Year Without a Summer

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The Year Without a Summer (also known as the Poverty Year, Year There Was No Summer and Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death[1]) was 1816, in which severe summer climate abnormalities destroyed crops in Northern Europe, the Northeastern United States and eastern Canada.[2][3] Average global temperatures decreased about 0.4–0.7 °C (0.7–1.3 °F),[4] enough to cause significant agricultural problems around the globe.

Historian John D. Post has called this "the last great subsistence crisis in the Western world".[5]

It may be that the climate anomaly was caused by a combination of a historic low in solar activity with a volcanic winter event; the latter caused by a succession of major volcanic eruptions capped off by the Mount Tambora eruption of 1815, the largest known eruption in over 1,600 years.

Contents

Description

The unusual climatic aberrations of 1816 had the greatest effect on the Northeastern United States, the Canadian Maritimes, Newfoundland, and Northern Europe. Typically, the late spring and summer of the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada are relatively stable: temperatures (average of both day and night) average about 20–25 °C (68–77 °F), and rarely fall below 5 °C (41 °F). Summer snow is an extreme rarity.

In the spring and summer of 1816, a persistent "dry fog" was observed in the northeastern United States. The fog reddened and dimmed the sunlight, such that sunspots were visible to the naked eye. Neither wind nor rainfall dispersed the "fog". It has been characterized as a stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil.[6]

In May 1816,[1] frost killed off most of the crops that had been planted, and on 4 June 1816, frosts were reported in Connecticut, and by the following day, most of New England was gripped by the cold front. On 6 June 1816, snow fell in Albany, New York, and Dennysville, Maine.[7] Nearly a foot (30 cm) of snow was observed in Quebec City in early June, with consequent additional loss of crops—most summer-growing plants have cell walls which rupture even in a mild frost. The result was regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.

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