August 4, 2012 - Super Volcano Could Change the World: Mount Tambora is an active volcano on the Sumbawa islands, 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 decades 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 (VEI), making it the largest eruption since the Lake Taupo eruption in about 180 BC.
The 1815 eruption of Tambora (painting pictured above) was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. The explosion was heard on Sumatra island, more than 2,000 km or 1,200 miles, 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 12,000 were killed directly by the eruption. The eruption created global climate anomalies; 1816 became known as the “Year Without a 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.
The Master of Disaster