Two hundred years ago, on the evening of April 5, 1815, a volcano known as Mount Tambora on an island in Indonesia began erupting. The explosion was heard 1,600 miles away. Even 800 miles away on Java, Stamford Raffles thought it was cannon fire. It kept erupting until April 10 when it exploded. William Klingaman and his son, Nicholas Klingaman, write in "The Year Without Summer":
Propelled by the force of the eruption, gray and black particles of ash, dust, and soot rose high into the atmosphere, some as high as twenty-five miles above the crumbling peak of the mountain, where the winds began to spread them in all directions.
In addition to millions of tons of ash, the force of the eruption threw 55 million tons of sulfur-dioxide gas more than twenty miles into the air, into the stratosphere. There, the sulfur dioxide rapidly combined with readily available hydroxide gas — which, in liquid form, is commonly known as hydrogen peroxide — to form more than 100 million tons of sulfuric acid.
Three degrees. That's all it took to starve thousands, cause migrations that moved tens of thousands from New England to the Midwest and cause riots and revolution in Europe. Drought dried out the forests and fires raged across the Northeast. Three degrees. Think about that the next time someone says that climate change isn’t a big deal.
Put on pedals and you have a bike. (Photo: Public Domain)
At least one good thing came out of this climate disaster: The bicycle. A commenter on TreeHugger tells us:
Baron Karl von Drais needed a means of inspecting his tree stands that did not rely on horses. Horses and draft animals were also the victims of the "Year without Summer" as they could not be fed in the great numbers that had been used. Drais discovered that by placing wheels in a line on a frame one could balance through dynamic steering. Thus a narrow vehicle capable of maneuvering on his lands-the Laufsmaschine became the immediate precurser of the bicycle.
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