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1816, the year without summer


A representation of Mount Tambora

The weather has always been subject to great variations – no need for climate change detractors to constantly reminding it. Historians say that the Middle Age was a particularly warm era, especially in Northern Atlantic. Greenland got its name from having green areas, before ice took over. Other times unusual events can lead to incredible swings, like the case of an eruption that basically canceled the summer of 1816  worldwide.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The author was inspired by the darkness of the summer of 1816worldwide.

In 2010 the Icelandic Eyjafjallajokul costed the canceling of a few thousand flights, 202 years ago the problem wasn’t for a yet developing tourism industry, the sky stayed covered enough to ruin produce and provoking dearth and famine. Even if the Tambora volcano activity happened in Sumbawa Island, Indonesia, in 1815, the effects were tangible in Europe and North America one year later. In the begininning sunspots were blamed for the cold, until, only after one century, experts found the roots of that unprecedented summer.

This episode wasn’t surpassed by the famous eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 either, unless we consider the media coverage. And just because in 70 years communication made giant steps. Numbers tells us of more than a kilometer of Mount Tambora blown away, two million tons of debris and sulfur emitted in the air, a noise heard at a thousand km distance, 12 thousand dead people (immediately) and about 100 thousand deceased all over the world due to malnourishment, for the four months of climate change.

In the long term, Asia suffered the most. Initially, the sulfate opposed the monsoons, causing dearth, but then the reaction was reversed, with devastating floods. Bengal had cholera epidemics, in China the agriculture turned into something more resistant such as opium – that will change the course of history too.

The excessive cooling was the result of the chemical reaction of aerosol, whose particles have an impact also on the “human” climate change. According to the studies of Michigan University published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, aerosol multiplies the number of drops in the clouds and the refraction effect reduces the heat.

The draisine, ancestor of the bicycle. His inventor needed a transportation that didn’t imply the use of horses, that suffered for the cereals shortage

Mary Shelley and Lord Byron, on vacation near the Geneva Lake, left us important testimonies of the summer of 1816. They described it as a dark, rainy season, which ruined their program of hiking. But as they stayed home with the company of scary tales, the first drafts of Frankenstein were born – the publication was in 1818. While the spectacular sunsets inspired the Flemish painters.

That’s not all. The shortage of cereals pushed the German inventor Karl Drais to look for a kind of transportation that didn’t include the hungry horses. The draisine, ancestor of the bicycle, saw the light.

And who knows how Bryan Adams would have sung the (non) summer of ’61.


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