Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World [NOOK Book]


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. Amid devastating storms, drought, and floods, communities worldwide endured famine, disease, and civil unrest on a catastrophic scale. On the eve of the bicentenary of the great eruption, Tambora tells the ...

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Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World

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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. Amid devastating storms, drought, and floods, communities worldwide endured famine, disease, and civil unrest on a catastrophic scale. On the eve of the bicentenary of the great eruption, Tambora tells the extraordinary story of the weather chaos it wrought, weaving the latest climate science with the social history of this frightening period to offer a cautionary tale about the potential tragic impacts of drastic climate change in our own century.

The year following Tambora’s eruption became known as the “Year without a Summer,” when weather anomalies in Europe and New England ruined crops, displaced millions, and spawned chaos and disease. Here, for the first time, Gillen D’Arcy Wood traces Tambora’s full global and historical reach: how the volcano’s three-year climate change regime initiated the first worldwide cholera pandemic, expanded opium markets in China, set the stage for Ireland’s Great Famine, and plunged the United States into its first economic depression. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster, inspired by Tambora’s terrifying storms, embodied the fears and misery of global humanity during this transformative period, the most recent sustained climate crisis the world has faced.

Bringing the history of this planetary emergency grippingly to life, Tambora sheds light on the fragile interdependence of climate and human societies, and the threat a new era of extreme global weather poses to us all.

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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
"In Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World, Gillen D'Arcy Wood weaves a story that Shelley and Byron could not have told, because they could not have known it. Behind the killing weather and the noonday dark was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. . . . Wood makes compelling use of literature as a stand-in for the voiceless throngs crushed in this disaster."—Jenni Laidman, Chicago Tribune

"[E]ngagingly written and meticulously researched. . . . [A] thoroughly interesting and engaging read."—Alison Stokes, Times Higher Education

"This beautifully written book successfully bridges the divides separating science, the arts and social history, to give us an enthralling illustration of the devastation brought about by alterations in global climate that, in fact, lasted for only three years."—Anthony Toole, Amazon.co.uk

"In example of example, Wood expertly explains the volcano's effects on climate and agriculture. . . . Wood leaves no doubt how sensitive and far-reaching Earth's climate system is—and how vulnerable humans are to the natural world."—Science News

"His remarkable, even pioneering, book is the first to discuss the Tambora eruption as a global phenomenon afflicting Asia as well as Europe and America."—Andrew Robinson, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

"Wood does not present this eruption as a case of crude environmentalism but as a case study in the fragile interdependence of human and natural systems."—Wan Lixin, Shanghai Daily

Library Journal
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400851409
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 4/27/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Course Book
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 79,999
  • 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. He has written extensively on the cultural and environmental history of the nineteenth century.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi
Note on Measurements xv
INTRODUCTION Frankenstein's Weather 1
ONE The Pompeii of the East 12
TWO The Little (Volcanic) Ice Age 33
THREE "This End of the World Weather" 45
FOUR Blue Death in Bengal 72
FIVE The Seven Sorrows of Yunnan 97
SIX The Polar Garden 121
SEVEN Ice Tsunami in the Alps 150
EIGHT The Other Irish Famine 171
NINE Hard Times at Monticello 199
EPILOGUE Et in Extremis Ego 229
Acknowledgments 235
Notes 237
Bibliography 259
Index 281

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 29, 2014

    Highly recommended for everyone interested in climate change.

    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.

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    Posted July 22, 2014

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