PerspectiveGEOSCIENCE

Volcanic threats to global society

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  22 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6433, pp. 1275-1276
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw7201

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

Summary

When Mount Tambora in the Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia, erupted in 1815, more than 100 km3 of volcanic pyroclasts and ash were discharged into the stratosphere up to altitudes of over 40 km (1). The volcanic gases and ash dispersed over the Northern Hemisphere, causing what was called “the year without a summer” in Europe, with severe starvation, famine, mass migrations, and an estimated several tens of thousands of casualties. By comparison, the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland discharged only about 0.3 km3—300 times less than Tambora—yet caused a week of air traffic shutdown and more than 100,000 flight cancellations over Northern and Central Europe, with an estimated economic loss of 3.3 billion euros (2). If an eruption of the scale of the Tambora eruption occurred today, its impacts would vastly exceed those of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. Yet, global societies are essentially unprepared for such an event.