Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death: The Year Without Summer

By | September 14, 2018

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(Photo by BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)

Think our weather is wacky sometimes? It is nothing compared to 1816, also known as the Year Without a Summer in the United States. That year, frost was reported to have occurred in every month of the year. In July and August, rivers and lakes in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire covered with ice. Eighteen inches of snow fell in New England on June 7 and 8. Birds froze to death and dropped from the sky. In some areas, the ground was still too frozen on the Fourth of July for farmers to plant their crops. Crops that could be planted failed…killed in the repeated frosts. People ran out of firewood to heat their homes and there were wide-spread food shortages. Some people in Boston resorted to eating pigeons and raccoons to keep themselves alive. People referred to the Year Without Summer as “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.” Most certainly, these early Americans must have thought the planet was being plunged into another ice age. But the real reason for the Year Without Summer was a huge volcanic eruption on the other side of the world. 

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The Tambora Eruption Was The Largest One In Human History

On April 10, 1815, the Tambora volcano, on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia, violently erupted. This eruption dwarfed all other volcanic eruptions before and after. It was more powerful than the eruptions of Krakatoa, Vesuvius, Mount St. Helens, and Mauna Loa. When Tambora blew its top, it sent out enough ash, stone, and pumice to cover a 200 miles square area at a depth of nearly twelve feet. The estimated death toll for the initial eruption is about 12,000 people, but in all, about 71,000 deaths have been attributed to the eruption.