1815 Tambora Eruption
The eruption of Mount Tambora on Sumbawa Island in the Dutch East Indies (today’s Indonesia), which climaxed on April 10th, 1815, was the most powerful volcanic explosion of the past 10,000 years. It began on April 5, when the first loud eruption occurred with a thunderous clap that was heard nearly 1000 miles away. Over the next few days, the volcano steadily steamed, while emitting faint detonation sounds.
Then, on April 10, people in Sumatra, 1600 miles away, were startled to hear what sounded like cannons going off. Tambora had finally gone off, instantly killing about 12,000 inhabitants of Sumbawa Island in a cataclysmic explosion, while about another 80,000 died in the region from famine and starvation after falling ash and pumice ruined their crops and fields.
On Sumbawa Island, the eruptions had grown more energetic early that morning. Flames rose up into the sky, and lava and glowing ash began pouring down the mountainside. By 8 AM, bits of pumice up to 8 inches wide were raining down, and ash spewed into the air so thickly that as far as 400 miles away, it was pitch dark for two days. The volcano poured rivers of incandescent ash down its sides to scorch the island, while its tremors sent tsunamis racing across the Java Sea.
Tambora spewed ash and 12 cubic miles of gasses hurtling up into the skies, causing extreme weather conditions around the planet. The fine ash dispersed throughout the atmosphere created optical phenomena worldwide, producing prolonged and brilliantly colored sunsets and twilights that were red or orange near the horizon, and pink or purple above.
The ashes in the atmosphere had another, less lovely impact, in that they brought about a volcanic winter, which lowered global temperatures and turned 1816 into what came to be known as The Year Without Summer. That led to an agricultural disaster of crop failures and food shortages in the northern hemisphere.
Among the unusual and extreme weather phenomena caused by Tambora was the impact thousands of miles away, on the far side of the planet in the eastern US. There, the spring and summer of 1816 were marked by a persistent dry fog that reddened and dimmed the sunlight. That May, a frost killed off most crops in upstate New York, as well as Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and snow fell as late as June 6 in Albany, NY. Other parts of the world also recorded weird weather phenomena that year.