The Year Wilton Had No Summer

Think Hurricane Irene and October Storm Alfred were bad?

During April of the year 1815, a monstrous eruption from an Indonesian volcano named Mt. Tambora sent a blanket of ash and smoke into the sky, smothering out the sun’s warmth for much of the Northern Hemisphere. During the following year of 1816, many countries, such as parts of Europe and the United States, underwent a volcanic winter, a period now known as “The Year Without a Summer.” Wilton was not exempt.

“There were up to 20 inches of snow on June 6, and frost and ice throughout July and August” writes historian Robert Russell in his Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress. “All over New England, 1816 was henceforth known as ‘Eighteen-hundred-and-froze-to-death.”

Russell doesn’t say anything about a local death toll, but he does note that “corn and hay crops” took the brunt of the freezing fallout, and that the following winter was “especially severe,” which no doubt affected many residents, farmers and livestock throughout the area.

Clive Oppenheimer, a Geology Professor at Cambridge University, estimates that 71,000 died “during, or in the aftermath of, the eruption, on Sumbawa and the neighboring island of Lombok” in his abstract of an academic article on Mt. Tambora’s eruption. There appear to be no reliable figures on how many deaths were caused from the volcanic winter other parts of the world. 

“Crop failures were widespread and the eruption has been implicated in accelerated emigration from New England, and widespread outbreaks of epidemic typhus,” writes Oppenheimer.

The eruption of Mt. Tambora scored a 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index, the only other volcano to erupt at such a fury since the c. 233 CE mega-eruption of Hatepe.

Also an interesting fact: According to Wikipedia, it is theorized that the fantastic sunsets which occurred because of the atmosphere’s floating layer of ash influenced the famous painter J.M.W Turner’s use of yellow color in some of his paintings.

Maybe we didn’t have it so bad last year after all? 


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