How this volcano rocked the climate 200 years ago - Tucson News Now

How this volcano rocked the climate 200 years ago

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The eruption of Mt. Tambora, the largest volcanic eruption of the last millennium, occurred on April 10, 1815 on Indonesia's island of Sumbawa.  In fact, the eruption was about a hundred times more powerful than the eruption of Mount St. Helens back in 1981.  

Above: Courtesy of Google Maps

While the damage around the island was catastrophic, this eruption proved to be deadly well outside of the blast zone, according to National Geographic.  The initial eruption killed at least 10,000 people on the island, with possibly more than 90,000 fatalities from the pyroclastic flows that came down the mountain afterward.  

The effects of the blast were felt well beyond the island.  In fact, the estimated 100 megatons of sulfur aerosols that were pumped into the atmosphere clouded up much of the globe.  The global temperature dropped by about a half of a degree, since much of the incoming sunlight was reflected back into space during that time.  Consequently, impacts were felt across the globe for several years.  

In the United States, cold weather and frost interfered with New England's growing season, which led to a large migration to western states.  The monsoon cycle in Asia was broken by cool summer temperatures, which led to famine and a cholera epidemic in India.  At the time, climate science was too new and disorganized for scientists to realize what was going on.  

Unfortunately, many people still live dangerously close to Mt. Tambora.  According to Liz Cottrell, director of the Smithsonian Institution's Global Volcanism Program, "More than one million people live within 100 kilometers of Tambora today--and 100,000 live within 30 kilometers."

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