Appalachian Thursday – Take Two (the summer that wasn’t)
Man friends, I’m so crazy right now that I basically gave you a repost of one of June’s blogs today. Shoot. I even used the same picture!
Well, that simply won’t do. So here’s something new.
It’s been hot lately even in the often refreshingly cool mountains of Appalachia. But before you complain about the heat, let me tell you about the summer of 1816–the summer that wasn’t.
The first hint of something off came on May 12, 1816. Now, the final frost date for my area in NC is May 15, but it’s a pretty rare occurrence. In 1816, the twelfth brought a heavy frost deep into the region. After a brief warm-up, the first week of June brought more cold. A traveler in Pennsylvania wrote, “This morning was very frosty and ice covered the water ¼ inch thick. We had a brisk breeze from the northeast.” On June 6, it snowed in Albany, NY.
In July and August folks saw river and lake ice in Pennsylvania. On August 20 and 21 frost formed as far south as Virginia. A newspaper in Virginia reported, “It is now the middle of July, and we have not yet had what could properly be called summer. Easterly winds have prevailed for nearly three months past . . . the sun during that time has generally been obscured and the sky overcast with clouds; the air has been damp and uncomfortable, and frequently so chilling as to render the fireside a desirable retreat.”
Crops failed, food prices climbed, and there wasn’t enough hay for the coming winter (the real one).
So what caused the year without a summer? The most accepted theory is volcanic activity. In April of 1815 Mount Tambora in Indonesia saw the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. Estimates suggest that the eruption lifted around 36 cubic MILES of material into the atmosphere. At least 10,000 islanders were killed outright and the global temperature dropped about 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
And on the other side of the world Appalachia didn’t have a summer.
Hmmmm, sounds like a great plot for a historical novel . . .