Can a single explosion change the course of history? An eruption at the end of the 18th century led to a year without summer while igniting famine, disease, even revolution.Laki is Iceland’s largest volcano. Its eruption in 1783 is one of history’s great, untold natural disasters. Spewing out sun-blocking ash and then a poisonous fog for eight long months, the effects of the eruption lingered across the world for years. It caused the deaths of people as far away as the Nile and created catastrophic conditions throughout Europe.Island on Fire is the story not only of a single eruption but the people whose lives it changed, the dawn of modern volcanology, as well as the history—and potential—of other super-volcanoes like Laki around the world. And perhaps most pertinently, in the wake of the eruption of another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, which closed European air space in 2010, acclaimed science writers Witze and Kanipe look at what might transpire should Laki erupt again in our lifetime.
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About the Author
Alexandra Witze is an award-winning science journalist and correspondent for the journal Nature. Her reporting has taken her from the North Pole
(to report on climate change) to the jungles of Guatemala (to cover
Maya archaeology) to China's quake-ravaged Sichuan province. Island on
Fire is her first book and she lives in Boulder, CO.
Jeff Kanipe is an experienced science writer and the author of a number of books on astronomy including Chasing Hubble’s Shadows (Hill &
Wang, 2006) and The Cosmic Connection (Prometheus, 2008). He has an asteroid (84447 Jeffkanipe) named after him.
Table of Contents
Foreword to the American Edition 3
Preface: Heimaey, 1973 7
1 Laki Erupts: June 1783 15
2 Land of Ice and Fire: The volcanoes of Iceland 35
3 Supervolcanoes: The world's hotspots 61
4 Fire, Famine and Death: The poisoning of Iceland 86
5 Horrible Phenomena: Europe's 'year of wonders' 107
6 The Big Chill: Laki's global fallout 125
7 Laki Today: Life in the mountain's shadow 146
8 Death by Volcano: The many ways eruptions can kill 163
9 The Next Big Bang: How worried should we be? 185
Epilogue: Return to Heimaey 203
Photo Credits 214