Think Tank Thursday – Catastrophic Eruptions

Think Tank Thursday

The estimated 4.000m high volcano of Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia erupted with an intensity of VEI 7 – 100x stronger than Mount St. Helens. During the peak of eruption April 10, 1815 the mountain lost 1.300m height and catapulted estimated two million tons of debris, particles and sulphur components into the higher layers of the atmosphere. These aerosols reduced the solar radiation on earth’s surface and influenced worldwide weather patterns for years to come (an exhaustive list of data can be found on Erik Klemetti´s Eruptions-Blog).

In a world where natural disasters has become something that is simply a standard on the nightly news, I wonder, and I pose the question to you, what do you think would happen today, nearly 200 years later, if such a large scale disaster occurred?  How would we / could we recover from such an event? And what would the lasting effects be on this planet, now that we have evolved technologically?

[Story taken directly from April 10, 1815: The Eruption that Shook the World written by David Bressan ::Freelance geologist dealing with quaternary outcrops interested in the history and the development of geological concepts through time. Follow on Twitter @David_Bressan.]

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went – and came, and brought no day
Darkness” (1816) by Lord Bryon (1788-1824)

In the year 1816 Europe was slowly recovering from the Napoleonic wars, ended just one year earlier. After years of desperation and destruction people hoped for better times – but the summer that came was rainy and cold and on the fields the crops did not mature or rotted away, famine and diseases were the consequences. Also the north-eastern states of the U.S. experienced snowstorms and frost in the middle of summer. The year 1816 has come to be known as the “year without a summer.

The strange behaviour of the weather was unexplainable at the time. Nobody could imagine that the origins of the strange phenomena were to be found on the opposite side of earth, where an entire mountain had annihilated itself in the largest volcanic eruption of recorded history.

The estimated 4.000m high volcano of Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia erupted with an intensity of VEI 7 – 100x stronger than Mount St. Helens. During the peak of eruption April 10, 1815 the mountain lost 1.300m height and catapulted estimated two million tons of debris, particles and sulphur components into the higher layers of the atmosphere. These aerosols reduced the solar radiation on earth’s surface and influenced worldwide weather patterns for years to come (an exhaustive list of data can be found on Erik Klemetti´s Eruptions-Blog).

Thousands of people died by the direct effects of the four month lasting eruption, like poisonous clouds and gas, large pyroclastic flows and tsunamis. In the surrounding area of the volcano the vegetation was killed and the soil poisoned for years. Many more suffered from the climatic effects and the aftermath. Almost the entire northern hemisphere, in a period with already cool climate, experienced an ulterior drop of temperatures, famine and diseases spread over the world.

Only one year later a detailed account of the catastrophe was published first in the “History of Java” (1817) by the English governor of Indonesia and naturalist Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles (1781-1826) and later incorporated in Lyell’s “Principles of Geology” (1850):

Read the extract at the original post HERE

To view a short motion picture on the earths cooling after the 1815 eruption view HERE

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About Cheryl Schull

t is our past experiences and emotions that make us who we are. The experiences we live through; the sadness we suffer, the hurt we endure, the happiness we feel, and the love we come to know creates us, moulds our souls. Without our past we cannot learn and we cannot appreciate all that this life and the people in it have to offer us. It has taken me a long time to realise that while the past has made we who I am, it is not what I am. My past sadness and heart ache has made me grateful and compassionate, it has made me appreciate everything that I have now, and taught me that while the future is untold, the story can be filled with happiness, love and hope – so long as you choose to write the story that way… I know that here is a story inside us all, we just have to be willing to share it – and this is why I am inspired daily by the people who surround me – I find hope in others experiences and life stories. I find encouragement through those willing to share their skills and I know that I am a better person for having open ears, an open heart, and an open mind to all the possibilities that this world has to offer. Because sometimes, hope knows the sun has risen even when the clouds cover every ray of light….

Posted on April 26, 2012, in Environment, Think Tank Thursday. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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