategy to Cope with Extreme Weather: The Gleichberg and Cottaberg “Eruptions” of 1783. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland Conference “Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change” at the British Museum, London, UK.


24 February 2016

Talk: Volcanic Eruptions and Cultures: A History of the Icelandic Laki Fissure Eruption of 1783. Doktorandentag, Rachel Carson Center / LMU Munich, Germany.


17 February 2016

Talk: Geology Meets History. An Environmental History of the Laki Fissure Eruption (1783). Geological Mapping Course for Geology Bachelor Students / Environmental Geology Field Trip in Las Negras/Almeria, Spain.


05 November 2015

Talk: The Laki Fissure Eruption and Strange Weather Phenomena in the German Territories in the Summer of 1783. 4th CITCEM Conference in Porto, Portugal.


18 September 2015

Talk: The Gleichberg “Eruption” of 1783 Revisited. Science and Technology Studies Workshop, University College Freiburg, Germany.


03 July 2015

Talk and Poster Presentation: The Laki Eruption and Strange Weather Phenomena in the German Territories in the Summer of 1783. 8th Biennial European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) Conference in Versailles, France.

Click here to view the poster.


29 January 2014

Talk: The Laki Fissure Eruption and the Dry Fog of 1783: A Nature-Induced Disaster Event During the Little Ice Age. Lipphardt Group Seminar Series, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany.


Image source: The image was taken from pexels.com and is licensed under a CC0 license.