Because the Year Without a Summer (1816) was a tough year to grow crops, the oats used to feed horses were in short supply and were very expensive. The high price of oats may have inspired Karl Drais to invent a mode of transportation that did not require a horse. His invention: the bicycle. Unlike bicycles today, Drais' version did not have peddles.
Illustration from French patent
The Year Without a Summer
Odd things happened during the summer of 1816. Snow fell in New England. Clouds and gloomy cold rains covered Europe. The weather didn’t seem like summer weather at all. It was cold and stormy and dark. The year became known as “The Year Without a Summer.”
The reason for the lack of summer weather in Europe and North America could be found on the other side of the planet - at Indonesia’s Mount Tambora.
On April 5, 1815, Mount Tambora, a volcano, started to rumble with activity. Then, it erupted for four months, the largest eruption in recorded history. Many people close to the volcano lost their lives. Mount Tambora ejected so much ash and aerosols into the atmosphere that the sky darkened and people could not see the Sun. These particles spread through the atmosphere over the following months and had a worldwide effect on climate. Earth’s average global temperature dropped three degrees Celsius. The effect was temporary. Eventually, ash and aerosols released by the volcano fell out of the atmosphere, allowing the sunshine through.
The change in climate during the year without a summer had many impacts in Europe and North America. The cold weather and lack of sunshine made it difficult to grow crops, increasing the price of food. The price of oats increased making it more expensive for people to feed their horses. Since horses were the way people got from one place to another, expensive oats meant that the cost of travel increased. This may have helped inspire a German man named Karl Drais to invent a way to get around without a horse: the bicycle.
The gloomy summer weather also inspired writers. During that summer-less summer, three British writers were on vacation in Switzerland. Trapped indoors by constant rain and gloomy skies, the writers described the bleak, dark environment of the time in their own ways. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, a horror novel set in an often stormy environment. Lord Byron wrote the poem Darkness, which begins, “I had a dream, which was not all a dream. The bright sun was extinguish’d.”
Last modified July 18, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
The Winter 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist
, focuses on Earth System science, including articles on student inquiry, differentiated instruction, geomorphic concepts, the rock cycle, and much more!
You might also be interested in:
Ash is made of millions of tiny fragments of rock and glass formed during a volcanic eruption. Volcanic ash particles are less than 2 mm in size and can be much smaller. Volcanic ash forms in several ways...more
When you look up at the sky, you are looking at more than just air. There are also billions of tiny bits of solid and liquid floating in the atmosphere. Those tiny floating particles are called aerosols...more
The Little Ice Age was a time of cooler climate in most parts of the world. Although there is some disagreement about exactly when the Little Ice Age started, records suggest that temperatures began cooling...more
Looking for online content that can be used for a climate change education course or module? Pages linked below can be used to support an introductory climate change education for either a unit or a full...more
Leaders from 192 countries are meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark December 7-18, 2009 to decide how the world will deal with climate change. They are trying to decide how to limit the amount of greenhouse...more
The climate where you live is called regional climate. It is the average weather in a place over more than thirty years. To describe the regional climate of a place, people often tell what the temperatures...more
Even though only a tiny amount of the gases in Earth’s atmosphere are greenhouse gases, they have a huge effect on climate. There are several different types of greenhouse gases. The major ones are carbon...more