"All over the world, crops and animals died...People resorted to eating the unimaginable; straw, sawdust, moss...People went to war with each other over food...The effects were tragic...The US economy slowed because it was unable to produce food...Because of a limited food supply, inflation was present worldwide...It would take years for the global community to recover from the year without a summer."
The year of 1816 was known as the 'Year Without A Summer' after 'severe climate abnormalities' caused the average global temperature to plummet, resulting in major food shortages across the Northern Hemisphere. Not surprisingly, the year of 1816 was also known as the 'Poverty Year' as well as the year was actually nicknamed 'Eighteen Hundred And Froze To Death' after the massive 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, the largest volcanic eruption in the region in at least 1,300 years. We also learn from Wikipedia that the "Year Without a Summer" was an agricultural disaster and called "the last great subsistence crisis in the Western world". Keep in mind Mount Tambora is in the southern hemisphere, half a world away from the US, which was also hit hard by Tambora's eruption suffering food shortages and famine as outlined more below and below videos.
Why are we now witnessing such an uptick in volcanic activity all across the world and what does this hold for the future? Going back to the story of the year of 1816 offers us an interesting look at how one such extreme scenario decimated the human population as also shared in the 1st video below. In the 2nd video below from YouTube videographer DutchSinse we learn that volcanoes on both the East coast and the West coast of the United States have recently been hit by earthquakes including an ancient volcano in the state of Georgia of all places. In the final video below, Real Thing TV takes a look at all of the active volcanoes around the world right now, focusing on the 'ring of fire'. All of these events, especially what happened back in 1816, give 'preppers' another reason to prepare for the future.
Such a scenario as what happened in 1816 happening again could leave hundreds of thousands to millions of people dead over time. Immediate effects would consist of people moving away from their homes as farmlands are decimated, underground aquifers ruptured by associated devastating earthquakes and a world thrust into chaos by the resulting climate change of volcanic winter. Famine is often a regular result of such devastating eruptions as we learn more below.
"All over the world, crops and animals died. Snow turned strange colors and temperatures dropped from 90 degrees to 40 in the course of one day. People resorted to eating the unimaginable; straw, sawdust, moss. Grapes failed to ripen and wine couldn't be made. People went to war with each other over food. The effects were tragic. The US economy slowed because it was unable to produce food. Europe's economy was ravaged even more because they had been recovering from the recent Napoleonic wars. Because of a limited food supply, inflation was present worldwide. It would take years for the global community to recover from the year without a summer."
We can see the massive effects of the year without a summer in the following facts courtesy of Wikipedia.:
In the spring and summer of 1816, a persistent "dry fog" was observed in parts of the eastern U.S. The fog reddened and dimmed the sunlight, such that sunspots were visible to the naked eye. Neither wind nor rainfall dispersed the "fog". It has been characterized as a "stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil".
At higher elevations, where farming was problematic in good years, the cooler climate did not quite support agriculture. In May 1816, frost killed off most crops in the higher elevations of New England and New York. On June 6, snow fell in Albany, New York, and Dennysville, Maine.
At the Church Family of Shakers in upstate New York, near New Lebanon, Nicholas Bennet wrote in May 1816, "all was froze" and the hills were "barren like winter". Temperatures went below freezing almost every day in May. The ground froze solid on June 9. On June 12, the Shakers had to replant crops destroyed by the cold. On July 7, it was so cold, everything had stopped growing. The Berkshire Hills had frost again on August 23, as did much of the upper northeast.
A Massachusetts historian summed up the disaster: "Severe frosts occurred every month; June 7th and 8th snow fell, and it was so cold that crops were cut down, even freezing the roots .... In the early Autumn when corn was in the milk it was so thoroughly frozen that it never ripened and was scarcely worth harvesting. Breadstuffs were scarce and prices high and the poorer class of people were often in straits for want of food. It must be remembered that the granaries of the great west had not then been opened to us by railroad communication, and people were obliged to rely upon their own resources or upon others in their immediate locality."
In Cape May, New Jersey, frost was reported five nights in a row in late June, causing extensive crop damage.
In July and August, lake and river ice was observed as far south as northwestern Pennsylvania. Frost was reported as far south as Virginia on August 20 and 21. Rapid, dramatic temperature swings were common, with temperatures sometimes reverting from normal or above-normal summer temperatures as high as 95 °F (35 °C) to near-freezing within hours. The weather was not in itself a hardship for those accustomed to long winters. The real problem lay in the weather's effect on crops and thus on the supply of food and firewood. Thomas Jefferson, retired from the presidency and farming at Monticello in Virginia, sustained crop failures that sent him further into debt. On September 13, a Virginia newspaper reported that corn crops would be one half to two-thirds short, and lamented that "the cold as well as the drought has nipt the buds of hope". A Norfolk, Virginia Newspaper complained: "It is now the middle of July, and we have not yet had what could properly be called summer. Easterly winds have prevailed for nearly three months past... the sun during that time has generally been obscured and the sky overcast with clouds; the air has been damp and uncomfortable, and frequently so chilling as to render the fireside a desirable retreat."
Regional farmers did succeed in bringing some crops to maturity, but corn and other grain prices rose dramatically. The price of oats, for example, rose from 12¢ a bushel ($3.40/m³) in 1815 (equal to $1.55 today) to 92¢ a bushel ($26/m³) in 1816 ($12.83 today). Crop failures were aggravated by an inadequate transportation network: with few roads or navigable inland waterways and no railroads it was expensive to import food.
In closing, if we look at each and every potential disaster or difficulty as another opportunity to prepare for whatever may come our way, we are truly best served and we offer ourselves the best opportunity to help our friends, families and communities. While we may never experience such an event as the 1816 'Year without a summer', being prepared to survive through such an event prepares oneself to survive many other situations where humanity is put at the mercy of God and the elements. As stated above, those who were best prepared to survive through long, cold winters were also best prepared to deal with such a devastating occurrence as a volcanic winter. Millions of Americans survived through such devastating events. The best prepared will do so again, even in the most dire circumstances. The chart below shows global temperatures through history in comparison with various volcanic eruptions.