The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History

William K. Klingaman, Author
William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-3126-7645-2
Reviewed on: 12/03/2012
Release date: 02/26/2013
Paperback - 338 pages - 978-1-250-04275-0
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-250-01206-7
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On April 5, 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia exploded in one of recorded history’s most massive volcanic eruptions. In addition to releasing enough ash and pumice “to cover a square area one hundred miles on each side to a depth of almost twelve feet” and immediately killing more than 12,000 people, the blast rocketed enough sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to “form more than 100 million tons of sulfuric acid.” Relying on newspapers, diaries (including that of Mary Shelley, who penned Frankenstein in 1816 [sometimes referred to as “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death”]), and letters, William (The First Century: Emperors, Gods, and Everyman) and Nicholas Klingaman—a historian and meteorologist, respectively—demonstrate in excruciating detail how dramatically global weather patterns changed as a result: droughts, floods, and freezing temperatures decimated crops and led to famine and near-famine conditions worldwide. But talking about the weather—no matter how extreme—gets old. Little is gained, for example, to learn that in Maine on June 6, 1816, “one elderly gentleman spent the day chopping wood with a heavy coat on.” Like a cloud of fine ash, copious detail occludes the truly interesting political and migrational effects of the eruption. Agent: Daniel Bial, Daniel Bial Agency. (Feb.)
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