15. 1783 saw millions of people die from starvation in large parts of Asia– all thanks to a volcano erupting thousands of miles away.
In 1783, the Laki volcanic region of Iceland erupted. Huge volumes of ash and other volcanic particles were spewed into the atmosphere. And the effects were felt all over the world – most of all in India, which was already reeling from an unusually cold winter. Thanks to El Nino and the fallout of the Icelandic volcanoes, large parts of the Northern Hemisphere didn’t experience a real summer in 1783. Alaska, for instance, endured its coldest year in four centuries. Fortunately, few people were living there. That wasn’t the case in heavily-populated northern India.
Here, an estimated 11 million people starved to death between 1783 and 1784 in what’s become known as the Chalisa Famine. The Delhi region experienced huge losses. Indeed, according to some estimates, 1 in 3 villages were completely wiped out. The following year was then unseasonably hot. The presence of such large amounts of sulphur dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere meant that the vital monsoon rains never came. What’s more, soaring temperatures across Northern India meant that rivers and lakes dried up, making matters even worse. It would be two long years until the Indian climate returned to normal.