|"Two Men by the Sea," by Caspar David Friedrich. Painted in 1817,
it shows how much the Mt. Tambora eruption darkened the European sky.
The effects of the Mt. Tambora eruption in 1815 weren't felt in Europe and North America until 1816 and lasted for a number of years. At the time, no one understood that the change in weather patterns was due to a volcanic eruption in the Dutch East Indies, almost 10,000 miles away. It wasn't until the last half of the 20th century that scientists conclusively demonstrated the global cooling effects of volcanic eruptions.
|"Landscape with Rainbow," also by Caspar David Friedrich. Painted in 1810,
this picture shows how clear the skies were before the volcanic event.
For Jane Austen, the summer of 1816 was rainy and miserable. Writing to her nephew about the weather that summer, she said “It is really too bad, & has been for a long time, much worse than anybody can bear, & I begin to think it will never be fine again.” She also recounted a conversation with a neighbor where she noted “of its’ being bad weather for the Hay – & he returned me the comfort of its’ being much worse for the Wheat.”
Justus von Liebig was only 13 years old and living in Darmstadt during the summer of 1816. He saw first-hand the famine-caused suffering, especially severe in Germany. The starvation he must have witnessed as a child surely influenced his life and inspired his work in agriculture to prevent future famines.
|Karl Drais on his invention in 1819
|Image from the 1831 edition of
Sources for this post include:
- The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History, by William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2013
- The Regency Years, During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love and Britain Becomes Modern, by Robert Morrison, W.W. Norton & Company, New York and London, 2019
- "Mount Tambora and the Year Without a Summer," UCAR Center for Science Education
Images courtesy of Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons