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Laki is Iceland’s largest and potentially most dangerous volcano. Its eruption in 1783 is one of history’s great untold natural disasters. Spewing out sun-blocking ash and then a poisonous fog for eight months, the effects of the eruption lingered across the world for years, causing the death of people as far away as the Nile and creating catastrophic conditions throughout Europe, including extreme weather and crop failures that may have triggered the French Revolution. Island on Fire is the story not only of a volcano but also of the people whose lives it changed, such as the pastor Jon Steingrimsson, who witnessed and recorded the events. It is the story, too, of the dawn of modern volcanology and the history and potential of supervolcanoes around the world. And perhaps most pertinently, in the wake of the eruption of another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, which closed European air space in 2010, acclaimed science writers Witze and Kanipe looks at how events might transpire should Laki erupt again in our own time.
Alexandra Witze is an award-winning science journalist and correspondent for the journal Nature. Her reporting has taken her from the North Pole (to report on climate change) to the jungles of Guatemala (to cover Maya archaeology) to China's quake-ravaged Sichuan province. Island on Fire is her first book and she lives in Boulder, CO.