Year Without a Summer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In the spring and summer of 1816, a persistent "dry fog" was observed in the northeastern U.S. The fog
reddened and dimmed the sunlight, such that sunspots were visible to the naked eye. Neither wind
nor rainfall dispersed the "fog". It has been characterized as a stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil.
At higher elevations, where farming was problematic in good years, the cooler climate did not quite support agriculture. In May 1816, frost killed off most crops, on June 4 frosts were reported in Connecticut, and by the following day most of New England
was gripped by the cold front. On June 6, snow fell in Albany, New York
, and Dennysville, Maine
Many commented on the phenomenon. Sarah Snell Bryant, of Cummington, Massachusetts
, wrote in her diary, “Weather backward.” Samuel Griswold Goodrich said the summer of 1816 in Connecticut was the coldest of the century.
In New York
City, the temperature dropped to −26 °F (−32 °C) during the bitter winter of 1816-17. This resulted in a freezing of New York's Upper Bay deep enough for horse-drawn sleighs to be driven across Buttermilk Channel from Brooklyn
to Governors Island. At the New Lebanon, New York Church Family
of Shakers, Nicholas Bennet wrote in May 1816 that “all was froze” and the hills were "barren like winter." Temperatures went below freezing almost every day in May. The ground froze solid on June 9. On June 12, the Shakers had to replant crops destroyed by the cold. On July 7 it was so cold that everything had stopped growing. The Berkshire Hills had frost again on August 23.
historian summed up the disaster: "Severe frosts occurred every month; June 7th and 8th snow fell, and it was so cold that crops were cut down, even freezing the roots .... In the early Autumn when corn was in the milk it was so thoroughly frozen that it never ripened and was scarcely worth harvesting. Breadstuffs were scarce and prices high and the poorer class of people were often in straits for want of food
. It must be remembered that the granaries of the great west had not then been opened to us by railroad communication, and people were obliged to rely upon their own resources or upon others in their immediate locality."
Farther north, nearly 12 inches (30 cm) of snow was observed in Quebec
City in early June, with consequent additional loss of crops—most summer-growing plants have cell walls which rupture even in a mild frost. The result was regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic,[clarification needed] and increased mortality. In July and August, lake and river ice were observed as far south as Pennsylvania. Rapid, dramatic temperature swings were common, with temperatures sometimes reverting from normal or above-normal summer temperatures as high as 95 °F (35 °C) to near-freezing within hours. The weather
was not in itself a hardship for those accustomed to long winters. The real problem lay in the weather's effect on crops and thus on the supply of food
Farmers south of New England
did succeed in bringing some crops to maturity, but maize and other grain prices rose dramatically. The price
of oats, for example, rose from 12¢ a bushel ($3.40/m³) in 1815, equal to $1.53 today, to 92¢ a bushel ($26/m³) in 1816 ($12.65 today). Crop failures were aggravated by an inadequate transportation network, with few roads or navigable inland waterways and no railroads; it was expensive to import