1816: The Eruption of Mount Tambora

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The summer of 1816 was not like any summer people could remember. The National Center for Atmospheric Research reported that, snow fell in New England and gloomy, cold rains fell throughout Europe. It was cold and stormy and dark. 1816 became known in Europe and North America as “The Year Without a Summer.” The year before on April 5, 1815, Mount Tambora, a volcano, started to rumble with activity. Over the following four months the volcano exploded - the largest volcanic explosion in recorded history. Many people close to the volcano lost their lives in the event. Tambora ejected so much ash and dust into the atmosphere that the sky darkened and the Sun was blocked from view. The large particles spewed by the volcano fell to the ground nearby, covering towns with enough ash to collapse homes. Smaller particles spewed by the volcano were light enough to spread through the atmosphere over the following months and had a worldwide effect on climate. They made their way high into the stratosphere, where they could distribute around the world more easily. Earth’s average global temperature dropped more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The Year Without a Summer had many impacts in Europe and North America. Crops were wiped out - either by frost or a lack of sunshine. This caused food to be scarce. The lack of successful crops that summer made the food which was grown more valuable, and the price of food climbed. Because the price of oats increased, it was more expensive for people to feed their horses. Horses were the main method of transportation, so with expensive oats, the cost of travel increased. The gloomy summer weather also inspired writers. During that summer-less summer, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, a horror novel set in an often stormy environment.

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