1816 the Year without Summer vs. "Darkness" by Lord Byron: Natural or Artificial?

As you might have heard, the year of 1816 is known for being one of the coldest in our recent history. It is known under different names such as the Year Without a Summer, the Poverty Year, and Eighteen Hundred and Froze To Death. Severe climate abnormalities caused average global temperatures to decrease by 0.4–0.7 °C (0.7–1.3 °F). Remember these numbers for we are going to need those later.


This resulted in major food shortages across the Northern Hemisphere. The Year Without a Summer was an agricultural disaster. The climatic aberrations of 1816 had the greatest effect on most of North America, Western Europe and Asia (China). (Notice how Russia is not included here)

I am not going to dive into the details. This 1816 was apparently cold enough to kill hundreds of thousands of people, destroy agriculture and distinguish itself in history by getting its own Wikipedia page. Below are a few links for your convenience. There are a lot of mind blowing details about the scale of the disaster.
In general, there was enough temperature related shenanigans between 16th and mid-19th centuries to justify the name they received: Little Ice Age.

Mount Tambora Volcanic Eruption
Of course, our scientists determined the cause of this drastic 1816 temperature change. The aberrations are now generally thought to have occurred because of the April 5–15, 1815, Mount Tambora volcanic eruption on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia. The eruption had a volcanic explosivity index (VEI) ranking of 7, a colossal event that ejected at least 100 km3 (24 cu mi) of material.


The eruption column reached the stratosphere at an altitude of more than 43 kilometres (141,000 ft). The coarser ash particles settled out one to two weeks after the eruptions, but the finer ash particles stayed in the atmosphere from a few months to a few years at altitudes of 10–30 kilometres (33,000–98,000 ft). Longitudinal winds spread these fine particles around the globe, creating optical phenomena. Prolonged and brilliantly coloured sunsets and twilights were seen frequently in London between 28 June and 2 July 1815 and 3 September and 7 October 1815. The glow of the twilight sky typically appeared orange or red near the horizon and purple or pink above.


So, just where did this direct link between the year 1816 weather and Mount Tambora eruption come from. Here is what NASA has to say about this "direct link".

A century and a half later, American oceanographer Henry Stommel and his wife, Elizabeth, published an article in 1979's Scientific American entitled “The Year Without a Summer.” They suggested that the eruption had caused a severe summertime cold snap during 1816 that resulted in killer frosts in New England and Europe. Soaring food prices and famine followed the frosts, to the degree that 1816 was also nicknamed “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.”

Henry Stommel
Sep 27, 1920 – Jan 17, 1992
oceanographer Henry Stommel.jpg
The Stommels were revisiting an old controversy: can volcanic eruptions change the climate? The issue had first been taken up by scientists in 1901, when a pair of Swiss researchers proposed that the dust thrown up by a series of large volcanic eruptions could have caused the ice ages, by blocking out the Sun’s rays. However, they had no evidence to support their hypothesis. Despite the giant eruption of the island of Krakatau in Indonesia in 1883, and subsequent in-depth studies of the event, world temperature data hadn’t been collected.

The 1912 eruption of Mt. Katmai in Alaska motivated a number of others to probe the volcano-climate connection. Charles Greeley Abbott measured the sunlight reduction caused by Katmai’s eruption;
William Jackson Humphreys, meanwhile, went back to the records of the Krakatoa and Tambora explosions. He concluded that Tambora was responsible for the subsequent cooling.

William Humphreys
Feb 3, 1862 – Nov 10, 1949

Small Summary: Naturally we have an event of 1816 being blamed on a volcano which erupted in 1815. And all this was initially suggested in 1912, which is 96 years after the actual "Year Without Summer".

I will allow myself a few comments here. First of all, I find it very strange, that Google Ngram gives us nothing for "Cold Summer 1816", or "eighteen hundred and starve to death". Secondly, the first mentioning of the "year without summer", or "year without a summer" pertains to 1882.


I do not understand why 65 years later in 1882, an event of 1816 acquires its own name. Who was out there to remember a couple cold summers from over half a century ago to the point of giving those summers their own name? This little article is from 1882 Donahoe's Magazine - Volume 6 - Page 452.

There are two interesting parts to the above cutout. The one pertaining to the summer of 1816 appears to instruct people that the cold summer took place in 1816. Looks like people back then had a very different idea of when the cold summer actually happened. They had to be "reminded" that whatever year they had in mind had to be replaced with 1816. The second part is a non related coincidental article about 30-33 foot Giants.


William G. Atkins, “History of Hawley”
West Cummington, Massachusetts -1887

1815 Tambora Eruption vs. Summer of 1816
Here is a bit from the official version of the Tambora Volcano Eruption, "The eruption column reached the stratosphere at an altitude of more than 43 kilometres (141,000 ft). The coarser ash particles settled out one to two weeks after the eruptions, but the finer ash particles stayed in the atmosphere from a few months to a few years at altitudes of 10–30 kilometres (33,000–98,000 ft). Longitudinal winds spread these fine particles around the globe, creating optical phenomena."

Basically, the general idea is that volcanic eruption which took place in April of 1815 wreaked havoc in North America and Europe in the summer of 1816. The Mount Tambora is located in the Southern hemisphere. The official version leads us to believe that "finer" particles stayed in the atmosphere and traveled all the way to North America and Europe. This is between 7100 and 8300 miles.

Mount Tambora_Scale_7100miles-2.jpg

The particles were able to spread around the globe due to atmospheric longitudinal winds. Unfortunately such a route does not appear to be possible due to the Atmospheric Wind Pattern. Those "finer particles" were supposed to settle down around the equator, if we were to believe our scientists - Atmospheric Circulation & Models.

Modern science clearly does not support the official reason of the "Year without Summer". And this so-called "official reason" does not explain how those "finer particles" were able to travel against the wind.

Additionally, the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo (largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century) also caused global temperatures to drop by about 0.5 °C (0.9 °F). The temperature drop occurred in the years 1991–93. Surprisingly neither 1991, nor 1992 are known as abnormally cold years. "Finer particles" chose not to travel half-way across the globe, and stayed local, causing moderate damages.


Surprisingly, this historic Tambora Eruption is not even recorded in the official timeline of Australian History: 1815, 1816. Yet Australia is only 650 miles away.

Mount Tambora_Scale_650miles.jpg

The Russian Exclusion of 1816
While North America, and Europe were freezing and starving to death by the hundreds of thousands, the Russian Empire was miraculously spared the honors. May be Gulf Stream got lost but things were seriously backwards.



Gibberish scientific language ensures that everything sounds credible, of course.
"Lists of famines in Russia show none in 1816. In 1817 there was a price rise in a limited area of the Empire. All-in-all, the Baltic Region had not suffered from Tambora's eruption unlike the lower mid-latitudes of Western and Central Europe. It is suggested that the Region, as well as the south of European Russia, were spared as they were crossed by air masses whose stratosphere had become depopulated of small volcanic particles, while the troposphere became cleansed of particles through washout by rain previously." - The 1810s in the Baltic region, 1816 in particular: Air temperatures, grain supply and mortality

Travellers in Russia, 1816
Travellers in Russia, 1816.jpg


What a bizarre selective "finer particle" pattern happened in 1816. Yet, with Russia spared, we know nothing of any mass exodus from Europe to Russia in 1816-1819. I guess ingenious creators of the Industrial Revolution were not smart enough to figure out where the crops were still growing, and summers were warm. And while this article does mention people fleeing to Russia, I was unable to find any evidence supporting the claim.

KD Tambora Eruption opinion: With the real reason behind the "year without summer" hidden from the general public, the volcanic eruption of the Tambora Mountain was used to explain the drastic weather changes of 1816.

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
Meanwhile a few people were "vacationing" together in Switzerland from about May 20 to approximately October 10 of 1816. Those people were: Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont and John Polidori. Byron suggested that each member of the party should write a ghost story. Mary Shelley wrote her Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. John Polidori wrote The Vampyre (published in 1819). Among several things written by Lord Byron himself was his poem "Darkness". I think this poem is very telling when we consider the "year without summer".

By Lord Byron (George Gordon)
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd,
And men were gather'd round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other's face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;
Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour
They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks
Extinguish'd with a crash—and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd
And twin'd themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought—and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devour'd,
Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lur'd their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer'd not with a caress—he died.
The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they rak'd up,
And shivering scrap'd with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other's aspects—saw, and shriek'd, and died—
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd
They slept on the abyss without a surge—
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before;
The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them—She was the Universe.​

1816, the year in which the poem was written, was called "the year without summer", as strange weather and an inexplicable darkness caused record-cold temperatures across Europe, especially in Geneva. Byron claimed to have received his inspiration for the poem, saying he "wrote it... at Geneva, when there was a celebrated dark day, on which the fowls went to roost at noon, and the candles were lighted as at midnight". The search for a cause of the strange changes in the light of day only grew as scientists discovered sunspots on the sun so large that they could be seen with the naked eye. Newspapers such as the London Chronicle reported on the panic:

“The large spots which may now be seen upon the sun's disk have given rise to ridiculous apprehensions and absurd predictions. These spots are said to be the cause of the remarkable and wet weather we have had this Summer; and the increase of these spots is represented to announce a general removal of heat from the globe, the extinction of nature, and the end of the world.”

A scientist in Italy even predicted that the sun would go out on 18 July, shortly before Byron's writing of "Darkness". His "prophecy" caused riots, suicides, and religious fervour all over Europe. For example:

"A Bath girl woke her aunt and shouted at her that the world was ending, and the woman promptly plunged into a coma. In Liege, a huge cloud in the shape of a mountain hovered over the town, causing alarm among the "old women" who expected the end of the world on the eighteenth. In Ghent, a regiment of cavalry passing through the town during a thunderstorm blew their trumpets, causing "three-fourths of the inhabitants" to rush forth and throw themselves on their knees in the streets, thinking they had heard the seventh trumpet."

Byron also uses the hellish biblical language of the apocalypse to carry the real possibility of these events to his readers. The whole poem can be seen as a reference to Matthew 24:29: “the sun shall be darkened.” In line 32 it describes men “gnash their teeth” at the sky, a clear biblical parallel of hell.
- Source

It appears Byron and Co got stuck on a lake in Geneva for 5 months without any possibility of leaving.

So, what disaster immortalized by Lord Byron happened in, supposedly, 1816? Europe and North America are in a pickle, struggling to understand what was happening. Nearby is the Russian Empire oblivious to the rest of the world dying of starvation. Simultaneously, Russia appears to suffer a pretty significant loss described in one of my previous articles: What happened to the Siberian forests 200 years ago?


Is "history" diverting our attention from the area where some possible answers could be located? Should we turn to Russia for the cataclysmic causes of this event? Could all the "finer particles" come from the wiped out Siberian region? And could this be a man caused disaster?

Yet, something tells me that 1816 might not be the true year of the event. Between the Google Ngram data and the wording of the articles, there might be hidden yet another mystery; the one pertaining to the chronological shift.


P.S. Strange enough, but around the same time Europeans start to re-discover the continent of Africa: 400 year old Sahara Desert, or why people forgot everything they knew about Africa.
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