Archive for April 10th, 2009

It’s office-painting time.  After more than 2 years of consideration, looking at paint chips, and walking the web checking out furniture, we pulled the trigger.  I usually write out in the living room using a laptop, but it’s still connected to the hub in the office.  The long and short is that, for the next few days while furniture is installed and paint is slapped around, I might be a little hit and miss.  But tonight is “hit”, so let’s talk about something for a couple minutes.

Tambora.  Ever heard of it?  It’s not one of those musical instruments you slap on your hip…that’s a tambourine.  And it’s not that stuff you put on fish before you drop it in the boiling grease…that’s tempura.

Tambora is a volcano, located on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia, and one of many in the region.  Right about here.  At the moment, it’s dormant.  But it wasn’t always that way.

We’ve mentioned volcanic activity in the past, looking at the explosions of Mount St. Helens and Mount Vesuvius.  And while both of those were significant events with catastrophic results, they paled in comparison to Tambora’s massive eruption in 1815.

For 3 years, the Indonesian volcano had played Big Bad Wolf, huffing and puffing…and even blowing down a house or two.  And then a series of smaller blows began on April 5th.  But on the afternoon April 10, 1815, Tambora blew its top in the largest volcanic eruption (heard more than 1,600 miles away) in recorded history.

How large?  When St. Helens blew up in 1980, it ejected between one and two cubic kilometers of ash into the air.  Tambora?  Between 100 and 150.  The earthquakes and lava caused tsunamis that killed thousands, as did the ash, which fell in measurable amounts over wide areas.  The total death count from the immediate after-effects has been estimated at 70-80,000 people.

But the longer-term consequences were even more devastating.  The Tambora eruption was a “climate-changer”.  So much sulfur dioxide and ash was shot into the atmosphere that it actually acted as a “global cooler”, blocking the sunlight and lowering temperatures worldwide.

The following year (1816) was know for destroyed crops and livestock herds, famines, disease, and death.  June saw frost in Connecticut, snow in New York, and blizzards just across the border in Canada.

Today, well over 100 million people live in the areas that could be affected by another 1815-sized eruption.  The destruction that could be wrought is almost incalculable.  Fortunately, Tambora sleeps…for now.

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