Among the pantheon of Icelandic volcanoes, the 1783-84 eruption of Laki was remarkable in many ways, but especially for how long it lasted and how widespread its effects were. Here’s a brief look at how it unfolded:
May, Iceland: Earthquakes rattle the town of Klaustur; bluish smoke appears along the ground in what some later consider to be an omen.
June 8, Iceland: Fire spurts into the sky north of Klaustur, marking the beginning of the eruption.
June 10, Norway: A mysterious “dry fog,” spewed from the Laki fissure, reaches Bergen and Trondheim.
June 12, Iceland: Lava gushes along the Skaftá River gorge.
June 18, France: The dry fog descends across the French countryside.
June 23, England: The volcanic haze appears. By late July the sky is wracked by violent thunderstorms.
July 20, Iceland: With lava bearing down on his beloved town of Klaustur, Pastor Jón Steingrímsson conducts his famous ‘fire mass’ in the village church. By the time the service concludes, the lava flow has halted just a few kilometers from town.
Summer, Europe: Insufferably hot.
Summer, Africa: Monsoons fail to materialize, and the Nile dries up.
August 18, England: A bright fireball seen coursing across the night sky adds to the perception of 1783 as an annus mirabilis.
October 24, Iceland: The final surge of lava issues from a river gorge as seen from Klaustur.
December, Iceland: Famine sets in. These ‘mist hardships’ will kill more than one-fifth of the country’s population.
Winter, Europe: Bitterly cold temperatures sweep the continent.
Winter, United States: Ice floes clog the Gulf of Mexico.
February 7, Iceland: The Laki eruption finally ends.
Summer, Iceland: The famine of the ‘mist hardships’ finally relents.
Summer, France: Years of bad harvests and famine help spark the French Revolution.