The volcano that founded Mormonism and inspired Frankenstein
In 1815, Europe and North America experienced the Year Without a Summer (also lovingly nicknamed Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death), in which the average global temperature dropped by one degree and snow and frost destroyed many crops. This resulted in food shortages, inflation, and brutal winters. 200,000 people in Europe alone may have died as a result. The cause of the global climate disruption was the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, the largest eruption of the the past 1300 years.
How could one volcano possibly affect the weather all across the globe? Well, when I say it was a big eruption, I mean it was a big. eruption. Mount Tambora spewed out 80 cubic kilometers of rock and ash, or 80X as much as Mount St. Helens. 80 cubic kilometers could fill the Sydney Harbor in Australia 200 times, and it’s equal to 70% of the entire world’s output of oil since 1850.
The volcanic eruption and subsequent climate shift had some pretty wild impacts. First, in Hungary and Italy, snow turned brown and red due to volcanic ash. The ash also produced some amazing sunsets, and was possibly the origin of the yellow tinge we now associate with sunsets. The terrible weather forced a group of friends vacationing in Switzerland to stay inside for much of the time, causing them to challenge each other to write the scariest story. The winner? Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley; another story from that summer became the basis for Dracula. Finally, the terrible farming may have jumpstarted the westward settlement of the United States into the then-Northwest Territory. One of the families that left New Hampshire for New York was that of Joseph Smith, who went on to publish the Book of Mormon (which was ostensibly buried in New York) and found the Church of Latter Day Saints.
- Mount Tambora’s Lessons for Today - Smithsonian Mag
- Year Without a Summer - Wikipedia
- 1815 Eruption of Mount Tambora - Wikipedia