When did a volcano in Alaska cause drought in China?

Ruth Griffiths

When you think about volcanic eruptions you probably think of Mount St. Helens or the recent Hawaiian eruptions. But the largest volcanic event in North America began on this day in 1912 in Alaska.

The Novarupta (Katmai) Volcano eruption June 6-8, 1912 was the world’s largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century and one of the five largest in recorded history. No volcanic eruption since Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 has surpassed it. In total 13 cubic km of magma exploded out of the earth at Novarupta.

The May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens (Washington) was the most destructive in the history of the United States. Novarupta erupted considerably more material in 1912, but owing to the isolation and sparse population of the region, there were no human deaths and little property damage. Novarupta is within what is now the Katmai National Park on a chain of islands southeast of Anchorage. Novarupta (meaning “new break” in Latin) sent 28 cubic km of ash into the air. The ash fell to earth 30 cm deep over 7,800 square km forming the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

Although no people died from the actual eruption, a huge dust plume travelled the globe causing a drought in China and decimating the local Alaskan wildlife.

The Mount Meager massif in British Columbia produced the largest volcanic eruption in Canada in the last 10,000 years. About 2,400 years ago, an explosive eruption formed a volcanic crater on its northeastern flank and sent avalanches of hot ash, rock fragments and volcanic gases down the northern flank of the volcano.

Tseax volcano (Wil Ksi Baxhl Mihl) in north-western British Columbia is Canada’s deadliest volcanic eruption. About 3,000 years ago it killed up to 2,000 people of the Nisga’a First Nation.

The most recently active volcano in this chain is Mount St. Helens in Washington. Volcanoes in Canada which are part of this chain include Mount Garibaldi near Squamish, B.C.

 fMany Canadians are unaware that western Canada lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a geologically active area that circles the north Pacific.