Deadliest Volcanic Eruptions in History

By Penny Chavers
Pompeii, 79 A.D.

Volcanoes are one of the most awe-inspiring forces of nature, exhibiting a power unmatched by anything mankind has created. They have a violent history of not only destroying cities but also of affecting global climate and forever altering the geography of the Earth.

Possibly the most well-known volcanic eruption in history is Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed Pompeii in 79 AD. Much of what is known about the eruption comes from the testimony of a Roman poet by the name of Pliny the Younger, who observed it along with his uncle, Pliny the Elder. The volcanic cloud, which exploded with 100,000 times the energy of the bombs that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was described by the two men as resembling a tree. The pyroclastic flow rushed down the side of the mountain, engulfing everything in its path. The total death toll was estimated at 13,000 and Pompeii, as well as two neighboring cities of Stabiae and Herculaneum, were buried. Pompeii was uncovered in 1748 by archaeologists, who discovered everything, including the human remains, frozen in place exactly as it had been at the time of the eruption, due to a plaster created by the mixture of rain and ash. The 79 A.D. eruption of Vesuvius was responsible for the naming of the specific type of eruption called Vesuvian eruptions (also known as Plinian eruptions).