Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mount Tambora eruption of 1815

Mount Tambora is a volcano on the northern edge of the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia that erupted on April 10, 1815 with the deadliest and most powerful eruption of the past 10,000 years. The eruption was a 7 out of 8 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index or VEI scale. The initial death toll at the site of the eruption was 10,000 to 12,000 buried in the lava flows. The total death toll in the aftermath was 60,000 to 100,000. About 32,000 died in the resulting tsunami and thousands more died in the famine in the Northern Hemisphere that was another result of the eruption.

Mount Tambora started having activity in 1812 when steam and ash were expelled and small tremors were created. There was an initial eruption on April 5, 1815 that sent a volcanic column 25 km or 15.5 miles into the air and could be heard over 1000 km or 620 miles away. The historic eruption on April 10 shot rocks, pumice, ash and aerosols to an altitude of 40 to 50 km or 25 to 31 miles. The top of the volcano was destroyed as 30 cubic kilometers  were among the debris along with 50 cubic kilometers of magma and the explosion was heard as far away as Sumatra Island which was about 2000 km or 1200 miles away. The ash from the explosion landed as far as 1300 km or 800 miles away on islands including Borneo, Java, Maluku and Sulawesi. Floating islands of pumice as large as 5 km or 3 miles long were encountered afterward and hindered ship navigation up to four years afterward,

The eruption also caused a volcanic winter that caused global temperatures to drop and contributed to the Year Without a Summer in 1816. An aerosol cloud caused by sulfuric acid spewed by Mount Tambora reflected some of the sunlight keeping it from reaching Earth. The effect on the weather led to an agricultural disaster as crops failed and livestock died in North America, Europe and Asia. There were reports of a continuous dry fog over the northeastern United States in the spring and summer of 1816. The crop failures were widespread from the corn crops in New England in America, the wheat, oat and potato crops of Ireland and the rice crops of China. All areas effected encountered famine and economic strife with rising food prices. 

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