December 3, 2022

We look forward to summer with anticipation: the long days, the warmth and the call of freedom, fill us with positive energy – until something happens to stop the sun shining.

This is something that happened once before, in 1816, which is also known as the ‘year without summer’. The curious event was the Tambora volcano in Indonesia, which erupted the year before. It was the most serious volcanic eruption in 1300 years, literally causing a stir. It formed a cloud of sulphurous ash in the atmosphere that prevented the sun’s life-giving rays from reaching the Earth’s surface. And the volcanic material, which spewed out in the order of millions of tonnes, reached many parts of the world, causing eerie darkness and cooling. According to locals, snow was still falling in June and the sun was only visible in red patches.

However, this natural disaster not only took the summer away from the people, it also cut into their basic livelihoods. A year without summer was effectively an agricultural disaster, which hit western Europe, Canada and the United States hardest. Persistent frosts destroyed crops and even killed most livestock in the cold. Perhaps worse still, one of the worst famines of the 19th century was declared.

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