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Farmers Almanac
The 2016 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

The Year Without a Summer

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The Year Without a Summer

The infamous “Year Without a Summer” was a weather event so devastating, people are still talking about it nearly 200 years later.

Referred to by many names, including “the poverty year” and “eighteen hundred and froze-to-death,” the year 1816 was literally a year without a summer across much of the Northern Hemisphere. Throughout not only North America, but also Northern Europe and parts of Asia, an exceptionally cold summer, featuring killing frosts in July and August, crippled food production. Crop failures and food shortages were so widespread that rioting and looting became common in the United Kingdom and France.

On this side of the Atlantic, many residents of New England and the Canadian Maritimes froze to death, starved, or suffered from severe malnutrition as storms–bringing a foot or more of snow– hit hard during May and June. Many others from the region pulled up their stakes and moved to Western New York and the Midwest, where the cold was less severe. In fact, the year without a summer is now believed to have been one major catalyst in the westward expansion of the United States.

Though the northeastern section of the continent was hardest hit, southern states still experienced their share of the cold. On July 4th of that year, for instance, the high temperature in Savannah, Georgia, was a chilly 46° F. As far south as Pennsylvania, lakes and rivers were frozen over during July and August.

So, what caused this tragically cold summer? The likely suspect was a series of volcanic eruptions that occurred during the winter of 1815, in particular, the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia, believed to be the largest eruption of the last 1,800 years. The volcano ejected a tremendous cloud of fine ash and dust was ejected into the stratosphere, where it remained for a very long time. This ash insulated the earth from the heat and light of the sun, resulting in a cooling effect throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

This ash also gave the sky a yellowish tinge in some areas, which can be seen in many landscape paintings from the era. Fortunately a summer like this had yet to repeat itself and the Almanac’s outlook for this summer is much more enjoyable.

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36 comments

1 Kermit Tedesko { 09.29.16 at 9:34 pm }

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2 Daniel jones { 09.20.16 at 5:27 pm }

I wonder. …are these matters, a possible cool summer, a possible volcano erupting, are these discussed with congress and what steps do they have mapped out for us???

3 Bob Sexton. { 07.11.16 at 5:03 pm }

I read the nonfiction book Dark Winter by John L . Casey. I recommend this. I liked the section about the year without summer.. I thought it was interesting.

4 DeAnna { 06.22.16 at 7:37 pm }

They are all signs of the end times today Jesus is coming back, in the bible it speaks about the weather changes.

5 JimmyJO { 06.17.16 at 11:55 am }

What would be your recommendations on what to plant in the event we get another “year without a summer”?

6 Matt { 06.17.16 at 12:38 pm }

We had a spring, it was between January and april. Lol

7 Laura { 06.17.16 at 12:21 am }

I was hiking the Appalachian Trail and I think that I’ll adopt your “year without spring”!

8 Walter Clark { 04.08.16 at 5:49 pm }

We are now in April, but there is no warm air that we usually get in Spring, this is when we see dandelions growing in the grass, when ice cream stands open in April, or when baseball season starts, (e.g., between 60° and 70°), is in sight. In 2016, with the polar vortex in April, unfortunately, that won’t happen. The polar vortex that we had in April of 2016 may have killed those warmer temperatures we usually get and enjoy in the Spring, replacing tempetures between 25° and 50° during the day, and much colder temperatures at night, because like what happened in 1816, which was 200 years ago, which was nicknamed “the year without Summer,” 2016 to me will have a new nickname: “the year without Spring.”

9 What Crazy weather for the holiday s. andrewjtullos@suddenlink.net { 12.23.15 at 1:24 am }

Sure doesn’t fell like winter. Andrew J Tullos at andrewjtullos@suddenlink.net

10 What Crazy weather for the holiday s. andrewjtullos@suddenlink.net { 12.23.15 at 1:22 am }

Where the cold weather. Just brought a new coat st. ill in closet. Sure doesn’t fell like Christmas.

11 Cheryl { 12.13.15 at 8:40 am }

Great informative story! Makes me want to research this more… I have NO DOUBT that this will happen again, it’s just a matter of when? Others have commented on how ppl. of today’s world would cope. Maybe this is a wake up call we need? We are NEVER prepared enough until it has happened and thus we become prepared for the possible
next time…

12 LCB { 12.02.15 at 6:32 pm }

If we used Mother’s geotherms we would be more than okay. If we submit to Love, Respect and Harmony, we we do better during difficult times, and if we accept we are One, those butterfly affects would lessen.

13 Karin { 11.12.15 at 10:12 am }

This could have an interesting impact on the world if it came to rely on solar as an alternative energy, with solar rays being blocked, thus no or little energy being produced in addition to the crop failures. Add in the psychological disorders affecting people due to the lack of sun and you have a real mess.

14 Dan Davis { 11.12.15 at 5:42 am }

Nuclear winter…

15 Daniel jones { 09.20.16 at 5:25 pm }

I would like to know more..so from 1815,add 206 years and in 2020 we should experience the Sun cooling and the effects that follow??

16 Tom { 11.05.15 at 1:55 pm }

The 206 year Grand Solar Minimum cycle was the cause of the increased volcanic activity and we are about to experience it again. It repeats every 206 years when the surface of the sun cools slightly . Just part of nature stay warm.

17 Steve { 10.19.15 at 9:44 am }

Interesting comment on the art of the period. Writers like Dickens also give us a hint of the climate then.

18 Back in the 1970's we had a year without summer, we had snowfall every month but August. It was a cold rainey windy windy summer. Hardly anyone went to the beach.no water skiing at all. It was a very sad time. { 10.18.15 at 8:50 pm }

Correcting spelling from my last comment
Anyone remember the year it snowed every month but August in Northern Michigan. It was in the 1970’s I believe.

19 Back in the 1970's we had a year without summer, we had snowfall every month but August. It was a cold rainey windy windy summer. Hardly anyone went to the beach.no water skiing at all. It was a very sad time. { 10.18.15 at 8:40 pm }

Anyone know the exact year in the 1970’s that it snowed everyone but August.

20 Wu Tang { 10.17.15 at 6:15 pm }

War of the masses. The outcome disastrous. Many victims families saved their ashes.

21 Wu Tang { 10.17.15 at 6:10 pm }

War of the masses the outcome disastrous. Many victims families saved their ashes.

22 dwayne { 10.15.15 at 7:59 pm }

Very Interesting, for sure. I have my doubts the facebook-America we know today would survive. In fact, I feel certain it would not. Had it occurred in the 1940-1950 era America, I believe they could have and would have survived. They were much higher quality people than we have today.

23 Luvmyblanket { 10.13.15 at 10:01 am }

Would be

24 Luvmyblanket { 10.13.15 at 10:00 am }

I would like to witness an event of this magnitude in my lifetime!!!!! Would me like time travel into the past !!!!❄️❄️❄️

25 Eddie { 10.11.15 at 5:40 pm }

I grew up in NW Louisiana and the following winter of Mt. St. Helen’s eruption, we had one of the coldest and snowiest winters ever recorded. Our planet is warming but it would only take a slight chain of events to send us into another ice age. Our environment & eco-sys are very delicate.

26 Sean { 10.05.15 at 12:51 am }

Interesting article, I think today if something like this were to happen today that many people would lean more towards having to depend on green houses as their source of fruits and vegetables or ways to grow small indoor gardens as a way to survive. On the contrary, this could cause economic effect in many ways as well as many people in the northern hemisphere do much of their recreational traveling throughout the summer and just like in 1816 damage to the outside vegetation such as resource of crops during the summer. Also it may have an effect onto the psychological point of view of those who experience seasonal depression as well.

27 Caroline { 10.03.15 at 2:25 am }

I had heard of this. I had taken the 8th on a field trip to Lincoln’s boyhood home in Indiana. The docent there told us that when Abe was a boy there was time when it snowed every month in the year. He told us it was due to a volcano that had erupted on the other side of the world. This didn’t surprise us since Mt St Helens had erupted only a few years before.

28 Christal Bates { 09.26.15 at 10:12 am }

I have never heard of this. Reading it is very interestin and it makes you think of what else will happen years later.

29 Nancy { 09.26.15 at 9:21 am }

Very interesting! I have never heard this story. Good to learn something new. I enjoy all the articles in The Farmers Almanac, always so interesting and informative

30 Wcorrell { 09.20.15 at 9:17 am }

I too have never heard of this before, it will be interesting to research the art work from that time. Thanks for posting!

31 Laura { 09.19.15 at 11:39 pm }

Awesome article didn’t know about this weather phenomenon. The for the article am researching more on this

32 twinsmom { 09.09.15 at 6:59 pm }

Super interesting article. I’ve never heard of this. I learned something new today!!

33 Lena { 09.08.15 at 8:07 am }

Interesting, what with the greenhouse effect and global warming kind of makes me wonder if we couldn’t simulate an eruption similar if needed

34 Joe ward { 08.31.15 at 12:10 pm }

So very interesting. I would like to learn more. Thx again.

35 Cbailey { 08.25.15 at 9:46 am }

That’s very interesting! I’ve never heard of “The year without a summer”. Thanks for the article!

36 Mothereearth2 { 08.24.15 at 7:00 am }

I love the snow. Getting ready!

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