As the Polar Vortex clutches the Earth in its icy grip, people shiver and suffer through the extreme temperature. Dear readers, I do hope you and your loved ones (and fur-kids count as loved ones!) are bundled up and staying warm and assisting others in doing the same. Although the current weather is extremely frigid, there was another time when the world’s temperature was down right unbearable. Back during the Regency Period, after winter when the spring buds should have been blooming and the thaw beginning to melt, the weather did not truly let up. In May of 1816 light snow was reported in Canada and frost was seen as far south as Virginia. Cattle froze out in the pasture overnight, without warning, acres of crops died in an instant. In June a foot of snow fell in the Eastern United States. Snow drifts as high as two feet covered some cities. The landscape experienced “freezer burn.” So many crops were destroyed, that there was talk of famine. August experienced a wave of frost that continue to damage fields of crops. The weather worsened with severe thunderstorms that caused the temperature to drop as much as 30 degrees.To add insult to injury, every month that “summer” for two or three weeks the climate returned to its regularly schedule program. Meaning, for half of May, June, July, and August the weather was “typical summer weather”! It was as if Mother Nature suddenly went bi-polar! She teased that “this month, this time” things would get back to normal, but it never did that year.
In hindsight, scientists and meteorologists theorized the cause of this unfortunate weather and much suffering stemmed from
the eruption of the Tambora volcano on the island of Soembawa in Indonesia on April 15th 1815. The eruption lasted one week and rumbled for 3 months. The mountain elevation dropped from 14,000 feet to 9000 feet, killed close to 10,000 people on the island and another 80,000 people would eventually die from starvation and diseases related to the eruption. Tambora was one of the largest recorded eruptions with estimates of 1.7 million tons of dust put into the air equaling 6 million atomic bombs. The theory is that the dust reached the Northern Hemisphere during 1816 reducing solar output.
The effects were felt the world over. The unseasonal temperature and the horrible harvest also lead to dubbing 1816 the Poverty Year. However, the more colloquial term used to describe the peculiar time and events is “in Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.”
Just think of all those Jane Austen characters enduring the exceedingly inclement weather in their gossamer Empire waist frocks! *shivers!*buries under blankets*