Napoleon dynamite: How an Indonesian volcano affects the Battle of Waterloo



Volcanic eruption may have led to Napoleon’s Waterloo defeat

According to new research, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated in Waterloo, may have been due to electrically charged volcanic ash ‘short-circuited’ the atmosphere of the Earth in 1815, causing poor weather conditions all over the world.

A devastating volcanic eruption on the other side of the world that have contributed to the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, say scientists. Fascinating new research, released Wednesday, makes a remarkable connection between the two events.

For years, historians have cited wet and muddy conditions on the day of the fight as a factor in the French Army of the famous defeat on 18 June 1815. Swampy conditions in the battle site, which prompted Napoleon to delay his troops to the attack until the ground is dry. The decision is considered to be a critical mistake, because it gave the Prussian troops, together with the British-led allies in the clash with the army of Napoleon.

The battle, a decisive victory for the forces led by the Duke of Wellington and the Prussian field marshal Blucher, changed the course of European history.


In a study published Wednesday in the journal Geology, the scientists from Imperial College in London, a link of the weather conditions at the eruption of the Mount Tambora volcano 7,680 km away. The volcano on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa sent electrically charged volcanic ash in the atmosphere of the Earth when it erupted in April 2015. The eruption, which killed tens of thousands of people, caused a bad weather all over the world and even caused the “year without summer” in 1816.

Dr. Matthew Genge, senior lecturer in earth and planetary science at Imperial College, suggests that the eruption is “short-circuited, the ionosphere,” which is a part of the upper atmosphere. This has led to a boost in the formation of clouds, which in turn brought heavy rain in the whole of Europe, according to the study.

The research shows that the eruptions can hurl as 62 miles in the atmosphere, much higher than was previously thought, according to the Imperial College.


“Previously, geologists think the volcanic ash is trapped in the lower atmosphere, because volcanic plumes rise buoyantly. My research shows, however, that the ash can be shot in the upper layers of the atmosphere by the electric forces,” said Dr. Genge in a statement.

Scientists conducted experiments to show that electrostatic forces could propel ash are much higher than buoyancy alone.

“Volcanic smoke and ash both have a negative electrical charge and, therefore, the plume emits the axis, propelling it high into the atmosphere. The effect works very much like the way two magnets are pushed away from each other if the poland match,” Genge added.


Since the weather records for 1815 are rare, Genge tested his theory on the basis of weather-records of the famous 1883 eruption of the Krakatau, or Krakatoa, another Indonesian volcano. A special type of cloud, noctilucent, formed after the Krakatoa explosion, possible evidence for the electrostatic levitation of ash.

“Victor Hugo’s novel ‘Les Miserables’, said of the Battle of Waterloo: ‘an unusually cloudy been to bring about the downfall of a World.” Now we are one step closer to the understanding of Tambora’s part in the Struggle of half the world,” said Genge.

One of the most important figures in European history, Napoleon remains a source of fascination. An extremely rare ‘bicorne, or two-pointed hat, which was worn by the French leader at the Battle of Waterloo was recently sold at auction in France for $325,000.

Last week, an early-19th-century locket with locks of hair of Napoleon and his wife, Empress Josephine, was sold at auction in the U. K for $3,357.

In 2015, the first full Battle of Waterloo, the skeleton was identified as a German soldier.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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