Blast from the Past

The eruption of Mount Tambora killed thousands, plunged much of the world into a frightful chill and offers lessons for today

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Looking into that crater, and having familiarized myself with others’ research on the consequences of the eruption, I saw as if for the first time how the planet and its life-forms are linked. The material that it ejected into the atmosphere perturbed climate, destroyed crops, spurred disease, made some people go hungry and others migrate. Tambora also opened my eyes to the idea that what human beings put into the atmosphere may have profound impacts. Interestingly, scientists who study global climate trends use Tambora as a benchmark, identifying the period 1815 to 1816 in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica by their unusually high sulfur content—signature of a great upheaval long ago and a world away.


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