In 1783, another Icelandic volcano, Laki, erupted and kept spitting out ash and 120 tons of sulfur dioxide (equal to 3 times the annual industrial output of Europe) and 8 million tons of hydrogen fluoride. 25% of the population of Iceland died, either from famine or from the flouride. In North America in 1784 they were skating in Charleston and the Mississippi River froze. In New Orleans.
But in Europe, it brought droughts, poverty, lost crops and disruption that led to massive starvation and is believed to be, according to the Guardian, a major factor in the buildup to the French Revolution.
In 1815 Mount Tambora, in what is now Indonesia, erupted in what is considered the largest in 1600 years. 1816 became known as the Year Without Summer (see the Discovery Channel here). Two hundred million tons of sulphur dioxide were released and a 100 cubic kilometers of rock shot into the sky.
Crops failed across North America and Europe; starving Germans baked a mixture of straw and sawdust and called it bread. 24 people died in Winnipeg in the Battle of Seven Oaks over the distribution of pemmican. The Farmers' Almanac writes:
Throughout not only North America, but also Northern Europe and parts of Asia, an exceptionally cold summer, featuring killing frosts in July and August, crippled food production. Crop failures and food shortages were so widespread that rioting and looting became common in the United Kingdom and France.
On this side of the Atlantic, many residents of New England and the Canadian Maritimes froze to death, starved, or suffered from severe malnutrition as storms-bringing a foot or more of snow- hit hard during May and June. Many others from the region pulled up their stakes and moved to Western New York and the Midwest, where the cold was less severe. In fact, the year without a summer is now believed to have been one major catalyst in the westward expansion of the United States.
But JMW Turner got to paint some beautiful sunsets
The year without summer also inspired writers: Did Climate Change Inspire Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?