Contact Me

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Year Without a Summer

Sun behind smoke--eerie

Sun at the very bottom

The sun

In 1815, My Tambora erupted. From 1812 through 1814 four other eruptions occurred. The solar activity was low. Europe, China, Canada, and the US suffered from cool, rainy, foggy, and freezing in places that usually provided food for the people.

This event has been credited for Western expansion in the US as people starved and left the northeast, looking for a more hospitable climate. Today, it was just a huge fire at the the salvage yard. Since the city is expanding toward and around the salvage yard, it is in close proximity to lots of people in apartments, mostly low-income people.

 I saw this from five miles or more and thought it was a local tire store. I got to the tire store and took pictures. I am still 2 miles as the crow flies.

As I drove closer, I called Lena to see if she was okay as she is about a quarter of a mile from the fire. She is the one who told me it was the salvage yard.

Back to The Poverty Year, 1816. Snow fell in Albany New York in June. Crops failed in the UK. Prices rose in Germany. Had enough?

Of course, 5 volcanoes, one of them a record setter in a time of little solar activity is not likely to happen.

In Switzerland, Percy Shelley, the "rock star" of his day was vacationing in Switzerland with his physician, Polidori, Lord Byron, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and Claire. They could not go out because of the rainy, unfriendly cool weather. So, they entertained themselves by telling scary stories.

Shelley challenged everyone to write a scary story. Mary wrote Frankenstein and Polidori wrote a story that eventually became Dracula. The movie Gothic is a recounting of part of the summer. It is not for the faint of heart or those holding religious qualms.

Could The Summer that Never Was happen again? I don't know. But, the history of this event should be enough to give one pause. How much better prepared are we to deal with ice in July as far south as Pennsylvania? The cold weather was so severe in China that trees died and flooding led to widespread cholera. It was the worst famine in Europe. Riots, arson, and looting at food markets were the result.

Now, are you convinced that maybe there is a method to the madness of canning? Dehydrating? Not depending on the sun being faithful?

I must admit that the best way for this English major to learn history is by knowing why certain literature was written. That's why I had to include the story of the writing of Frankenstein.

I think that the lowest the temperature change anywhere measured during that summer was no more than 1.3 F (0.7 C). That is not much change. Have I gone mad? No, but the dimming of the sun and the deep shadows cast because of the black smoke reminded me of stories of Switzerland in the summer of 1816. Sure, you can see the blue sky, but that made the weird sun even more spooky. I know! I am weird. I thought how life is more fragile than we think.

I wondered today if the people in 1816, during The Year Without a Summer, thought of it as the end of the world? Read about it here.

Brought to you by a junkyard fire!

Your turn
How would you fare without a summer?


  1. Hmmm. 1815 was right in the middle of the regency era in Europe. I wonder how many young ladies wore spencers over their delicate muslin frocks that summer? :-) Very interesting.

    1. 1816, sorry. I thought at first this was the mini ice age but I think that that happened during the Napoleonic wars (which ended a year before).


For the present, I am taking comment moderation off the blog.