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Numbers game

By The Cruncher   July 2006

Vulcanology

The Indonesian volcano Mount Merapi continues to rumble away. But perhaps the most famous volcanic eruption ever is that of Merapi’s neighbour, Krakatoa, in 1883. The sound was heard over 3,000 miles away, and giant waves at least 40 metres high killed over 35,000 people. Yet the explosion of Tambora in 1815, also in Indonesia, was much more powerful. It was the most violent volcanic eruption of historical times. Vulcanologists have developed a scale to compare the eruptions. The volcanic explosivity index (VEI) is similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes. Each point on the VEI represents an…

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