Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26, 1883

The volcano Krakotoa, which had been erupting since May, enters its climactic phase. Over the next 24 hours, the eruptions will grow to a level 6 on the VEI scale (0 to 8). This is equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT, or about 13,000 times as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima, Japan.  IN a more modern comparison, Mount St. Helens in 1980 will reach level 5 on the VEI scale. Each level increase represents an order of magnitude increase in power, so a level 6 is 10 times as powerful as a 5. In the last 10,000 years, there are only 51 known eruptions at VEI level 6, 5 known eruptions at VEI level 7, and none at 8.

The explosions will be so violent they will nearly destroy the entire island of Krakatoa, and will be heard 3,000 miles away. The pressure wave from the explosions will go around the world 7 times and ash will be shot 50 miles into the air. Tidal effects will be noticed world wide with tsunamis traveling as far away as South Africa (Krakatoa is a bit southwest of Borneo and northwest of Australia). The official death toll in the area will rise above 36,000 people, but some will later estimate it as high as 120,000.

Volcanic winter will ensue, affecting world wide weather patterns for years, and lowering the average global temperature by over 2 degrees Fahrenheit (for comparison, the warming trend between 1850-2011 will see the earth’s temperature rise by 0.7 degrees).

Finally, the large amount of sulfur and ash in the air will produce spectacular sunsets throughout the world for years.

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