Would You Have Survived 1816 The Year of No Summer


1816 famers almanac cover

The only almanac of the day to predict the “Year of no Summer”

Can You Survive It?

By Steve Hathcock

In a recent post featured on the Drudge Report, the writer asserted the planet is experiencing the second coldest start of spring on record, but reading further, we find he has based his claim on records dating back to 1974! Not good science in my opinion. In Siberia, locals have created a cottage industry in locating and excavating prehistoric mammoth elephants entombed in the ice. Oddly, the stomachs of many of these animals contains undigested food!

A couple of years back, I wrote about freezing temperatures in Maine  and fierce hail storms striking parts of New Jersey with an overall 593 new record low maximum temperatures being established during the first 23 days of June, 2009. Many of these records go back to the early 1900s with some going as far back as 1880. At the time I wondered if these events hinted of what lay ahead in our future. Today, it’s obvious the extreme weather has continued with records being made and then shattered like so many ice crystals as the next front moves in. Along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and throughout the Dakotas towns are preparing for or already being besieged by floodwaters of unprecedented levels. The big argument centers on whether or not our climate changes are caused by man or are part of a very complex cycle that we may just be entering. Either way, we don’t have to go very far into the past to find out what some of the immediate effects of climate change will be.

The new year of 1816 started out so mild that many New Englanders allowed their hearth fires to go out except for cooking. Though there were a few cold days, they were the exception with most of January being warm and spring-like. Some days in February were colder than in January, but still, the weather was about the same.

March came in like a small lion and went out like a lamb

April came in warm, but as the days grew longer, the air became colder, and by the first of May there was temperature like that of winter, with plenty of snow and ice. Young buds froze on the limb while a half inch of ice formed on ponds and rivers. Cornfields were replanted, but it was too late to raise a crop.  By the last of May almost everything in the fields had been killed by the cold.

The dawning of June 17th revealed a heavy fall of snow and below freezing temperature. Before leaving home to look for a flock of sheep sent to pasture the day before, a Vermont farmer jokingly said to his wife “Better start after the neighbors soon, it’s the middle of June and I may get lost in the snow.” An hour after he had left home it began to snow fast and thick. His wife became frightened when he failed to return and organized a search party. On the third day they found him lying in a hollow on the side of a hill with both feet frozen and half covered with snow, but alive. Close by, the hungry sheep nibbled on what scant vegetation they could find.

One farmer near Tewksbury Vermont planted a large field of corn. He built fires every night and he and his men took turns in watching that the corn did not freeze.  His was the only crop in the region.

The cold continued through July with snow and ice as thick as window glass forming throughout New England, New York and some parts of the state of Pennsylvania.  Indian corn, which had managed to thrive during May and June, gave up, froze and died.

Monsoon-like rainfall forced Mary Shelley, John William Polidori and their friends to
stay indoors for much of their Swiss holiday. They decided to have a contest,
seeing who could write the scariest story, leading Shelley to write Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus and
Polidori to write The Vampyre

Lord Byron was mistakenly credited with penning the Vampyre until the mid 1880s

Lord Byron was mistakenly credited with penning the Vampyre and only later did the true author receive credit.


August was no warmer with almost everything green in this country and abroad destroyed by frost. People lost their farms and the resulting mass exodus led to the settlement of what is now the American Midwest. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands more starved around the world. Snow fell at Barnet only 30 miles from London. Food riots were rampant in England and parts of Europe. In the Atlantic, ships reported dodging icebergs while Alpine glaciers advanced down mountain slopes to exceptionally low elevations.

Winter arrived early with heavy snowfalls beginning in September and freezing temperatures lasting late into the following year.

The corrected version turned out to be wrong

The corrected version turned out to be wrong

But did the Farmer’s Almanac predict snow for that summer? 

As the legend goes; Robert B. Thomas, the editor of the Old Farmer’s Almanac was sick in bed with the flu.  His publisher who was anxious to get the final draft, began pounding on his door.

Unwilling to get out of his sickbed and hoping to get rid of the man, Thomas yelled through the door, “snow in June-frost in July.” Not realizing the sarcasm and on a deadline, the publisher set the type and began printing! Up to a week passed before Thomas arose from his bed. One can only imagine his shock upon realizing the 1816 almanac was predicting winter weather in the summer months! 

Not willing to become the laughing stock of New England, Thomas raced about buying any of these almanacs that had already gone out to the public.  Sadly though, as the story goes, it was too late the word got out anyway, and during the winter and spring of that year, Thomas played down making such a ridiculous forecast for the following summer. Then, when it really did snow in July, he changed his tune and took full credit. “Told you so!” he allegedly said.

If the story is true then a fiorst edition of this book with the original prediction of a clod summer would be worth a lot of money to the right collector.




Eventually, scientists linked the cause of the great freeze to the April 5, 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, http://tambora.net/  located on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa. The eruption column reached a height of about 28 miles and threw so much ash and debris into the atmosphere (about 150 times more than the eruption of Mount St Helens in 1980) that it changed the climate of the entire planet. An estimated 92,000 people were killed by the eruption itself while worldwide, another 100,000 died from starvation or disease.

It is hard for us, surrounded as we are by so many comforts, to appreciate the trying situations to which our forefather were exposed and one has to wonder how today’s society would deal with such a catastrophe. Could you survive a “Year of No Summer?”

Email steve@southpadretv.tv Visit http://southpadretv.tv/ for more stories about South Texas and the rest of the world.




About admin