1816 - The Year Without Summer
By: Lee Foster, Meteorologist
As we all know living in New England means enduring long
winters and savoring the short summers. However, in 1816, the summer season was
shorter than normal and is commonly referred to as “The Year Without Summer”. I
first heard about this infamous summer from my grandfather who lived his entire
The indications of a possible
cool summer were evident during the spring time. The middle of May brought
unseasonably cool temperatures to the region with light snow reported in
After a warm start to June, the month quickly turned stormy.
A strong Nor’easter developed along the east coast on the 6th with rain mixed
with snow in
If June was bad enough, July started out no better. A strong
Canadian cold front crossed
The fine weather continued into the middle of August when
another frost occurred over interior
The consequences of this season were harsh. Only a third to a fourth of the hay was cut with only 10 percent of the crop harvested in some areas. Orchard yields ranged from barren to moderate but enough grains, wheat, and potatoes were harvested to prevent a famine but hardships did occur. There were reports of people eating raccoons, pigeons, and mackerel. Corn prices rose from $1.00 a bushel to nearly $3.00 a bushel. With crop failure and the shortage of hay, farmers turned to selling their cows and pigs which drove the price of meat down. With so much meat on the market beef prices dropped from $15.50 to $7.50 a barrel with pork falling from $16 to $4 a barrel.
So what caused this unusual weather during the summer of 1816?
Some believe it was caused by sinners while some even blamed it on Benjamin
Franklin’s lightning rod experiments. However, climate data obtained from
trees, ice cores, marine sediment and historical documents indicate 1816 was
part of a mini ice age that lasted from 1400 to around 1860. During this time
lower solar output produced harsh winters, shorter growing seasons and drier
climates which were blamed for a host of human suffering and crop failures such
as the Irish Potato Famine. Another
possible cause was the eruption of the Tambora volcano on the
Whatever the cause, the next year saw the first general
migration from the Northeast to the
It didn't matter whether your farm was large or small.
It didn't matter if you had a farm at all.
Cause everyone was affected when water didn't run.
The snow and frost continued without the warming sun.
One day in June it got real hot and leaves began to show.
But after that it snowed again and wind and cold did blow.
The cows and horses had no grass, no grain to feed the chicks.
No hay to put aside that time, just dry and shriveled sticks.
The sheep were cold and hungry and many starved to death,
Still waiting for the warming sun to save their labored breath.
The kids were disappointed, no swimming, such a shame.
It was in 1816 that summer never came.