20 Sep 2011

Indonesian farmers flee as Tambora, world's deadliest volcano, rumbles


By 
updated 9/19/2011 11:16:26 AM ET

Bold farmers in Indonesia routinely ignore orders to evacuate the slopes of live volcanoes, but those living on Tambora took no chances when history's deadliest mountain rumbled ominously this month.
Villagers like Hasanuddin Sanusi have heard since they were young how the mountain they call home once blew apart in the largest eruption ever recorded — an 1815 event widely forgotten outside their region — killing 90,000 people and blackening skies on the other side of the globe.
"The new alert awakened fears about 1815."
Most people finally trickled back to their homes by Monday.
Little was known about Tambora's global impact until the 1980s, when Greenland ice core samples — which can be read much like tree rings — revealed an astonishing concentration of sulfur at the layer dating back to 1816, said geologist Jelle de Boer, co-author of "Volcanoes in Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Major Eruption."
Gases had combined with water vapor to form fine droplets of acid that remained for years in the atmosphere, circling the earth and reflecting some of the solar radiation back into space.
Temperatures worldwide plummetted, causing crops to fail and leading to massive starvation.
Farmers on the northeastern coast of the U.S. reported snow well into July.
In France, grape harvests were decimated. Daniel Lawton of the wine brokerage Tastet-Lawton said a note in his company's files remarks that 1816 was a "detestable year" and yielded only a quarter of the crop planted.
Image: Aerial photo of Indonesia's Mount Tambora
The volcanic crater in Mount Tambora is more than 7 miles wide and half a mile deep, created by an April 1815 eruption.


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