The “Year Without Summer,” 1816, is one of those things that many people have heard of, but very few know anything substantive about. It was the largest environmental event of the Second Decade. Two volcanic eruptions, one from an unknown mountain in 1809 and the second the disastrous blast of Mt. Tambora in April 1815, filled the atmosphere with toxic particulates and triggered a period of global temporary climate change. But what was it like on the ground to the people who lived through it? What does the name “Year Without Summer” really mean, and what doesn’t it mean? Who noticed it first, and how? These are some of the many questions still swirling around this much-misunderstood event in environmental history.
In this episode, perhaps the touchstone of the entire podcast, historian Sean Munger will take you to the frigid roads of New England during an unseasonable blizzard, and the decks of ships sailing the South Pacific in conditions that baffled even the most seasoned mariners as well as many other places in the strange spring and early summer of 1816. This is the central story of the Second Decade, and as such connects with numerous other SD installments, such as Episode 7 (Tambora), 13 (Lincoln), 3 (Frost Fair) and 24 (Cold Friday). This is the first of a projected three-part miniseries on the topic.