A Beautiful Disaster
Mount Tambora in Sumbawa, Indonesia
Gillen D' Arcy Wood, "1816, The Year Without A Summer"
Mount Tambora: A Background
Mount Tambora (or Tomboro) is an active stratovolcano on Sumbawa island, Indonesia. Sumbawa is flanked both to the north and south by oceanic crust, and Tambora was formed by the active subduction zones beneath it. This raised Mount Tambora as high as 4,300 m (14,000 ft), making it one of the tallest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago, and drained off a large magma chamber inside the mountain. It took centuries to refill the magma chamber; its volcanic activity reaching its peak in April 1815.
In 1812, Mount Tambora became highly active, with its eruptive peak in April 1815. The magnitude was seven on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) scale. Its eruptive characteristics included central vent and explosive eruptions, pyroclastic flows, fatalities, land and property damage, tsunamis and caldera collapse. It created a long-term effect on global climate. This activity ceased on July 15, 1815. Tambora went into eruption again, but only inside the caldera. It created small lava flows and lava dome extrusions; this was recorded at two on the VEI scale. This eruption created the Doro Api Toi parasitic cone inside the caldera.
World's Deadliest Volcano
"It makes the St. Helens eruption look small," said Erik Klemetti, a volcanologist at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and the author of the Big Think's Eruption's blog.
But Tambora's eruptions aren't always so huge, and there's no reason to think any looming eruption would be so deadly. In fact, having had such a large eruption as recently as 1815 (geologically speaking) makes it less likely that a similar eruption will happen anytime soon, Klemetti said.
"The Year Without A Summer"
Photos of Mount Tambora's Eruptions
Mount Tambora's Damages and Effects
Ash and debris rained down for weeks and houses for miles around collapsed. Fresh water sources were contaminated and crops failed, while sulphurous gas caused lung infections. It is thought that 10,000 people had been killed instantly, but thousands more died of starvation and disease and the death toll in Sumbawa and neighbouring islands has been estimated at anything from 60,000 to 90,000.