Mount Tambora And the Year without summer 1816
Mount Tambora (or Tomboro) is an active stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano, on Sumbawa island, Indonesia. Sumbawa is flanked both to the north and south by oceanic crust, and Tambora was formed by the active subduction zones beneath it. This raised Mount Tambora as high as 4,300 m (14,000 ft), making it one of the tallest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago, and drained off a large magma chamber inside the mountain. It took centuries to refill the magma chamber, its volcanic activity reaching its peak in April 1815.
Tambora erupted in 1815 with a rating of seven on the Volcanic Explosivity Index, making it the largest eruption since the Lake Taupo eruption in about 180 AD. It was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. The explosion was heard on Sumatra island (more than 2,000 km (1,200 mi) away). Heavy volcanic ash falls were observed as far away as Borneo, Sulawesi, Java and Maluku islands. Most deaths from the eruption were from starvation and disease, as the eruptive fallout ruined agricultural productivity in the local region. The death toll was at least 71,000 people (perhaps the most deadly eruption in history), of whom 11,000–12,000 were killed directly by the eruption; the often-cited figure of 92,000 people killed is believed to be an overestimate. The eruption created global climate anomalies; 1816 became known as the Year Without Summer because of the effect on North American and European weather. Agricultural crops failed and livestock died in much of the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in the worst famine of the 19th century.
During an excavation in 2004, a team of archaeologists discovered cultural remains buried by the 1815 eruption. They were kept intact beneath the 3 m (9.8 ft) deep pyroclastic deposits. At the site, dubbed the Pompeii of the East, the artefacts were preserved in the positions they had occupied in 1815.
Mount Tambora experienced several centuries of inactivity before 1815, known as dormancy, as the result of the gradual cooling of hydrous magma in a closed magma chamber. Inside the chamber at depths between 1.5–4.5 km (5,000–15,000 ft), the exsolution of a high pressure magma fluid formed during cooling and crystallisation of the magma. Overpressure of the chamber of about 4–5 kbar was generated and the temperature ranged from 700 °C–850 °C (1,300–1,500 °F).
In 1812, the caldera began to rumble and generated a dark cloud. On 5 April 1815, a moderate-sized eruption occurred, followed by thunderous detonation sounds, heard in Makassar on Sulawesi (380 kilometres or 240 miles), Batavia (now Jakarta) on Java (1,260 km or 780 mi), and Ternate on the Molucca Islands (1,400 km or 870 mi). What was first thought to be sound of firing guns was heard on 10–11 April on Sumatra island (more than 2,600 km or 1,600 mi away). On the morning of April 6, volcanic ash began to fall in East Java with faint detonation sounds lasting until 10 April.
At about 7 p.m. on 10 April, the eruptions intensified.Three columns of flame rose up and merged. The whole mountain was turned into a flowing mass of "liquid fire". Pumice stones of up to 20 centimetres (7.9 in) in diameter started to rain down at approximately 8 p.m., followed by ash at around 9–10 p.m. Hot pyroclastic flows cascaded down the mountain to the sea on all sides of the peninsula, wiping out the village of Tambora. Loud explosions were heard until the next evening, 11 April. The ash veil had spread as far as West Java and South Sulawesi. A "nitrous" odor was noticeable in Batavia and heavy tephra-tinged rain fell, finally receding between 11 and 17 April.
The explosion is estimated to have been at scale seven on the Volcanic Explosivity Index. It had roughly four times the energy of the 1883 Krakatoa eruption. An estimated 160 cubic kilometers (38 cubic miles) of pyroclastic trachyandesite was ejected, weighing approximately 1.4×1014 kg .This has left a caldera measuring 6–7 km (4–5 mi) across and 600–700 m (2,000–2,300 ft) deep. The density of fallen ash in Makassar was 636 kg/m². Before the explosion, Mount Tambora was approximately 4,300 metres (14,000 ft) high,one of the tallest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago. After the explosion, it now measures only 2,851 metres (9,350 ft).
The 1815 Tambora eruption is the largest observed eruption in recorded history (see Table I, for comparison). The explosion was heard 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) away, and ash fell at least 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) away.Pitch darkness was observed as far away as 600 kilometres (370 mi) from the mountain summit for up to two days. Pyroclastic flows spread at least 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the summit.
All vegetation on the island was destroyed. Uprooted trees, mixed with pumice ash, washed into the sea and formed rafts of up to 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) across. One pumice raft was found in the Indian Ocean, near Calcutta on 1 and 3 October 1815. Clouds of thick ash still covered the summit on 23 April. Explosions ceased on 15 July, although smoke emissions were still observed as late as 23 August. Flames and rumbling aftershocks were reported in August 1819, four years after the event.
A moderate-sized tsunami struck the shores of various islands in the Indonesian archipelago on 10 April, with a height of up to 4 metres (13 ft) in Sanggar at around 10 p.m. A tsunami of 1–2 m (3–6 ft) in height was reported in Besuki, East Java, before midnight, and one of 2 metres (6.6 ft) in height in the Molucca Islands.
The eruption column reached the stratosphere, an altitude of more than 43 km (140,000 ft). The coarser ash particles fell 1 to 2 weeks after the eruptions, but the finer ash particles stayed in the atmosphere from a few months up to a few years at an altitude of 10–30 km (33,000–100,000 ft). Longitudinal winds spread these fine particles around the globe, creating optical phenomena. Prolonged and brilliantly colored sunsets and twilights were frequently seen in London, England between 28 June and 2 July 1815 and 3 September and 7 October 1815. The glow of the twilight sky typically appeared orange or red near the horizon and purple or pink above.
The estimated number of deaths varies depending on the source. Zollinger (1855) puts the number of direct deaths at 10,000, probably caused by pyroclastic flows. On Sumbawa island, there were 38,000 deaths due to starvation, and another 10,000 deaths occurred due to disease and hunger on Lombok island. Petroeschevsky (1949) estimated about 48,000 and 44,000 people were killed on Sumbawa and Lombok, respectively.Several authors use Petroeschevsky's figures, such as Stothers (1984), who cites 88,000 deaths in total. However, Tanguy et al.. (1998) claimed Petroeschevsky's figures to be unfounded and based on untraceable references. Tanguy revised the number solely based on two credible sources, q.e., Zollinger, who himself spent several months on Sumbawa after the eruption, and Raffles's notes. Tanguy pointed out that there may have been additional victims on Bali and East Java because of famine and disease. Their estimate was 11,000 deaths from direct volcanic effects and 49,000 by post-eruption famine .
Year Without a Summer
The Year Without a Summer (also known as the Poverty Year, Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death, and the Year There Was No Summer) was 1816, in which severe summer climate abnormalities destroyed crops in Northern Europe, the Northeastern United States and eastern Canada. Historian John D. Post has called this "the last great subsistence crisis in the Western world".
Most consider the climate anomaly to have been caused by a combination of a historic low in solar activity and a volcanic winter event; the latter caused by a succession of major volcanic eruptions capped off by the Mount Tambora eruption of 1815, the largest known eruption in over 1,600 years.
The unusual climatic aberrations of 1816 had the greatest effect on the Northeastern United States, New England, the Canadian Maritimes, Newfoundland, and Northern Europe. Typically, the late spring and summer of the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada are relatively stable: temperatures (average of both day and night) average about 68–77 °F (20–25 °C), and rarely fall below 41 °F (5 °C). Summer snow is an extreme rarity, though May flurries sometimes occur.
In May 1816, however, frost killed off most of the crops that had been planted, and in June two large snowstorms in eastern Canada and New England resulted in many human deaths. Nearly a foot (30 cm) of snow was observed in Quebec City in early June, with consequent additional loss of crops—most summer growing plants have cell walls which rupture in a mild frost, let alone a snowstorm coating the soils. The result was regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality—in short, famine.
In July and August, lake and river ice were observed as far south as Pennsylvania. Rapid, dramatic temperature swings were common, with temperatures sometimes reverting from normal or above-normal summer temperatures as high as 95 °F (35 °C) to near-freezing within hours. Even though farmers south of New England did succeed in bringing some crops to maturity, maize and other grain prices rose dramatically. Oats, for example, rose from 12¢ a bushel ($3.40/m³) the previous year to 92¢ a bushel ($26/m³)—nearly eight times as much—and oats are a necessary staple for an economy dependent upon horses for primary transportation. Those areas suffering local crop failures then had to deal with the lack of roads in the early 19th century, preventing any easy importation of bulky food stuffs.
In China, the cold weather killed trees, rice crops and even water buffalo, especially in northern China. Floods destroyed many remaining crops. Mount Tambora’s eruption disrupted China’s monsoon season, resulting in overwhelming floods in the Yangtze Valley in 1816. In India the delayed summer monsoon caused late torrential rains that aggravated the spread of cholera from a region near the River Ganges in Bengal to as far as Moscow.
In the ensuing bitter winter of 1817, when the thermometer dropped to -26°F (-32 °C), the waters of New York's Upper Bay froze so hard that horse-drawn sleighs were driven across Buttermilk Channel from Brooklyn to Governors Island.
The effects were widespread and lasted beyond the winter. In eastern Switzerland, the summers of 1816 and 1817 were so cool that an ice dam formed below a tongue of the Giétroz glacier high in the Val de Bagnes; in spite of the efforts of the engineer Ignaz Venetz to drain the growing lake, the ice dam collapsed catastrophically in June 1818.
As a consequence of the series of volcanic eruptions, crops in the above cited areas had been poor for several years; the final blow came in 1815 with the eruption of Tambora. In America, many historians cite the "Year Without a Summer" as a primary motivation for the western movement and rapid settlement of what is now western and central New York and the American Midwest. Many New Englanders were wiped out by the year, and tens of thousands struck out for the richer soil and better growing conditions of the Upper Midwest (then the Northwest Territory).
Europe, still recuperating from the Napoleonic Wars, suffered from food shortages. Food riots broke out in Britain and France and grain warehouses were looted. The violence was worst in landlocked Switzerland, where famine caused the government to declare a national emergency. Huge storms, abnormal rainfall with floodings of the major rivers of Europe (including the Rhine) are attributed to the event, as was the frost setting in during August 1816. A BBC documentary using figures compiled in Switzerland estimated that fatality rates in 1816 were twice that of average years, giving an approximate European fatality total of 200,000 deaths.
The eruption of Tambora also caused Hungary to experience brown snow. Italy experienced something similar, with red snow falling throughout the year. The cause of this is believed to have been volcanic ash in the atmosphere.
In China, unusually low temperatures in summer and fall devastated rice production in Yunnan province in the southwest, resulting in widespread famine. Fort Shuangcheng, now in Heilongjiang province, reported fields disrupted by frost and conscripts deserting as a result. Summer snowfall was reported in various locations in Jiangxi and Anhui provinces, both in the south of the country. In Taiwan, which has a tropical climate, snow was reported in Hsinchu and Miaoli, while frost was reported in Changhua.
High levels of ash in the atmosphere led to unusually spectacular sunsets during this period, a feature celebrated in the paintings of J. M. W. Turner. It has been theorised that it was this that gave rise to the yellow tinge that is predominant in his paintings such as Chichester Canal circa 1828. A similar phenomenon was observed after the 1883 Krakatoa eruption, and on the West Coast of the United States following the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.
The lack of oats to feed horses may have inspired the German inventor Karl Drais to research new ways of horseless transportation, which led to the invention of the Draisine or velocipede. This was the ancestor of the modern bicycle and a step towards mechanized personal transport.
The crop failures of the “Year without Summer” forced the family of Joseph Smith to move from Sharon, Vermont to Palmyra, New York, precipitating a series of events culminating in the publication of the Book of Mormon and the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In July 1816 "incessant rainfall" during that "wet, ungenial summer" forced Mary Shelley, John William Polidori and their friends to stay indoors for much of their Swiss holiday. They decided to have a contest, seeing who could write the scariest story, leading Shelley to write Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus and Polidori to write The Vampyre.
The Year without a Summer also inspired Lord Byron to write his 1816 poem Darkness.
The chemist Justus von Liebig, who had experienced the famine as a child in Darmstadt, later studied the nutrition of plants and introduced mineral fertilizers.