Volcanoes have been erupting since the Earth was born. Volcanoes can sit dormant for thousands of years but they have the ability to let loose with unimaginable fury causing
10. Huaynaputina Eruption
Huaynaputina is situated in the southern part of Peru. This small volcano sat dormant until February 19, 1600, when it erupted with a vengeance becoming the largest eruption in South American history. Within 24 hours, several cities within a 500 kilometers radius had been covered in up to 25 centimeters of ash. This disaster had a chilling effect on the global climate making this one of The 10 Biggest Volcanic Eruptions in History. While the death toll remains unknown, this eruption is believed to have been a major cause of the Russian famine that killed as many as 2 million people.
9. Mount Pelée Eruption
Mount Pelée gave fair warning before finally unleashing a devastating force on the island of Martinique. After two weeks of venting and smaller eruptions, Mount Pelée finally blew on May 8th, 1902 causing the nearby town of Saint-Pierre to be completely destroyed. The majority of Saint-Pierre’s population of 28,000 perished due to the pyroclastic surge that covered the town within a minute of the blast. On May 20, 1902, a second eruption of equal force destroyed what was left of Saint-Pierre and also took the lives of 2,000 relief workers and rescuers.
8. Mount Vesuvius Eruption
In 79 AD, one of the most well-known eruptions in history wiped out the Roman city of Pompeii. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius blasted rocks, gas and ashes over 20 miles into the air. The pyroclastic surge quickly covered Pompeii and the nearby town of Herculaneum claiming the lives of an estimated 16,000 people. While it has not erupted since 1944 it is still a grave threat today as it is situated in close proximity to a population of around 3,000,000 people.
7. Santa Maria Eruption
For two days in October 1902 The Santa Maria volcano, which is situated on the western edge of Guatemala, awoke from a 500-year slumber. This blast is thought to be one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century. It spewed an estimated 5.5 cubic kilometers of debris. Volcanic ash was detected as far as 4,000 kilometers away. The death toll reached an estimated 5,000 people and vital local industry was greatly affected. Due to the local bird population being decimated, a mass influx of disease-carrying mosquitoes infested the region causing an outbreak of malaria which killed many more people.
6. El Chichón Eruption
El Chichón is located in southern Mexico. Between March 29th and April 4th, 1982, El Chichón erupted causing widespread devastation. Everything within the surrounding 8-kilometer radius was destroyed by pyroclastic surge including 9 villages. Around 2,000 people lost their lives. The eruption also caused farmers and ranchers in the surrounding 24,000 square kilometers to lose their crops and cattle. The global climate cooled due to the 7 million tons of sulfur dioxide that El Chichón spewed into the atmosphere.
The volcanic Indonesian island of Krakatoa has been busy since the beginning of recorded history but is remembered mostly for a cataclysmic eruption in 1883. The eruption caused the volcanic island to virtually self-destruct. Ash was sent 80 kilometers into the air causing darkened skies around the world for up to 5 years following the event. The eruption and pyroclastic surge caused deadly tsunamis that rose to over 40 meters in height. It is estimated that human casualties reached 34,000 although some claim that the number is much higher. The eruption was also responsible for a global cooling that lasted nearly 5 years making this one of The 10 Biggest Volcanic Eruptions in History.
4. Laki Eruption
Laki is a mountain in Iceland that is flanked by fissure vents. It was these fissure vents that exploded in 1783. The high volume of lava was one thing but the most serious effects came from the deadly sulfuric aerosols that poured into the atmosphere for the following 8 months. The poisonous sulfuric clouds circulated around the Earth and had extreme effects on global climate. It was either directly or indirectly responsible for millions of deaths around the world in the following years through disease and famine.
3. Mount Thera Eruption
Circa 1500 BC, about 200 kilometers southeast of Greece, Mount Thera erupted. This beast of an eruption is thought to have been the downfall of the Minoan civilization. It completely buried the nearby settlement of Akrotiri and is said to have destroyed the island of Crete by either causing a vicious tsunami or a subsequent earthquake. It is thought that the eruption forced over 100 cubic kilometers of volcanic debris to be blasted into the atmosphere. Mount Thera easily ranks as one of The 10 Biggest Volcanic Eruptions in History.
2. Mount Pinatubo Eruption
On June 15th, 1991 the Mount Pinatubo, located on the island of Luzon, Philippines erupted. The force of the blast shot volcanic ash 35 kilometers into the air. Thanks to early detection and mass evacuations countless lives were spared. While the death toll was relatively small, it could have been much worse considering there are about 6 million people in the area. The eruption ejected over 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere which triggered a period of global cooling and accelerated ozone depletion.
1. Mount Tambora Eruption
Mount Tambora tops the list of The 10 Biggest Volcanic Eruptions in History. In April 1815 the volcano, which sits on the coast of Sumbawa Island, Indonesia erupted over a period of several days. It released up to 150 cubic kilometers of rock, pumice, ash and gas into the atmosphere. The eruption caused temperatures around the world to cool by an estimated 3 degrees Celsius. This greatly affected North America and Europe by causing frost in the summer months resulting in failed crops and scores of dead cattle. This was known as “the summer that never was”. The immediate loss of human life ranges anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000 but scores more perished from famine and disease brought on by the massive eruption. Also making it one of the most deadly events in history.