The Top 5 Deadliest Volcanic Eruptions

  Location Date Deaths
(cause)
1 Tambora, Sumbawa, Indonesia Apr 5-12th, 1815 92,000 - 100,000
(caused by starvation)
2 Unzen, Japan Apr 1st, 1793 15,000 - 53,000
(caused by landslide, tsunami)
3 Mount Pelée, Martinique May 8th, 1902 30,000 - 40,000
(caused by Pyroclastic flows)
4 Krakatoa, Sumatra/Java Aug 26-27th, 1883 36,400
(caused by tsunami)
5 Nevado del Ruiz, Columbia Nov 13th, 1985 22,900 - 25,000
(caused by landslides)
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 Facts
  1. The Tambora volcano (8.25 S, 118.00 E) on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia, erupted on April 10th, 1815, sending a massive cloud of aerosols into the stratosphere. This was the largest eruption of the past 500 years. Tambora's explosion was 10 times bigger than Krakatoa and more than 100 times bigger than Vesuvius or Mount St. Helens. According to Haraldur Sigurdsson, a University of Rhode Island volcanologist, the eruption went up about 43 kilometres into the atmosphere. Which is about 30 miles - much higher than any airplane flying today - and emitted a volume that is about 100 cubic kilometres of molten rock in the form of ash and pumice. That volume is by far the largest volume of any volcanic eruption during life on earth.(b.) Aside from being the deadliest known volcanic eruption, it had a drastic effect on global weather patterns. After the eruption North America, Europe, Argentina, India, and China experienced record weather anomalies. (a.) This possibly lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths indirectly across the globe and especially in Europe as the weather changed drastically. That summer became known as "the year without summer." The Tambora Volcano is seen by experts as "the volcano that has caused most destruction on earth, the greatest death toll of any eruption on the earth and the greatest climate impact on the earth." Tambora is relatively unknown as when Tambora erupted there was no media coverage as exists today. In 1815 there was no communication system except writing a letter that would arrive in London or New York six weeks later at the best. (b.)
  2. The Unzen volcanic complex comprises much of the Shimabara Peninsula east of Nagasaki. A 30-40-kilometer-long, East-West-trending graben extends across the peninsula. Mount Unzen erupted in June 1991 killing French volcanologist Maurice and Katia Krafft, a husband-and-wife team who had pioneered the filming and photography of active volcanoes. Unzen is one of more than 75 active volcanoes in Japan. In 1792, about a month after lava stopped erupting from the volcano, a landslide from nearby Mount Mayuyama swept through ancient Shimabara City, entered the sea, and generated a tsunami that struck nearby areas. More than 15,000 people were killed by the landslide and tsunami. The amphitheater-shaped scar of the landslide is still clearly visible on Mount Mayuyama just above the city. (c.)
  3. Mount Pelée began erupting in April of 1902 after lying dormant for many centuries. The 30,000 residents of St. Pierre on the island of Martinique in the West Indies were told that the eruption was of no danger to them so instead of evacuating the city, they stayed in their homes which were mostly situated about 6 kilometres downhill from the volcano. On May 8th 1902, the volcano exploded and 30,000 inhabitants were killed by an incandescent, high-velocity ash flow and associated hot gases and volcanic dust. Only two men survived; one because he was in a poorly ventilated, dungeon-like jail cell and the other who somehow made his way safely through the burning city. (c).
  4. The 1883 eruption of Krakatau Volcano, located in the Sunda Straits between the islands of Sumatra and Java, Indonesia, provides a devastating example of an eruption-caused tsunami. A series of tsunamis washed away 165 coastal villages on Java and Sumatra, killing 36,000 people. The larger tsunamis were recorded by tide gauges as far away as the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula-more than 7,000 kilometres from Krakatau.
  5. More than 23,000 people were killed in Armero, Columbia when lahars (volcanic debris flows) swept down from the erupting Nevado del Ruiz volcano. n November 13, 1985, obscured the glacier-clad summit of Nevado del Ruiz. On that night an explosive eruption tore through the summit and spewed approximately 20 million cubic meters of hot ash and rocks across the snow-covered glacier. These materials were transported across the snow pack by avalanches of hot volcanic debris (pyroclastic flows) and fast-moving, hot, turbulent clouds of gas and ash ( pyroclastic surges). The hot pyroclastic flows and surges caused rapid melting of the snow and ice, and created large volumes of water that swept down canyons leading away from the summit. As these floods of water descended the volcano, they picked up loose debris and soil from the canyon floors and walls, growing both in volume and density, to form hot lahars. In the river valleys farther down the volcano's flanks, the lahars were as much as 40 meters thick and travelled at velocities as fast as 50 kilometres per hour. Two and a half hours after the start of the eruption one of the lahars reached Armero, 74 kilometres from the explosion crater. In a few short minutes most of the town was swept away or buried in a torrent of mud and boulders, and more than 22,000 of the 29,000 inhabitants perished. (c.)
Top 5 facts sources:
  1. Robock, A. (2002). "Volcanic Eruption, Tambora". Retrieved Feb 2nd, 2011.
  2. Sullivan, M. (2007). "Mount Tambora Eruption Hardly Known". Retrieved Feb 2nd, 2011.
  3. U.S. Geological Survey. (2001). "Unzen Volcano, Japan". Retrieved Feb 2nd, 2011.
Tags: Natural Disasters

Sources:  Top 5 of Anything Research, U.S. Geological Survey.

List Notes: All deaths are estimated as exact statistics are difficult to find. High estimate death tolls shown here often include the secondary after-effects of disastrous events such as disease & famine. Prehistoric volcanic eruptions are thought by experts to have caused many more deaths on this planet, however reliable data is missing on these events and thus they are not included here.
Deadliest  Volcanic Eruptions

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