Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World

Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World

3.5 2
by Gillen D'Arcy Wood
     
 

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When Indonesia’s Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, it unleashed the most destructive wave of extreme weather the world has witnessed in thousands of years. The volcano’s massive sulfate dust cloud enveloped the Earth, cooling temperatures and disrupting major weather systems for more than three years. Communities worldwide endured famine, disease, and

Overview

When Indonesia’s Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, it unleashed the most destructive wave of extreme weather the world has witnessed in thousands of years. The volcano’s massive sulfate dust cloud enveloped the Earth, cooling temperatures and disrupting major weather systems for more than three years. Communities worldwide endured famine, disease, and civil unrest on a catastrophic scale.

Here, Gillen D’Arcy Wood traces Tambora’s global and historical reach: how the volcano’s three-year climate change regime initiated the first worldwide cholera pandemic, expanded opium markets in China, and plunged the United States into its first economic depression. Bringing the history of this planetary emergency to life, Tambora sheds light on the fragile interdependence of climate and human societies to offer a cautionary tale about the potential tragic impacts of drastic climate change in our own century.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 02/17/2014
The greatest volcanic eruption of modern times occurred in 1815 on the small island of Tambora in the East Indies. It spawned the most extreme weather in thousands of years. In what contemporaries described as the “year without a summer,” its immense ash cloud encircled and cooled the Earth. While historians have mostly ignored the decades of worldwide misery, starvation, and disease that followed, Wood (The Shock of the Real), professor of English at the University of Illinois, remedies this oversight, combining a scientific introduction to volcanism with a vivid account of the eruption’s cultural, political, and economic impact that persisted throughout the century. Artists like Mary and Percy Shelly, Lord Byron, and John Constable shivered while they documented the miserable weather. Cooled oceans disrupted currents and altered rain patterns, producing famines from India to Ireland, a global cholera pandemic, an explosion of opium production in China, violent storms, and, paradoxically, an interlude of arctic warming much remarked upon by climate-change deniers. Soaring grain prices enriched the young United States, followed by its first and perhaps greatest depression when the ash cloud dispersed in 1819 and prices crashed. Wood delivers an enthralling study of the fragile interdependence of human and natural systems. Illus. (May)
From the Publisher

"Tambora offers at once fine history and important witness: we can ill afford to underestimate the destabilizing potential of climate change. . . . Tambora is clear and well researched, and the book flows well. It is passionate and in places even humorous."--Conevery Bolton Valencius, ISIS Review
Library Journal
05/15/2014
Wood's (English, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Romanticism and Music Culture in Britain, 1770–1840) compelling and at times terrifying "cautionary tale" details the global effects of the April 1815 volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. Widespread devastation lasted several years after cold temperatures enveloped much of the world in the wake of a cloud of ash that exploded into the atmosphere. Crop yields dropped by 75 percent in Western Europe during 1816 and 1817, for example; an 1816–1818 famine in Ireland was ignored, Wood says, by city dwellers and the government until it caused typhus to reach their environs. The monsoon was almost absent in India in 1816, causing drought and famine, and the year after that the rains came three weeks early, causing a cholera outbreak that by the 1830s had claimed millions of victims. Wood also describes John Constable's and J.M.W. Turner's paintings of the vivid sunsets caused by the ash cloud. Literature was another beneficiary; Charles Dickens's "deep body memory of a volcanic childhood" is evident in the chilly London his characters toil in, and a cold, wet "European tour" detailed in the book resulted in dark works such as Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Mont Blanc" poem and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Fittingly, science made leaps, with the chaotic weather resulting in, for instance, the creation of the first weather maps. Readers can't help but be aware of the big picture as they read: small changes in temperature can have terrible and unexpected effects on society. An epilog ties the strands together, with the author noting that industrialization created "a profound climate illiteracy among the political class" that will be our ruination. VERDICT This extremely detailed work draws together disparate events in a fascinating way. It's in-depth enough for climate science students and offers something different for those wishing to know more about romantic literature; at the same time the work is accessible for popular-science readers. For large public libraries and academic collections.—Henrietta Verma, Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400851409
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
04/27/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
312
Sales rank:
286,169
File size:
9 MB

Meet the Author

Gillen D’Arcy Wood is professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he directs the Sustainability Studies Initiative in the Humanities.

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Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
waytoxic More than 1 year ago
A year without summer; the severe weather that triggered Mary Shelly to write "Frankenstein" and dozens of other weather related impacts are well researched,, documented and told by Gillen Wood. Many people confuse weather with climate; the 1815 eruption of Tambora impacted the weather all over the Earth. Wood's detailed study of the impacts of the eruption provide the reader with understandable real world historic impacts of severe changes to the weather. Tambora provides a basis for the reader to better relate the Climate Change predictions with what actually happened nearly 200 years ago.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago