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The Year Without A Summer? 1816 vs. 2009

By Jesse Ferrell, Meteorologist/Community Director
7/18/2009, 6:01:19 PM

UPDATE: On July 5, this blog claims that fall color was beginning to appear in New England. The Maine government site lists the earliest fall color potential as September.

UPDATE: PEI, Canada has had the first July frost in recorded history (thanks Mark).

We took some flack last month for mentioning the term "Year Without A Summer" but this morning there's a tidbit of data that matches that famous season nearly 200 years ago. If you look back in the AccuWeather Almanac, there are a handful of entries from the Summer of 1816, one of which says:

"44 degrees at sunrise in Waltham, Massachusetts (west of Boston) on July 8th."

Well, this morning it was 43 degrees at Taunton, Mass., south of Boston!



Now, given, one day doesn't make a seasonal outbreak and clearly 1816 is still the winner - 2009 may have pieces of the 1816 cold outbreak but it doesn't match its depth or length so far (see stats below). But I think it's time that we admit that there's something extremely unusual happening this Summer in New England.


Here's a video from our own Evan Myers and Bernie Rayno discussing what's happened so far this summer, and what U.S. residents can expect from the rest of the season:

What could this mean for Winter 2009-2010? Tune into next week where we'll be discussing that. As mentioned here, some data shows that cool summers are followed by snowier winters, at least in some cities, but as Elliot reminds us, that's a pretty narrow data set.

So what did happen in 1816?

In 1816, a low solar cycle (like we are having now) combined with a "volcanic winter" (read more on WikiPedia) to create these unbelievable stats in New England and eastern Canada:

- June 6, 1816: "Snow flurries reported here and in the Boston area. Ice reported near Philadelphia. Heavy snow in Quebec City, a foot of snow in the mountains." [AccuWeather Almanac]

- Two large snowstorms in June killed many in New England and eastern Canada [WikiPedia]

- July 13, 1816: The typesetter of the Old Farmer's Almanac jokingly printed America "rain, snow, and hail" across eastern North America for this date. The editor missed it, and the publication went to print. Oddly enough, rain, snow, and hail did fall across parts of eastern North America. Even though later editions of the Almanac had the "correct" forecast in place, those who received the earlier editions "swore" by the Almanac the rest of their lives. [AccuWeather Almanac]

- Frost in June and July killed most crops, creating widespread famine [WikiPedia]

- Lake and rivers were iced over in July & August in Pennsylvania [WikiPedia]

- August 21, 1816: During the "year without a summer," a heavy snowfall on this date covered fields in Eastern Canada [AccuWeather Almanac]

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or


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