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The year 1816 had no summer; this year, we had no winter

The year 1816 had no summer; this year, we had no winter

Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 11:51 am
By: By Jimmy Williams

The year 1816 has been termed “the year without a summer.” That was a while before I was born, so I don’t remember it.
However, records show that the northeastern United States experienced snow in summer months, and lake and river ice formed in July and August in Pennsylvania. Needless to say, crops failed and famine was common.
Europe suffered the same fate and beggars traveled from Wales searching for food. Riots, arson and looting took place in many European cities (what else is new?) by starving people looking for relief.
Authorities surmise that several historic volcano eruptions in the world were the cause, the resulting ash drifting widely and blotting out sunlight. To make matters worse, the following winter was one of the worst in history. Temperatures dropped to 29 degrees below zero in New York City, freezing the upper bay thick enough to drive horse-drawn sleighs over it.
One meager silver lining to those clouds was the invention of the velocipede, the ancestor of the bicycle, by German Karl Drais. Failed oat crops caused widespread starvation of horses, leading to Drais’ idea of horseless conveyance. All that to say this, and draw a comparison: our late, unlamented “winter” was no winter at all. Lowest temperature recorded was 16 degrees above, not below, zero, and that only momentarily.
The last (semi) hard freeze we experienced was way back in February, just before a historic March that set thousands of high temperature records all across the nation.
The abnormal heat continued right into April, until Jack Frost made a wimpy attempt at damage, but he just didn’t have what it took, and the resulting 29 degrees a few weeks ago went almost unnoticed.
So, everybody asks, what will summer bring? Who knows? It could be horrendous or it could be like a few — very few — we have had in the past when temperatures never exceeded 90 degrees. (We even saw that once in March this year.)
Ominously, however, it must be noted that we’ve had some dry spells already, and who has forgotten last summer’s killer drought, in a year that saw almost double the average rainfall?
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.

Published in The Messenger 5.08.12


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