6.6.14 The Year Without a Summer

Published 06/06 2014 07:43PM

Updated 06/06 2014 08:10PM

We often receive notes from viewers, but rarely do those come the old fashioned way. The Swift Family of South Barre was kind enough to mail in a piece of their family history, and a piece of weather history.

Check out the document above. It's the death certificate for one of their descendants. That document, from June 6, 1816, includes some unusual weather observations. It reads "a cold day, and snow from morning till night."

At first blush, such a remark from Waitsfield, Vermont seems impossible. But it's absolutely accurate.

1816 was a strange year, and is often called the "year without a summer."

On June 5, much of New England baked under high heat. Salem, Massachusetts hit a high of 92, but the thermometer fell some 49 degrees in just 24 hours as a Nor'Easter cranked up offshore.

That Nor'Easter dragged in cold, and snow, as it moved eastward. On June 6 and 7, snow whacked Northern New England. Reports of 20" came out of Danville, with flurries reported as far south as Boston. Two foot snow drifts were reported in Quebec City.

Warm weather returned at the end of the month, but frosty mornings repeatedly damaged crops in July and August. Farmers reported major losses at the end of the season due to the extreme cold.

Locals blamed the wacky weather on sinners, and even Benjamin Franklin's lightning experiments.

Scientists, of course, had different explanations. First of all, 1816 was part of a mini-ice age that stretched from 1400-1860. It provided many harsh seasons, and led to major agricultural losses including the Irish Potato Famine. Solar output was also low during that time.

On top of all that, the Tambora volcano eruption in 1815 likely played a role. That massive eruption spewed 1.7 million tons of dust into the air, that likely led to cooling in the Northern Hemisphere the next year.

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