Volcano Fallout and the Freeze
Here is some info that I find interesting in the event that Yellowstone really ever blows the big one and some things we might expect.

This is an event that actually happened in 1815-1816

At least 6 months and probably about 3 years of increased steaming and small phreatic eruptions preceded the 1815 Tambora eruption


Columbia Encyclopedia

(täm’b?r?) , active volcano, N Sumbawa, Nusa Tenggara Barat prov., Indonesia, rising to 9,255 ft (2,821 m). The volcano’s 1815 eruption was Indonesia’s biggest and one of the world’s most destructive in historical times, killing an estimated 50,000-90,000 people, destroying the kingdoms of Tambora and Papegat, and causing crop failures on neighboring Bali and Lambok. Lingering clouds of ash led to global cooling and created “the year without a summer” in many areas throughout the world, including the United States.


By Brennen Jensen

Some 10,000 miles away-and more than 180 years ago-that led to what was dubbed “the year without a summer.” In June 1816, according to media reports, it snowed in Vermont. In July of that year, ice as “thick as common window pane” formed in Pennsylvania. And that August, killer frosts decimated Maine crops.

It all started in a very warm place-the tropical Indonesian island of Sumbawa, home to a slumbering giant known as Mount Tambora. In April 1815, the giant woke up with a vengeance, exploding in what’s been described as the greatest volcanic eruption in recorded history. The roar of the blast was heard more than 550 miles away, and clouds of airborne ash turned day into night for hundreds of miles around. Thousands of islanders perished from the direct effects of Tambora’s epic blast, but the cataclysm’s nefarious and long-term doings spread far beyond its equatorial epicenter. Though meteorologists of the day (such as they were) didn’t make the connection, many scientists today conclude that the sun-blocking ash Tambora hurled into the upper atmosphere (more than 100 times the amount of particulate matter that Mount St. Helens spewed in its 1980 eruption) was to blame for the freakishly cold summer of 1816. The year was colloquially referred to as “eighteen hundred and froze to death.”




To add to the difficulties of the settlers after the War of 1812, came the cold summer of 1816. Peace encouraged a large influx of settlers in the Spring, money was scarce and a short crop in 1815 left little or no grain in store. Provisions were extremely expensive.

There were frosts each month, snow fell late in May and there was freezing weather as late as June. The stunted new crop did very little to relieve the pressure. On August 17, 1816, flour sold in Buffalo for $15 a barrel and two days later there was not a barrel available to the Viillage.

People who lived where game was still numerous were more fortunate. Chrisfield Johnson, writer of the Centennial History of Erie County, tells this story about Josiah Thompson, a famous hunter in the southern part of Erie County. “He said that during the winter after the cold summer, when many families were almost starving, men would come to him for the loan of his rifle to kill deer. But, like many hunters, he held his rifle as something sacred. His invariable reply was that he would willingly kill a deer for the seeker, and did so time and again. He stated that he had frequently, after killing deer all of one day, had a good sled load to draw the next day. Not only deer, but bears and wolves fell before his unerring rifle. On one occasion, he met five bears and killed them. But his most remarkable feat was when he went out after supper and killed eighteen deer before quitting for the night.” (Nimrods of today, who are fortunate if they get one deer trophy a year, take no- tice: this was a short evening. Daylight saving time was not to come for over a century.)


1816: The Year without a Summer

A New Hampshire Perspective

by Eric Werme

Several cold spells in May 1816 delayed the start of the planting season. June began well, but crops were lost in a cold spell between the 5th and 11th. Snow accumulated throughout all but southernmost New Hampshire. A warm spell starting the last third of June provided hope that summer had arrived, but a killing frost on July 9th dashed that hope. The rest of the month was warmer, but didn’t equal the warmest days of June. A warming trend in August abruptly ended with frost on the 21st and a worse one on the 30th.

Some crops did well, apple and pear harvests were very good, perhaps due in part to the cold weather being hard on insect pests. Potatoes did well too. Some people were able to raise a good crop of wheat, and they were rewarded with prices that were double that of normal years. Increased farm efficiencies have exceeded inflation – the high price was never equaled until the 1970s.


Quoted from the NYS Allegany County history website;



Former Town of Andover HistorianUnited States.Vermont farmer sent a flock of sheep to pasture the day before. The morning of the 17th dawned with the thermometer below the freezing point. At about nine o’clock in the morning, the owner of the sheep started out to look for his flock. Before leaving home he turned to his wife and said jokingly: “Better start after the neighbors soon, it’s the middle of June and I may get lost in the snow.”Vermont owned a large field of corn. He built a fire every night, he and his men took turns in keeping up the fire and watching that the corn did not freeze. The farmer was rewarded for his tireless labors by having the only crop in the region.New England, New York and some parts of the state of Pennsylvania. Indian corn, which in some parts of the east struggled through May and June, gave up, froze and died.Europe was blasted with frost. Snow fell at Barnet, 30 miles from London, England, on August 30th. Newspapers received from England stated that 1816 would be remembered by the existing generations as the year in which there was no summer. Very little corn ripened in New England. There was great privation, and thousands of persons would have perished in the country had it not been for the abundance of fish and wild game.Hull family, of which Elder N. V. Hull was a member, suffered greatly the lack of food, and Elder Hull could not speak of those days without the tears coming to his eyes. The children who went to school were so weak that it was an effort to get around. One day some one gave the family a ham bone, from which the best part of the meat had been taken. This the mother boiled, and cooked some dried peas in the water, and on their return from school, the children sat down to a feast. The often spoke in later years of how GOOD this soup tasted.


Article loaned by Mabel Halsey McCormick

Submitted by William A. Greene 2007

Former Town of Andover Historian Margaret P. Wood compiled the following story in 1930 from old newspaper clipping she had.

I have added a few extra notes and stories from the “Greene Genealogy”, “History of Town of Alfred, New York” by Cortez R. Clawson, and from “Allegany and Its People 1896” by W. A. Fergusson & Co., that pertain only to Allegany County.

I’ll start with Margaret Wood’s story.

Old diary tells of snow and ice for an entire summer

With crops all destroyed by frost 1816

A year in which there was no summer – the summer less year of 1816 when frost, snow and ice continued through June, July and August – is described in diaries kept almost 190 years ago. To those who wonder whether the odd variety of climate now being served by the Weather man presages a summer as abnormal as the past winter has been, accounts of the weather of 1816 give warning, at least, that such is possible.

The following account of summer less summer following a winter less winter is based upon a diary begun in 1810 and continued without break until 1840. According to weather data for 1816, unusual weather was experienced that year throughout the northern and eastern parts of the

According to the ancient diary, January was so mild that most persons allowed their fires to go out and didn’t burn wood except for cooking. There were a few cold days but they were very few. Most of the time the air was warm and spring-like. February was not cold. Some days were colder than in January, but the weather was about the same.

March from the first to the sixth was inclined to be windy. It came in like a small lion and went out like a very innocent little sheep.

April came in warm, but as the days grew longer, the air became colder, and by the first of May there was temperature like that of winter, with plenty of snow and ice. In May the young buds were frozen dead, ice formed half an inch thick on ponds and rivers, corn was killed and the cornfields were planted again until it was too late to raise a crop. When the last of May arrived in 1816 everything had been killed by the cold.

June was the coldest month the roses ever experienced in this latitude.

Planting and shivering were done together and the farmers who worked out their taxes on the country roads wore their overcoat and mittens.

On June 17th there was a heavy fall of snow. A

An hour after he had left home a terrific snowstorm came up. The snow fell thick and fast, and as there was so much wind, the fleecy masses piled up. Night came and the farmer had not been heard from.

His wife became frightened and alarmed the neighborhood. All the neighbors joined the searching party. On the third day they found him. He was lying in a hollow on the side of a hill with both feet frozen; he was half covered with snow, but alive. Most of the sheep were alive.

A farmer near Tweksbury in

July came with snow and ice as thick as window glass formed throughout

To the surprise of everybody, August was the worst of all. Almost everything green in this country and

It was written in “Allegany and Its People”, 1816 was and is known as “the cold season.” According to all accounts it was in deed a very cold one; frosts occurring in every month in the year, shortened the crops to a mere nothing, but the most pinching times came on the next year.

The prospects were dreary when 1817 dawned. In addition to the hard times, which closely succeeded the war, was the general shortage of the limited area of crops. The condition of some of those settlers, who had no teams nor other means to get out to the older settlements for corn and wheat, before harvest became distressing if not alarming. With some, leeks (wild onions) were a blessing being some degrees better than nothing as food. Groundnuts and “putty root” also helped. In cases of dire necessity potatoes that had been planted were dug up and eaten. Ripening grain was eagerly watched, some of the earliest to ripen was harvested, cured as quickly as possible for threshing, placed in a large kettle over a fire and briskly stirred to get in a condition to grind, then hurried off to the nearest mill. Some of the old settlers used to claim in all sincerity that the sweetest cakes and best bread they ever tasted, was made from flour thus prepared.


The following was taken from the Alfred History book.

The year 1816 is known as the “starving year: of as one has called it “the year without a summer.” The winter was unusually mild but snow fell and ice formed every month in the year. Vegetation as a result, was mainly destroyed. Great suffering and privation prevailed throughout the little hamlet of Alfred Centre. Relying so largely upon the products of the soil for food, the killing frost of this year deprived the settlers of their main source of supply. It was almost impossible to procure food of any kind and those who had larger supplies on hand generously shared with their less fortunate neighbors. It is said that food was so scarce that had it not been for the help provided through the Land Office many would have died from starvation. There are those living today in the vicinity of Alfred who remember very distinctly having heard accounts of how strong men, deprived of nourishing food, were so weakened that they were incapacitated for manual labor. Mothers would place before their children the last morsel of food the little log cabin contained, and the would shed tears in contemplation of their dire necessity not knowing how nor from what source the next meal would be provided.

These were trying time for the pioneers. It is hard for us living today, surrounded as we are by so many comforts, to appreciate the trying situations to which our forefather were exposed. With their lives consecrated to a high purpose, through hardship and surroundings unknown today, they laid deep the foundations upon which later generations were to build.

This is taken from the Greene Genealogy: The years of 1816 – 17 were truly a time of famine. While no one seems to have starved to death, hunger “stalked the land”, the Sabbatarians (Seventh-day Baptists), almost to a man, got hungrier and hungrier and thinner, to a point that it was said that “seven Sabbatarians could sit in a sap bucket”. At least they didn’t lose entirely their sense of humor. Crops failed to come up, or to grow and wild life was scarce, as they didn’t have food either. There were few if any Indians in the area, as the Indian power had been broken by Sullivan’s march across the Southern Tier during the last year of the Revolutionary War. But the next year, things began to improve, and the “Starving Time” became but a bitter memory.


The volcano is called Tambora, and according to University of Rhode Island volcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson, the eruption is one of the most overlooked in recorded history.

Tambora’s explosion was 10 times bigger than Krakatoa and more than 100 times bigger than Vesuvius or Mount St. Helens. Approximately 100,000 died in its shadow



By Anthony Tully

Fortunately, despite the primitive conditions prevailing on the island, via Lt. Phillips, we do indeed possess one eyewitness account from the Rajah of Sangir. Sangir was on the north shore of Sumbawa, just to the east of Tambora’s peninsula, less than twenty-five miles from the summit. The Rajah was in his village at the time of the eruption, he told Phillips, and in fact witnessed its climatic acceleration and effect. As such, his report is incredibly valuable. Moreover, allowing for the inexperience and comprehension of the witness, the Rajah of Sangir’s words show – to the volcanologist – a remarkable and likely trustworthy immediacy and clarity. He stated that “about 7pm on the 10th of April, three distinct columns of flame burst forth near the top of Tomboro mountain (all of them apparently within the verge of the crater), and after ascending to a very great height, their tops united in the air in a troubled and confused manner.” The words “troubled and confused manner” are a singularly vivid and accurate description of the volcanic ash clouds that boil upward from paroxysmal eruptions. He next says “In a short time, the whole mountain next to Sangir appeared like a body of liquid fire, extending itself in every direction. The fire and columns of flame continued to rage with unabated fury, until the darkness caused by the quantity of falling matter obscured it at about 8pm.” Hence, within an hour of the primary outbreak, the falling ash has obscured the summit from view. This too is consistent with such eruptions, and vouches for its reliability. The “liquid fire” is almost certainly pyroclastic surges rather than true lava flows, but this point cannot be proven.

As the Rajah and his people watched in consternation, “stones” (volcanic bombs and lapilli) began to fall on Sangir, “some of them as large as two fists, but generally not larger than walnuts”. Between 9 and 10pm ashes began to fall, and “and soon after a violent whirlwind ensued which blew down nearly every house in the village of Sangir, carrying the ataps, or roofs, and light parts away with it. In the part of Sangir adjoining [facing] Tomboro its effects were much more violent, tearing up the roots of the largest trees and carrying them into the air, together with men, horses, cattle, and whatever else came within its influence. The sea rose nearly twelve feet higher than it had ever been known to do before, and completely spoiled the the only small spots of rice land at Sangir, sweeping away houses and everything within its reach. The whirlwind lasted about an hour. No explosions were heard till the whirlwind had ceased, at about 11pm.”

Whatever atmospheric phenomena caused the absence of explosion sounds during the whirlwind, it ended with it. Starting about an hour before midnight, stupendously loud explosions were heard, “from midnight to the evening of the 11th, they continued without intermission”! Given the conditions prevailing in Sangir, the plight of the villages actually on Tambora’s flanks and the peninsula could only be imagined. In fact, they were scenes out of the end of the world, with “great tracts of land being covered by lava, several streams of which”, issuing from the summit of the disintegrating mountain “reached the sea.” In several places, whole portions of land suddenly subsided, and were swallowed by the inrushing sea.

The blanket of ashes was so heavy that they collapsed the roofs of the Resident’s and many other dwellings in Bima and rendered them uninhabitable. The Dompu Palace at Dora Bata was also buried with ash. At Bima the thickness of ash was later found to be one and a half feet deep, but at Sangir much nearer to the volcano it was three feet deep. “Although the wind at Bima was queerly still during the whole time, the sea rolled in upon the shore, and filled the lower parts of the houses with water a foot deep. Every boat was forced from the anchorage and driven on shore.” All around Sumbawa the neighboring islands reported similar odd pheonmena, as “the sea rose suddenly to the height of from two to twelve feet, a great wave rushing upon the estuaries, and then suddenly subsiding.” On the adjacent island of Bali, the ash lay a foot deep as well

Throughout the night of the 10th and through the day of the 11th the mountain raged with an incredible fury and violence. As if sending a warning to the growing confidence and pride of western man, Mt. Tambora roared with an unbridled and unmatched defiance that rocked the entire East Indies. An eruption column of ash and dust boiled an incredible 28 miles into the sky, as lightning danced with the fury of dervishes amidst it.

The enigmatic detonations began again on the afternoon of April 11, and this time houses and buildings in Macassar began to actually shake. The warship Benares put to sea, heading southward to investigate. However, by noon on the 12th the sky had become almost opaque and almost filled with fine ash. Daylight was scarcely visible, as a stygian darkness descended. Native village shamans proudly and confidently declared that the old gods had burst forth and were about to drive the Europeans from Indonesia. As it happened, nothing of the sort occurred, and after three days the skies gradually brightened again. The thundering ceased abruptly.

Finally the eruption’s fury began to wane late on the 11th, the sharp and loud detonations moderating and “heard only at intervals”. But on the 12th far to the west of Sumbawa, floating pumice still formed a mass two feet thick and miles in extent! So thick was it that ships had difficulty breaking through the drifting mass.

In Java, the “haziness and heat of the atmosphere, and occasional fall of volcanic ashes, continued until the 14th, and in some parts of the island until the 17th of April”. However, the Javanese were lucky: heavy and timely falls of rain ensued, helping to wash away the ash and clear the sky so that severe injury to crops and outbreaks of epidemic were avoided. Alas for the Sumbawans, there would be no such reprieve.. At last, on July 15, 1815, the last explosions ceased. The skies cleared, and revealed was a Dantesque panorama of destruction and ruin.

The loss of life and destruction was appalling. Of the thriving village-towns in the province of Tomboro near the mountain, comprising some 12,000 inhabitants, only small Tempo and its forty inhabitants remained. All the others had been obliterated by whirlwinds or engulfed as frightening subsidences of land occurred. No trace remained of the villages of Tomboro and Pekate, and “no vestige of a house” was left. During the eruption, the town of Tomboro on the west side of Sumbawa had been “overflowed by the sea, which encroached upon the shore so that water remained permanently 18 feet deep in places where there was land before.” Only five or six from both towns were known to have even survived. Of the others only twenty-six badly burned people of a party out from Pekate managed to paddle their canoes away from the peninsula and survive. The devastation was concentrated on the north and west sides of the peninsula of the mountain, the “trees and herbage of every description, along the whole of the north and west sides…” had been “completely destroyed, with the exception of a high point of land near the spot where the village of Tomboro once stood.” Out at sea, there was huge mass of floating trees littering the surface of the water for miles around the peninsula.

Nor were conditions much better in the eastern part of the island around Bima. Famine of extraordinary and severe intensity broke out, taking the lives of thousands. Having arrived on Sumbawa and writing from Bima about August 3, Lt. Phillips reported: “The extreme misery to which the inhabitants have been reduced is shocking to behold. There were still on the road side the remains of several corpses, and the marks of where many others had been interred; the villages almost entirely deserted and the houses fallen down, the surviving inhabitants having dispersed in search of food.” The famine was so severe in Sangir, Phillips reported, that even one of the Rajah of Sangir’s [the learned eyewitness who described the eruption above] own daughters had died from hunger. Phillips gave the man three coyangs of rice, for which he was most thankful, but such help paled before the disaster engulfing the Dutch East Indies.

For the ash cloud covered and destroyed crops throughout the archipelago, giving rise to insects that destroyed the plants at the root. Mass famine broke out, and on Lombok Island the ash killed everything growing on the island. With all vegatation dead, the majority of the island’s inhabitants of 37,000 people died of starvation.

Another Interesting book, The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin.

The blizzard of 1888 struck on January 12 in North Central North America. The hardest hit was Nebraska and Dakota Territory.

The first mild day in weeks and the children went to school without coats.

I three minutes during the morning recess temperature dropped 18°, by night it was –40 below and more than a hundred children were dead.

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