From the planet’s perspective, one of the most significant events of the past 2,000 years occurred on April 5, 1815, when the Indonesian volcano Mount Tambora began to erupt. “The noise was, in the first instance, almost universally attributed to a distant cannon,” wrote a British statesman stationed hundreds of miles away on Java. Soon “the sun became obscured” with ash, and by the next week, fog-like smoke reduced visibility to 900 feet, while earthquakes shook the island.
Tambora was the largest volcanic eruption since the end of the last Ice Age, one of a series of eruptions that pumped huge amounts of sunlight-reflecting gas into the atmosphere. This gas darkened and chilled summers in Europe. It weakened the monsoons in India and West Africa. It allowed glaciers to advance in the Alps.
In other words, these eruptions brought about a kind of natural climate change. But it was felt differently in different places. And new research confirms that it pales in comparison to the climate change we now face.
Absolutely nothing resembling modern-day global warming has happened on Earth for at least the past 2,000 years, a new study published today in Nature confirms. Since the birth of Jesus Christ, the climate has sometimes naturally changed—some parts of the world have briefly cooled, and some have briefly warmed—but it has never changed as it’s changing now. Never once until the Industrial Revolution did temperatures surge in the same direction everywhere at the same time. They’re doing so now, the study finds.