The impact of volcanic eruptions on weather and climate is considered. The data from nineteenth-century eruptions is examined, showing the importance of sulfur volatiles for climate change. Information obtained from ice cores is discussed, and the contrasts between the eruptions of Mt. St. Helens and El Chichon are pointed out. The atmospheric effects of the greatest historic eruptions are recalled. The potential for the occurrence of 'volcanic winters' and the possible role of volcanism in mass extinctions are considered.