May 30 2013
Several days ago, a short article appeared in Spain’s version of The Local (an English language online news source). According to this report (link is below), European meteorologists are predicting the coldest summer in 200 years! In fact, the experts claim this year in Spain and other western European countries may rival that of 1816′s ‘year without a summer’. This is either hyperbole to sell papers, or if indeed the meteorologists used this comparison, then Europe should expect major crop failures.
The summer of 1816 saw record low temperatures across the northern hemisphere, including the United States. The northeastern US suffered the most, seeing frosts off and on throughout the ‘summer’ as late as August. Crop prices rose to the modern equivalent of more than $12 per bushel (roughly double today’s price for a bushel of corn)–and back then, corn served primarily as a source for food, not for fuel. Transportation in 1816 crawled compared to today’s zooming pace, so importing grains from the south (where temperatures were a bit higher) added considerably to the cost. It was a summer that winnowed out the poor and downtrodden.
Will this year be another ‘year without a summer’? It certainly is starting off with below average temps, but we’re not seeing late spring frosts here in Illinois. In 1816, the determined cause for that horrible summer was two-pronged: a quiet sun and a massive volcanic explosion in what is now called Sumbawa, Indonesia (Mount Tambora, then part of the Dutch East Indies). This was (at the time), the largest volcanic eruption since 180 A.D.–about 1600 years before!
Are meteorologists in Europe really expecting a summer with such dire straits? A quick look at Accuweather shows a prediction of ‘Mild and Dry’ for Spain (no frosts mentioned). Thomas Ruppert, a German meteorologist who predicts mild and rainy added this caveat: “…weather predictions for the whole summer very difficult and not science-based.”