Review by Alexandra Witze
Megadisasters sell, and megavolcanoes sell more than most: Turn on any documentary channel to see mountains belching ash clouds across townspeople paralyzed by fear.
Oppenheimer, a volcanologist, has served as consultant on some of these films. But he tops them all with a new book, heavy on scientific detail and light on dramatic froth, chronicling eruptions that really did change the world.
Often, the deadliest eruptions come out of the blue. Few scientists foresaw the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia or the Philippines’ climate-changing Mount Pinatubo in 1991. Oppenheimer argues that understanding such past events is key to surviving the future.
That future could hold far greater disasters than last year’s eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano that shut down Europe’s air space. Take, for example, the 1783–84 erupti