The Year Without a Summer


The weather seems to be terrible these days. From winter snow storms and blizzards, the tsunami in Japan, straight through springs massive tornadoes in the south to weeks on end of rain and no sunshine in the Midwest.

Columbus Ohio’s high temperatures on both Monday May 16th (49 degrees) and Tuesday May 17th (51 degrees) broke a 96 year old record. The last time temperatures were this low was in May, 1915. Records were also broken in both Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio those two days.

In April of this year Columbus set a record for most rain ever for an April. We had eight inches of the wet stuff.

This year has certainly been one for the record books.

What is happening???  Global warming? The end of the earth? The Mayan Prediction?

Even though the weather has been bad, this year is not the worst weather ever in the United States.

Take the year 1816 for example.

People called that year The Year Without a Summer.

There were severe climate ‘abnormalities’ that year too. And with far worse consequences.

According to Wikipedia, in 1816  it was so cold there was no growing season for crops. This caused severe food shortages across the Northern hemisphere and Northern Europe. Severest hit was north eastern United States and Canada. This area had snow in June and frost in July. According to Wikipedia, “In July and August, lake and river ice were observed as far south as Pennsylvania.”

The Weather Doctor has the most comprhensive acount of the year I could find. It includes an almost day by day accounting of the history of that year complete with eye witness accounts,  newspaper accounts, meteorological records, crop reports and records, livestock reports, diary entires and a few pictures. It is worth it to visit this site and read a bit. Very interesting.

The following account of June 6, 1816  by Benjamin Harwood, a Bennington, Vermont farmer is reprinted with written Permission from  The Weather Doctor, Keith C. Heidorn, Ph.D. 

“It had rained much during the night and this morning the wind blew exceedingly high from NE, raining copiously, chilling and sharp gusts. About 8 A.M. began to snow–continued more or less till past 2 P.M. The heads of all the mountains on every side were crowned with snow. The most gloomy and extraordinary weather ever seen.”

How bad was the food shortage that year? Again from, The Weather Doctor:

Former Revolutionary War General David Humphreys was, in 1816, President of the Connecticut Society of Agriculture. He summed up the situation as:

“The principal injury done by the early and late frosts, fell on our most important crop, Indian corn. Of this, there is not more than half the usual quantity; and, in many places in this neighbourhood, not more than a quarter part sufficiently hard and ripe for being manufactured into meal. That which is unripe, mouldy or soft, when given as feed to hogs and cattle, has little tending to fatten them.”

Reports of orchard yields ranged from barren to moderate. The very small hay crop left prospects for winter fodder most alarming. Small grains and wheat harvests were reported good across New England. From Montreal, came accounts of a middling crop of vegetables and fair wheat crop, leaving the fear that many parishes in Quebec must inevitably be in a state of famine before winter set in.

What caused weather to be so cold during this period. Most likely, volcanoes. There had been several large volcanoes in the five years previous. But the largest was in current day Indonesia at Mount Tambora. 

Again, from Wikipedia: “The eruption had a Volcanic Explosivity Index ranking of 7, a super-colossal event that ejected immense amounts of volcanic dust into the upper atmosphere. It was the world’s largest eruption since the Hatepe eruption over 1,630 years earlier in AD 180.”

That volcano plus low solar activity that year evidently created a ‘perfect storm’ scenario that set off the cold wave.

Back in February of this year the Wall Street Journal ran an article that weather was not getting any weirder nor storms any more extreme by historical standards than in previous years.

“The Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project is the latest attempt to find out, using super-computers to generate a dataset of global atmospheric circulation from 1871 to the present.


…researchers have yet to find evidence of more-extreme weather patterns over the period, contrary to what the models predict.”

So while the weather is certainly worse than I have ever seen, it appears to be within the normal range for the planet given the dynamic nature of Mother Earth.

Might be our weather is  just the normal and natural fluctuations of a dynamic universe, solar system, and globe?

Much as I complain about the lack of sunshine this year, after reading about 1816 I am grateful this year’s weather is not as bad as my forebears experienced and suffered through in 1816.

And while food is increasing in cost partly due to the bad weather the last year, at least there is food. And for that I am grateful too.

Featured Recipe           Eggs with Rice and Soy Dressing

Today’s recipe is another Martha Stewart and Everyday Food magazine recipe. It is super simple and very delicious. I make brown rice with soy sauce and sesame seeds. But Martha Stewart takes this concept and takes it to new heights of deliciousness.

First she adds Toasted Sesame Seed Oil. Then she adds fresh lemon juice. And then there is the egg. She also uses white rice. Oh my!!!! Oh my!!!!! Quite frankly, she had me at Toasted Sesame Seed oil.

And to make things ever better, this is so super easy it is unbelievable.

The cost is best of all though as this dish comes in under $1.00 per serving.

I only made enough for two people, but I give you the full recipe for four. There is no difference in directions.

This is what you will need for 4 people:

1½ cups long grain white rice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons lemon juice

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes*

4 hard cooked eggs

4 scallions, green parts only

1 teaspoon butter for the rice

*I omitted this ingredient

Here is what you do:

Prepare the rice according to package directions. The rice should take about 20 minutes or so to cook.

Hard boil the egg. Cover the eggs with cold water and heat till bubbles begin to form. Remove from heat source, cover and let sit 10-15 minutes. Cool in cold water. Then peel.

At some point in time you will have “Wait Time.” That is the eggs are off the heat cooking in the hot water and the rice is not yet done.

During this Wait Time cut the green parts of the onion on the diagonal.

Also prepare the dressing by mixing the soy sauce, sesame seed oil, lemon juice and the red pepper flakes if using all together.

When the rice is cooked and the eggs are hard boiled and peeled, slice the eggs into quarters.

Divide the rice into four bowls, top with some egg slices, add some of the green onion, and drizzle some of the dressing over it all.



1½ cups long grain white rice           $0.72

2 tablespoons soy sauce                   $0.36

2 teaspoons lemon juice                   $0.18

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes           $0.22

4 hard cooked eggs                          $0.48

4 scallions, green parts only              $0.56*

1 teaspoon butter for the rice            $0.05

*Remember, you are only using the green parts. You will have the onion to use in another meal.

Total cost = $2.57
Cost per person = $0.64
Quote of the Day

Weather is a great metaphor for life – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella. 

Terri Guillemets


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3 comments to The Year Without a Summer

  • […] can’t help but wonder if the men, women, and children in 1816,  The Year Without a Summer,  would have turned their noses up at canned foods and preservatives during that harsh, cold […]

  • Virginia Urbach

    Hi Roberta, as a Filipino we like our rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is as simple as it gets. Rice with soy sauce and eggs and scallions. I am sharing. Happy New Year and hope you’re feeling better.

    • Roberta

      I like simplicity in food and life. And this recipe is among the best. Thanks for the well wishes on my cold. Happy New Year.