Year without a summer ‘not impossible’ says weather expert | Science | News

We’re all too used to complaining about the weather in Britain.

Britain’s position between cold polar air in the north and warmer tropical air in the south which push against each other creates a seriously unpredictable environment.

Almost as unpredictable is how good — or bad — our summer will be, though it will surely never be as bad as the 1816 so-called ‘Year Without a Summer‘… or could it?

Jim Dale, author and Meteorologist, says it’s hard to predict whether Europe and Britain will see the climate “catastrophe” of that year strike again, but it’s “not impossible”.

“I expect somewhere in the next 100 years, whether that’s next year or not, something like it will happen,” he said.

The scenario is extremely specific, not to mention rare. In 1816, Indonesia’s Mount Tambora blew its lid in what was the most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded human history.

Evidence suggests the volcano’s ash and other sediment spread west towards Europe and essentially blocked the sun out, causing what is known as a ‘volcanic winter’.

Global temperatures decreased by 0.4C to 0.7C, while summer temperatures in Europe plunged to their coldest of any record between 1766 and 2000.

What ensued was devastating: crop failures, major food shortages, disease and ill health.

Mr Dale noted that at any given moment one of the world’s volcanoes or supervolcanoes could blow its lid, a thought made even more worrying as some aren’t actively being monitored.

“These things are massive unknowns,” he said. “Nonetheless, it would have devastating consequences for Europe and the world.

Firstly, without the sun’s rays penetrating the atmosphere, agriculture would suffer and we’d stop getting things like vitamin D. But it’s not just the fact you’re not getting that vitamin, there will also be mental health implications from the fact that it would be constantly dark and dull.

“You’ve then got failures among the farming communities, which will lead to a rise in food price, which inevitably will lead to hikes in other areas of the economy — the list is endless.”

According to historian John D. Post, the Year Without a Summer was “the last great subsistence crisis in the Western world”.

The extreme climate changes had their greatest effect on New England, Atlantic Canada, and Western Europe.

When it erupted, Mount Tambora had a volcanic explosively index (VEI) of 7 and ejected at least 100 km3 of dense rock and debris into the atmosphere.

For context, the explosive eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, which halted hundreds of flights and disturbed air travel across Europe and parts of North America, ejected just 0.1-0.2 km3 of rock and debris and measured 4 on the VEI.

Mr Dale said: “Basically if it happened today, it would be a bit like drawing a massive curtain across the sky in the middle of summer.”

Luckily, there doesn’t appear to be any large volcano or supervolcano gearing up to explode just yet. The likes of the US’ Yellowstone and Indonesia’s Lake Toba, at least for now, seem quite content in their dormancy. When things do change, however, they can change fast, often without warning or with very little time to react,


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