1816: The Year Without a Summer

The year 1816 was known as ‘The Year Without a Summer’ in New England because six inches of snow fell in June and every month of the year had a hard frost. the year without a summer

Temperatures dropped to as low as 40 degrees in July and August as far south as Connecticut. It was also known as ‘Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death’ and the ‘Poverty Year.’

The Year Without A Summer had a far-reaching impact. Crop failures caused hoarding and big price increases for agricultural commodities. People went hungry. Farmers gave up trying to make a living in New England and started heading west. Politicians who ignored the melancholy plight of their constituents found themselves out of office.

And to this day, scientists don’t agree on what caused the bizarre weather in The Year Without a Summer.


There were warm days in the spring of 1816, but they were followed by cold snaps. In Salem, Mass., for example, it was 74 degrees on April 24. Within 30 hours the temperature dropped to 21 degrees.

Thomas Robbins, the East Windsor, Conn., bibliophile, noticed the late spring. He wrote in his diary, ‘the vegetation does not seem to advance at all.’

On May 12, strong winds and freezing temperatures from Canada killed the buds on fruit trees. Inch-thick ice formed on ponds and streams from Maine to Upstate New York. By the end of May, corn plants froze in central Maine.
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