Two hundred years ago on April 10, the Indonesian volcano Tambora erupted, obliterating an entire tribe of people, cooling the Earth by several degrees, and causing famines and disease outbreaks around the world.
It remains the largest eruption on historical record: larger than the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, and roughly 20 times bigger than Mount Vesuvius, which wiped the Italian town of Pompeii off the map. If such a cataclysmic event happened now, the results would be even messier, experts say.
«The consensus is that it would be absolutely devastating,» says Gillen D’Arcy Wood, an environmental historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Our transportation, food, and humanitarian infrastructure are much better now than they were in the early 1800s, he says. «But we are also a planet of seven billion with a highly complicated global food and trade network.»