Level: Intermediate and above

Time for completion: 15 + min



In 1816, Europe and North America were plagued by heavy rains, odd-colored snow, famines, strange fogs, and very cold weather well into June. Though many people believed it to be the apocalypse, this “year without a summer” was actually the result of a supervolcano eruption that happened one year earlier over 1,000 miles away. Alex Gendler describes the history and science of these epic eruptions.



Study some important vocabulary first


Devastating (adj): causing a lot of damage or destruction

Crop (n): (the total amount collected of) a plant such as a grain, fruit, or vegetable grown in large amounts

Famine (n) : a situation in which there is not enough food for a great number of people, causing illness and death, or a particular period when this happens

Mood (n) : the way you feel at a particular time

Ash (n) : the soft grey or black powder that is left after a substance, especially tobacco, coal, or wood, has burned

Disrupt (v): o prevent something, especially a system, process, or event, from continuing as usual or as expected


Listening Questions

The following questions are based upon the style of question asked in the IELTS listening exam. Although this topic would never appear in the IELTS listening exam, these questions will help you build the necessary IELTS listening skills to succeed.

For questions 1 – 6 choose the appropriate answer A, B, C or D. (You can find the answers at the bottom of the page.)


  1. Where did the strange snow fall?

A England and the USA

B Hungary and Italy

C Italy and England

D All over Europe


  1. What was the strange phenomenon known as?

A The year without summer

B The year of the Famine

C The year the Apocalypse began

D The year of darkness


  1. Which aspect of a supervolcanic eruption makes it the most deadly?

A Earthquakes after the eruption

B Magma destroying everything on its way

C Particles and gases released into the air

D The wind it causes


  1. Which of these create a ‘volcanic winter’?

A the cooling temperatures

B Ash and particles blocking out sunlight

C Sulfur dioxide reacting in the stratosphere

D All of the above


  1. Where is a volcanic Caldera nowadays?

A Yellowstone National Park

B Mount Vesubio

C Russia

D The Minx Dynasty


  1. Which would be the most devastating effect of another supervolcano?

A we won’t be able to build cannals

B Acid rain

C vegetation would die

D we would have nowhere to run



1 B    2A  3C     4D  5A    6D