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Tambora’s Effects

Sat, April 2, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Westin Seattle Hotel, Cascade 1C

Session Submission Type: Panel


When the Indonesian volcano Tambora erupted in the spring of 1815, by far the largest eruption in recorded history, it spewed tens of cubic kilometres of rock, ash, and dust high into the air. Aerosols spread throughout the global atmosphere, and the planet’s surface cooled measurably. In eastern North America, 1816 became known as the Year Without a Summer.

We propose a session that uses the 2016 bicentennial of the Year Without a Summer as the jumping-off point for discussion of Tambora’s longer-term effects on peoples and environments. Richard Judd will explore how the year shaped New Englanders’ climatic consciousness, finding it resulted in considerable agricultural and social adaptation. Alan MacEachern will suggest that, in considering Tambora’s effects on British North America, an overemphasis on the 1816 summer has obscured food shortages suffered in 1817 and beyond. Gillen D’Arcy Wood will argue that Tambora’s greatest effect was in triggering the 1817 Bengal cholera epidemic that eventually spread worldwide.

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