Volcanoes are fascinating geological phenomena, capable of vomiting the bowels of the Earth, producing diamonds and even, in their dormant state, giving fruit to a national park that seems to be from another planet, that of Yellowstone.
To measure the fierceness of a volcano’s eruption, the Volcanic Explosive Index (IEV) is used, a scale that ranges from 0 to 8, based on the volume of material ejected, the height of the eruptive cloud and other variables. . In the last 10,000 years there has been no eruption with an IEV value 8. But if we look at those of IEV 7, then the winner is the eruption of the Tambora volcano, on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, in the year 1815.
To give us an idea of the strength of this eruption, which covered the Earth with ash for a year, we can buy it with the famous eruption of Vesuvius, in Italy, which in 79 AD. C buried the city of Pompeii. Well, if Vesuvius released 3 square kilometers of pyroclast (rock, magma and dust), Tambora released 150 to 180 square kilometers. 66,000 times the volume of material used in the Great Pyramid of Giza .
One megaton is equivalent to the energy released by 1 million tons of TNT. One megaton can power an average Western home for about 120,000 years. The Hiroshima explosion, for example, released 0.015 megatons . The Tunguska Event, 1908, 10-15 megatons. The Tsar’s Bomb, the most powerful nuclear test explosion in history, released 57 megatons. The Tambora, however, reached 800 megatons.
Romanticism on fire
The darkening of the skies of half the world inspired terror in many people, but also established some master lines of Romanticism. For example, Lord Byron would write the poem Darkness . Mary Shelley , Frankenstein . Polidori , The Vampire . And the painter William Turner captured those twilight skies on some of his canvases.
The Tambora also caused other not inconsiderable meteorological phenomena, as John Withintong explains in his book World History of Disasters :
Rainfalls of brown snow fell in Hungary and Maryland, and red snow in Italy […] The dreadful weather that caused in part Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo is also credited with the Tambora eruption.
It was not so bad
A few decades later, on August 27, 1883, the eruption of another volcano, Krakatoa , caused similar side effects. Not surprisingly, its force was equivalent to 7,000 atomic bombs (200 megatons), it generated tsunamis that killed 36,000 people. The sunlight refracted from the ashes that enveloped the Earth inspired Edward Munch to paint The Scream .
All this, however, remained in borage water if we compare it with another volcanic eruption that also occurred in Sumatra, in what is now known as Lake Toba , 74,000 years ago.
It was one of the most violent eruptions in history, some 28 times more powerful than that of Mount Tambora , and which was on the verge of exterminating the human species. From the one million humans then, the population was drastically reduced to about ten thousand. The nuclear winter that produced the ashes lasted six years.