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Home » NASA » Tambora: The Largest Volcanic Eruption

Tambora Volcano: The Largest Eruption in Recorded History


A July, 2009 satellite image released by NASA's Earth Observatory.

Tambora Volcano
Astronaut photograph of Tambora Volcano's summit caldera acquired on June 3, 2009. Image credit NASA / Earth Observatory

Tambora Volcano location map
Tambora Volcano is located in the Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia. When it erupted in 1815 the blast was powerful enough to be heard over 3000 miles away in India. More surprising: the sound was heard in India four hours after the eruption occurred.

Largest Eruption in Recorded History



On April 10, 1815, Tambora Volcano produced the largest eruption in recorded history. An estimated 150 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of tephra (exploded rock and ash) resulted, with ash from the eruption recognized at least 1,300 kilometers (808 miles) away to the northwest. While the April 10 eruption was catastrophic, historical records and geological analysis of eruption deposits indicate that the volcano had been active between 1812 and 1815. Enough ash was put into the atmosphere from the April 10 eruption to reduce incident sunlight on the Earth's surface, causing global cooling, which resulted in the 1816 "year without a summer."


Tambora Volcano in Satellite View



This detailed astronaut photograph depicts the summit caldera of the volcano. The huge caldera is 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) in diameter and 1,100 meters (3,609 feet) deep. It formed when Tambora's estimated 4,000-meter- (13,123-foot) high peak was removed, and the magma chamber below emptied during the April 10 eruption. Today the crater floor is occupied by an ephemeral freshwater lake, recent sedimentary deposits, and minor lava flows and domes from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Layered tephra deposits are visible along the northwestern crater rim. Active fumaroles, or steam vents, still exist in the caldera.


Archaeology: Pompeii of the East



In 2004, scientists discovered the remains of a village, and two adults buried under approximately 3 meters (nearly 10 feet) of ash in a gully on Tambora's flank-remnants of the former Kingdom of Tambora preserved by the 1815 eruption that destroyed it. The similarity of the Tambora remains to those associated with the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius has led to the Tambora site's description as "the Pompeii of the East."


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