When you're melting in a July heat wave, it's easy to fantasize about just a day or two of winterlike chill. What if you had an entire summer that ran cold? That's what happened to New England in 1816, the "year without a summer." One farmer in Vermont called it "the most gloomy and extraordinary weather ever seen." Hi, I'm Bryan Yeaton and this is The Weather Notebook.
April and May of 1816 were full of classic New England inclemency. Many fruit trees didn't bloom till the end of May. June started with a few nice days, but then came the shocker. In Williamstown, at the northwest corner of Massachusetts, the temperature dropped from 83 degrees at noon on June 5 to only 45 degrees the next morning-and that was the high for the day! Ice formed as far south as Philadelphia, and it snowed across northern New England. The weather finally warmed up, but just after the Fourth of July, another sharp cold front hit the Northeast. What was left of the summer's crops was finally destroyed by killer frosts in late August and September.
This brutal cool down was caused by something halfway around the world. The volcano Tambora, in Indonesia, had blown its top a year earlier in the largest eruption of modern times. Millions of tons of ash were sent into the stratosphere, filtering out sunlight over much of the globe for the next several years.
Today's contributing writer is Bob Henson of Boulder, Colorado. The Weather Notebook is a production of the Mount Washington Observatory and is supported by the National Science Foundation and Subaru, the beauty of all-wheel drive.