The biggest volcanic eruption in 10,000 years happened when Mount Tambora exploded on April 10, 1815. The eruption killed thousands of Indonesian villagers immediately, and the effects of disaster went global and lasted for years. Some 36 cubic miles of ash and rock were flung into the air, and a lot of remained there as particles that encircled the earth.
Tambora was “a tragedy of nations masquerading as a spectacular sunset,” Gillen D’Arcy Wood of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, writes in Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World. Those aerosol particles stayed in the stratosphere for two years, blocking sunlight and causing havoc on Earth’s climate. The year 1816 was so cold that it snowed in New England in June, and the period became known as “the year without a summer.” Grain shortages and famine occurred across the globe, and Tambora’s far-reaching death toll would eventually claim more than 100,000 according to some estimates.
Our world would be different today if the Tambora disaster had never happened. Smithsonian has a list of seven of the effects Tambora had on history, including weather patterns, disease, human migration, food, and even art and literature.
(Image credit: Jialiang Gao)