How a Volcanic Eruption in Iceland caused terrible Famine in India leaving 11 million dead

Center of Laki Fissure in Iceland

The Chalisa famine of 1783-84 was one of the worst famine in India and the world.  It got its name Chalisa from the Vikram Samvat year 1840.  Over 11 million people died.

The genesis of this famine lay in a volcanic eruption very far away in Iceland.  Laki is a volcanic eruption in Iceland.  It is near the  Eldgjá Canyon and village Kirkjubæjarklaustur.  The Laki (or Lakagigar) fissures are part of a volcanic system including the volcanoes –  Grímsvötn and Þórðarhyrna.

The eruption in 1783 was devastating in many ways.

On 8 June 1783, a fissure with 130 craters opened with phreatomagmatic explosions because of the groundwater interacting with the rising basaltmagma. Over a few days the eruptions became less explosive, Strombolian, and laterHawaiian in character, with high rates of lava effusion. This event is rated as 6 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index, but the eight-month emission of sulfuric aerosols resulted in one of the most important climatic and socially repercussive events of the last millennium.

The summer that year changed to winter and winter in the Northern hemisphere was exceptionally harsh.  The harsh winter continues in Northern Hemisphere for next year as well.  All this occurred due to the Sulphur Di-Oxide that was given out in the atmosphere.

The atmosphere also impact the weather in other areas.  India’s monsoon was severely impacted contributing to the drought of  1783-84, which led to Chalisa Famine.

The modeling showed significant warming that occurred in the region west to east across Africa to the southern Arabian Peninsula and on to India during the summer of 1783. With little or no monsoon, there were no clouds to bring rain for the rivers or shield the surface from evaporation. Little or no rain, no irrigating floods, no crops and no food — all conspired to bring about the situation Volney described, and all were traceable back to Laki.

It has been said time and again that the entire ecosystem is linked.  In case of the impact of Laki Eruption to India leading to the Chalisa Famine, the underground occurrences – which caused volcanic eruption led to weather changes that devastated many large areas and killed many.

Of course, in India we saw a directly link of forces of natures to tragedies very clearly in the 2004 Tsunami, where a weak plate in the Indian Ocean near Indonesia caused a set of waves that devastates regions as far away as Africa!

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