The year without a summer main content.

The year without a summer

Part of Hall of Planet Earth.

In the Museum’s Hall of Planet Earth, a board with text, photo, and line graph explaining the composition and effects of volcanic gases. AMNH/R.Mickens

The 1815 eruptions of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia was the largest in 20,000 years. Ash fell on Java, almost 500 kilometers away, and tens of thousands of people died of famine after ash covered all crops and water sources. Sulfur-rich layers in ice icores in Greenland and Antarctica record the eruption. The year 1816 became known as the “year without a summer”- a period of snowfalls and deadly summer frosts in areas of Europe and North America. The Earth had just entered into a colder cycle, perhaps caused by decreased solar activity; the Tambora eruption may have magnified this effect.