An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia and the past catastrophes

Toba-ash.gifYet another earthquake of magnitude 7.7 on richter scale has hit Indonesia. It was again accompanied with a Tsunami. Over 300 people are dead and over 400 are missing.

In September 2010, two earthquakes of 7.2 and 6.6 had hit Eastern Indonesia. It hit near Papua province.

In June 2010, 4 earthquakes hit Eastern Indonesia. They were of 7.0, 6.4, 6.2 and 5.1 magnitude!

On April 6th 2010, another earthquake hit Northern Indonesia. That was 7.8 magnitude!

We all obviously remember the Earthquake and Tsunami of 2004, which hit as far off as Africa. Over 230,000 people died when two quakes of 9.3 and 9.1 magnitude hit the Ocean floor. The entire planet vibrated as much as 1 cm on its axis and many earthquakes were triggered as far off as in Alaska.

It would be interesting to go back to an ancient event which global catastrophic proportions – the Toba event – which affected the entire planet and mankind in an unprecedented manner. That was not an earthquake but a Volcanic eruption. But an eruption so powerful that it enveloped the entire earth in a volcanic winter for 6-9 years. The entire human population was reduced to just 10,000!

The stories of catastrophic floods that occur in many religious mythologies may have been born due to this event, many people say.

The direct impact of that eruption was also spectacular. The ash covered South Asia completely!(See the attached picture for the areas which were covered with the Toba-ash.

Although the eruption took place in Indonesia, it deposited an ash layer approximately 15 centimeters thick over the entirety of South Asia. A blanket of volcanic ash was also deposited over the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian and South China Sea.[9] Studies, based on deep-sea cores retrieved from the South China Sea, recently extended the known distribution of the eruption, and suggest that the ~2,800 km3 calculation of the eruption magnitude is a minimum value or even an under-estimate.

Can a Toba event happen again? It could. This Toba event happened around 70-80,000 years back. That was the latest of the three major eruptions in that volcano.

In fact as lately as 1815, the volcano at Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted and 1816 was known as the Year without a Summer! Crops were destroyed in in Northern Europe, the Northeastern United States and eastern Canada. Look at the impact of that eruption on the world at the bottom.

It is fairly obvious that since time immemorial and well into the 21st century, earth events of Indonesia have been impacting the entire world in disastrous ways. Whether its the volcanic eruptions or the earthquakes, it is the unrest in the earth below that causes the impact on the ground – specially the ferocity of the attack that can affect not just the immediate area but the entire planet! The vibration of the earth by 1 cm in 2004, was not a normal event. Nor was the Toba event.

Given the global proportions of the impact of Indonesian Earth Events, every person in the world must be interested and engaged.

With so many recent earthquakes and now, also a new Tsunami, in that particular region, the entire Asia in particular and the entire mankind generally, should be worried. Although the quakes of 2010 – though so many and so strong in number – are not the kind of intensity that earth under Indonesia generates. It could do worse. If Tsunami in 2004 was catastrophic, be sure that it could get even worse.

One wonders if the mankind is even ready?

Impact of volcano at Mount Tambora

In May 1816,[1] frost killed off most of the crops that had been planted, and on 4 June 1816, frosts were reported in Connecticut, and by the following day, most of New England was gripped by the cold front. On 6 June 1816, snow fell in Albany, New York, and Dennysville, Maine.[7] Nearly a foot (30 cm) of snow was observed in Quebec City in early June, with consequent additional loss of crops—most summer-growing plants have cell walls which rupture even in a mild frost. The result was regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.

In July and August, lake and river ice were observed as far south as Pennsylvania. Rapid, dramatic temperature swings were common, with temperatures sometimes reverting from normal or above-normal summer temperatures as high as 35 °C (95 °F) to near-freezing within hours. Even though farmers south of New England did succeed in bringing some crops to maturity, maize and other grain prices rose dramatically. The staple food oats,[8] for example, rose from 12¢ a bushel ($3.40/m³) the previous year to 92¢ a bushel ($26/m³)—nearly eight times as much. Those areas suffering local crop failures had to deal with the lack of roads in the early 19th century, preventing any easy importation of bulky food stuffs.[9]

Cool temperatures and heavy rains resulted in failed harvests in the British Isles as well. Families in Wales traveled long distances as refugees, begging for food. Famine was prevalent in north and southwest Ireland, following the failure of wheat, oat and potato harvests. The crisis was severe in Germany, where food prices rose sharply. Due to the unknown cause of the problems, demonstrations in front of grain markets and bakeries, followed by riots, arson and looting, took place in many European cities. It was the worst famine of the 19th century,[7][10]

In China, the cold weather killed trees, rice crops and even water buffalo, especially in northern China. Floods destroyed many remaining crops. Mount Tambora’s eruption disrupted China’s monsoon season, resulting in overwhelming floods in the Yangtze Valley in 1816. In India the delayed summer monsoon caused late torrential rains that aggravated the spread of cholera from a region near the River Ganges in Bengal to as far as Moscow.[11]

In the ensuing bitter winter of 1817, when the thermometer dropped to -32 °C (-26°F), the waters of New York’s Upper Bay froze deeply enough for horse-drawn sleighs to be driven across Buttermilk Channel from Brooklyn to Governors Island.[12]

The effects were widespread and lasted beyond the winter. In eastern Switzerland, the summers of 1816 and 1817 were so cool that an ice dam formed below a tongue of the Giétro Glacier high in the Val de Bagnes; in spite of the efforts of the engineer Ignaz Venetz to drain the growing lake, the ice dam collapsed catastrophically in June 1818.[13]

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