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Tamboran Volcano - Year Without A Summer

Updated on April 20, 2012
Christofers Flow profile image

Christofer has been a paralegal for 25 years. He has 4 children and 8 grandchildren. He and his mother studied astrology for over 40 years.

Historic Moments SERIES

1816 - The Year That Tambora (1815) Was Felt Around the World

There are several reasons the "Year Without A Summer" occurred. We were having the "Dalton Minimum" - a period of low sunspot activity causing cold in general and there were four other volcanoes which preceded the Tambora one.

To sum it up: The Tambora was the largest eruption in recorded history. It blew its top on April 10, 1815. While the April 10 eruption was catastrophic, historical records and geological analysis of eruption deposits indicate that the volcano had been active between 1812 and 1815. With all of the other effects of the multiple volcanic outbursts, enough ash was put into the atmosphere to cause global cooling. This caused, in 1816 --- the “Year Without A Summer.”

In May of 1816, the cold weather jumped on the young plants in the northeast and killed the crops that had been planted. June 4 was the big dramatic day; frosts were reported in Connecticut and New England. A cold front had a hold on the entire area. On June 6, snow fell in upper state New York and Maine. Farther north in Quebec City, a foot of snow fell and finished off most of their crops. The malnutrition, starvation and epidemic that followed caused what people call a "famine". This weather pattern played out very dramatically in the northern climes, and powerfully impacted the American and European economies and population health.

Not Only Tambora, But Four Other Volcanoes From 1812 to 1814

The big Tambora volcano on the Island of Sumbawa, of the Dutch East Indies, was one dramatic "blow" with an explosivity index of 7. But what probably directly contributed, along with the Dalton Minimum, were the more minor Tambora volcanoes between 1812 and 1814 and 4 other earthquakes with explosivity indexes of 4 in the below.

In the Caribbean, in 1812, on the Island of Soufriere there was a volcano. Indonesia experienced a volcano on the Sanghihe Islands in 1812. The Ryukyu Islands in Japan experienced one in 1813, and then the Phillippines on Mayon in 1814. These were not as immense as Tambora, but they were not lightweights either. There was much accumulated ash by the time Tambora blew.

American Western Expansion Commences - Joseph Smith's Family Leaves Vermont

The crop failures of the “Year Without A Summer” forced the family of Joseph Smith to move from Sharon, Vermont to Palmyra, New York. In western New York, the entire history of the birth of the Mormon Church began when factors combined to have Joseph experience his visions. From western New York, the Mormons then began a series of migrations that took them to the mid west, and then because of persecution and social unrest brought upon the Mormons, they finally fled to Utah, in a kind of Exodus to a "promised land", under the leadership of Brigham Young, a man whose family also came from the western New York area.

Western New York became an important destination from New England because of this weather. People decided to pick up and move since they were contemplating moving west anyway. The cold weather combined with a sense of "population explosion" or "feeling crowded", if you can believe it, moved upon the settlers and farmers in New England. 15 years later, in the 1830's, with many New Englanders already having left their original homes, because of the volcano, there began the biggest migration not caused by a war, in all of history.

The area of the mid west was absolutely wide open and there for the settling. Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota all began to be settled by this "puritan" population which was originally from the New England area. The name "puritan" as a sociological ethnic designation (not necessarily religious, per se, they were now Protestant, Episcopalian and other groups) began during this time when they seemed to head en masse toward western climes. Ultimately the entire northern tier of the west, all the way to Seattle, was settled by this same peaceful migration of New England "puritans".

Europe is Frigid

Europe, at this time, was still recovering from Napoleon and the destruction his last "Waterloo" brought to the whole area. Food riots happened in the UK and France. Since Switzerland is landlocked, it got the worst of the famine. Huge storms, much rainfall, jamming the major rivers, notably the Rhine flooding and freezing happened, and then a big frost in August of 1816 added to the calamities. And don't think it was over because of the "Year Without A Summer". Precipitating famine, disease, lack and hardship caused a typhus epidemic between 1816 and 1819. Probably over 200,000 people perished during this period; (Ireland and Switzerland being the most impacted with population mortality).

Lack of Oats Might Have Spawned Invention

Under the category: "Necessity is the Mother of Invention", the velocipede, the ancestor of the modern bicycle was invented right after this time. Karl Drais was the man. The lack of oats caused by the famine at that time, to feed horses, may have inspired him. Modern personal transportation is all dependent upon oats. (Foreshadowing a dependency on oil). This obvious relationship might have caused a realization, and thus an inventive spark and "flash of genius", as inventions are spawned in similar kinds of situations.

Brown Snow, Red Snow, and "Frankensteinian" Weather

The eruption of Tambora also caused the Hungarian region to experience brown snow during the summer. Not too far away, Italy got something akin to brown snow. Red snow, throughout the year, was said to have fallen there. Of course the accumulation of five volcanoes in the recent past is believed to have been the cause for the "ash-colored" snow.

Partying in Rainy Stormy Switzerland Forces Literary Friends to a Writing Contest

When you plan a trip to Switzerland in the Summer, you are envisioning bright sunshine, yellow and pink blossoms adorning the hillsides and low humidity air to fill your lungs. However, in July of 1816 Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, John William Polidori and friends were forced to stay inside and stare through the windows at soggy, cold, unfriendly Switzerland. It drove them a bit batty. Amidst boozy boredom, they came up with the idea of a writing contest. Byron came up with a poem: "Darkness". Polidori, "The Vampyre"; and Shelley a story about a "Modern Prometheus", who would be fashioned by the now famous fictional "Dr. Frankenstein". Though it was finished and published in 1818, it was spawned at that place, during the "Year Without A Summer".

Frankenstein, Now a Horror Movie, Then a Feminist and Anti-Scientific Tome

Mary took the opportunity to make several profound points in her tale. She made arguments concerning science and its abuses and many undertones and symbols that had to do with feminism. Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollenstonecraft was the author of a well-known feminist text and undoubtedly influenced her daughter.

Mary Wollenstonecraft Godwin married Percy Bysshe Shelley, a poet and member of an established English family. He died relatively soon after they married in Italy. Her life was filled with struggle, but she wrote and wrote, and established herself after that strange summer in Switzerland, where her writing fame was born. Mary wrote a novel, which ended up being her best-knowm after "Frankenstein". It was called "The Last Man", written in 1826. She sets a story in the 21st Century, in which mankind is destroyed. It is described as an early form of science fiction; and still, some might say, could be strangely prophetic.

A Notable Dark Decade

The decade from 1811 to 1820 was heavily marked by real and powerful socioeconomic impacts. Malnutrition, poor agricultural production and spreading mild to severe regional and local epidemics had punishing effects on European and Mediterranean countries. With the end of the Napoleonic conflicts to boot, this was a very difficult decade, especially in Europe. The very low and freezing states experienced most extremely in 1816 and 1817 affected crop growth quite dramatically and thus reduced the general state of economic health, throughout European countries, greatly at that time. With post war economic collapse and historic cold and famine, it was a dark and poverty-filled decade.

Ironically Dickens and Marx Born During This Time

Both of these men were born during this decade. One in England, the other in Germany. Charles Dickens, the English Author, wrote about heroic struggle with poverty. He has been immortalized by "The Christmas Carol", "Oliver Twist" and "Great Expectations". Karl Marx came up with an entire political philosophy for dealing with poverty. He wrote "A Manifesto of The Communist Party" along with Engels. His ideas and work can be said to have affected millions of people in the early 20th century and today.

Both of these men grew up in poverty and carried on their adult lives constantly and profoundly addressing the social and political and personal effects of poverty. While Tambora and the time of Volcanoes and the Dalton Minimum can not be said to directly affect these two gentlemen, inasmuch as multiple societal, political and industrial factors were all at play at this time, there is still a strong symbolic case of irony that can make one infer that this "Volcano Time", Tambora, the Dalton Minimum and the "Year Without A Summer" still affect us today.

Christofer French is the Founder of

Volcanic Activity Tied to Planetary Movements?


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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for a great hub and I also read an article about this. I have a feeeling that it will happened again. Oh well, here we go.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      9 years ago

      I'm familiar with the year there was no summer, having heard about it soon after moving to Vt. I like the way you explained it and the reverberations still influencing the world.


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