1816: "The Mighty Operations of Nature": An Environmental History of the Year Without a Summer
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The catastrophic eruption of the Indonesian volcano Mt. Tambora in April 1815, which ejected a cloud of sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere, plunged the world into a rapid temporary climate change event. A series of bizarre weather anomalies, including snowstorms in June and repeated heavy frosts throughout the rest of the summer, earned 1816 the moniker "the Year Without a Summer." This paper examines the various ways in which Americans reacted to the climate change--seeking causation explanations through science and superstition, political and religious responses, and the efforts to appreciate what the events meant in terms of the world's changing climate. Through these various reactions, a picture emerges of Americans' incomplete understanding of science and nature, as well as an uneasy reckoning with the impossibility of fully explaining their environment and the potential dangers it presented to them.