The snow continues to fall here in Rhode Island. In fact, we’re having another storm right now. If you live in a place that experiences cold, snowy winters, you probably can’t wait for this one to end. I am not one of those people. I know that winter can be depressing and annoying, but I’ll take bright snow and brisk temperatures over muggy and steamy any day.
But I digress.
What if winter just continued, and summer never came? It’s possible, you know. In fact, it has happened in relatively recent history. It all began, as many weather phenomena do, with a volcanic eruption. In 1815, Mount Tembora, in Indonesia, blew apart, sending tons (literally) of particulate into the stratosphere. This was a cataclysmic seismic event, the largest in nearly 2,000 years, and one that makes the eruptions of Krakatoa (1883) and Mt. St. Helen’s (1980) look like mere blips on the radar. At the same time, a period of low solar magnetic activity known as the “Dalton Minimum” also kept temperatures cool. The two climate phenomena combined to create a disaster.
The dust cloud from Tambora settled in the stratosphere and for a year, kept the sun’s warmth from reaching the earth. Many of the early crops failed, and hundreds of thousands of people in Europe and North America starved or froze to death. After enduring killing frosts in July and August, many farmers in northern New England threw up their hands, pulled up stakes and began migrating west. Others went to the coast to seek their fortunes in whaling.
We are now in another Dalton Minimum cycle, which has some people wondering whether this phenomenon could occur again. Of course there are always volcanoes ready to blow their tops. We just can’t be sure of how severe many of those eruptions could be.
If you’d like to explore that frightening scenario, as well as the prospect of not having a summer, go here.