Volcano Caused 1816 Weather Disaster

We all heard about the volcano eruptions in Hawaii recently. The Kilauea volcano erupted on Hawaii’s Big Island. The lava covered over five square miles and caused about 2,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Adding to the problem was a 5.5 magnitude earthquake that shook the Kilauea summit. Residents were left with no power, no cellphone reception, no phone lines and no county water.

Last week in Mexico, the Popocatepetl volcano erupted. It sent debris more than 430 yards into the sky with a column of ash and smoke rising more than a mile high. It was followed by numerous earthquakes.

With 169 active volcanoes, the United States is “not ready for a devastating eruption,” according to The Atlantic magazine.

The past could explain the future

OK, but what does that have to do with those of us who don’t live near an active volcano? Well, it might have plenty to do with our future. But we have to go 100 years in the past to explain it.

The year was 1816. Some called it, “The Year Without a Summer.” New Englanders called it, “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.”

Living in Virginia at the time, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Never were such hard times.”

In that year, spring rolled around when it was supposed to. But then something very strange occurred. Instead of the summer heat kicking in, it got cold. Really cold. And really dark. And really wet.

Volcano sparks climate change

Beginning that summer and continuing for three years, crops failed across the country. Not to mention in the rest of North America and Europe.

It snowed in New York state and in Maine. In June!

Some folks blamed sunspots, while others blamed God. Most people of that time eventually died having no idea why the weather turned cold and wet and dark.

What caused this incredible climate change? Scientists have now figured it out. It was a volcano eruption.

Sunlight blocked by dust and ash

In mid-April of 1815, in what is now Indonesia, the Mount Tambora volcano erupted. Big time.

The energy created by the explosion was equal to 2.2 million atomic bombs. Ten thousand people died relatively quickly, while another 80,000 perished due to starvation and diseases.

The volcano spewed lava and dust for about a week and continued rumbling for an additional three months.

This eruption sent millions of tons of sulfur-dioxide gas into the stratosphere. The wind took care of spreading it around the Northern Hemisphere. The dust and ash blocked sunlight and disrupted natural weather patterns.

Worldwide disaster after disaster

The results? A potato famine in Ireland. The wheat crop ruined in Europe, causing bread shortages.

Rice crops destroyed in Asia. Severe flooding in China. Torrential rains in India. Outbreaks of cholera from the River Ganges in India to Russia.

Food prices rose sharply in Europe, followed by riots, arson and looting. Brown snow in Hungary. Red snow in Italy.

Today, populations are much higher than they were in the 1800s. Many more people would be negatively affected if a similar disaster were to happen.

It could happen again

Now, the recent Hawaii and Mexico volcano eruptions were not as violent as the Mount Tambora volcano explosion.

But that doesn’t mean something similar couldn’t happen at any time. And it wouldn’t even have to occur in the U.S. to cause significantly different weather for us.

“Global cooling” would replace “global warming” as the most talked about weather phenomenon.

What can we do about this potential emergency? The answer is the same for any other possible crisis. Get prepared and stay prepared.


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