Sunday 11 November 2012

The disaster that nearly wiped out humanity

A Spanish-language blog has picked up the story of the earliest disaster featured in my book A Disastrous History of the World (Historia Mundial de los desastres).  A disaster that may have come close to wiping out the human race.

It was a huge volcanic eruption more than 70,000 years ago at what is now Lake Toba (pictured above) on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.   It is thought to have been one of the most powerful ever, at about 28 times the strength of the Tambora eruption of 1815, the biggest of modern times.

The eruption itself must have been deadly enough, but much worse was the volcanic winter that followed.   The ancient volcano spewed out an estimated 670 cubic miles of debris that dimmed the sun’s rays for six years.

As catastrophic global cooling resulted, the world’s estimated human population at that time of a million was reduced to perhaps just 10,000.   The eruption gouged out a vast crater which filled with water to produce picturesque Lake Toba, now a noted tourist destination.

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