The huge caldera of Mount Tambora, Indonesia – still active today. Jialiang Gao, CC BY-SA

Sign of another imminent super eruption?


With an estimated ejecta volume of 160 km3 (38 cu mi), Tambora’s 1815 outburst was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history.

And a powerful earthquake – 5.8 in magnitude – hit within miles of the volcanic peak on July 31, 2016. Is another mega-eruption imminent?

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On July 31, 2016, a strong (M5.8) and shallow (10km) earthquake hit really close to Mount Tambura, Indonesia, a volcano responsible for the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history in 1815.

Scary? Yes! Based on evidence from the geologic record, the chances of another eruption the size of Tambora occurring somewhere on Earth might be around 10% in the next 50 years and more likely than not, it will be from a volcano in Indonesia. We might think that Tambora is an isolated incident from the past, but volcanoes think otherwise. Another Tambora will happen, and there is a decent chance that it could be in our lifetime. Whether or not we’re prepared for it is another story, but we can be sure that we haven’t seen the last of eruptions of this magnitude.

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The 1815 eruption at Indonesia’s Tambora was a blast that altered global climate for years afterwards and has been fingered as the trigger of revolutions and migrations. Over 70,000 people perished directly from the event and hundreds of thousands more may have died due to disease and famine that could be linked to the effect Tambora had around the world.

No eruption in any of our lifetimes have come close to the size and impact of Tambora and once volcanic eruptions get this big, it can sometimes be difficult to really grasp just how large of a geologic cataclysm it was.

How much stuff came out?

The eruption of Tambora produced 175 cubic kilometers of volcanic debris (mostly ash and other tephra). 175 cubic kilometers is ~ 38 cu mi. How much is that? You could bury the state of Rhode Island in 183 (55 meters) feet of ash or Singapore in 805 feet (245 meters) of ash.