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Cloudy with a chance of ash

By the summer of 1816, as the ash cloud circulated high above the northern hemisphere, climate changes were destroying vital crops in Europe, the U.S. Northeast, and the eastern Canadian provinces.

Among the hardest hit of Northeastern states was Vermont.

The state was already struggling after the War of 1812 also known as America's Second War of Independence against the British. When this climate crisis hit the state's slowly recovering post-war economy in 1816, it spelled disaster for many Vermonters.

Farmers, especially war veterans returning to Vermont fields after the War of 1812, bore the brunt of the natural disaster in the state.

According to most Vermont weather records-based largely on newspaper accounts-January and February 1816 were warm and spring like. Such warm winter weather didn't indicate the terrible summer to come in the Year Without a Summer.

"March (1816) was cold and stormy. Vegetation had gotten well along in April, when real winter set in," wrote a newspaper reporter.

"Sleet and snow fell on 17 different days in May. In June there was either frost or snow every night but three. The snow was five inches deep for several days in succession in the interior of (the Adirondack Mountains in) New York, and from ten inches to three feet in Vermont and Maine.

"July was cold and frosty, ice formed as thick as windowpanes in every one of the New England states. August was still worse. Ice formed nearly an inch in thickness and killed nearly everything green in the United States and in Europe."

According to the same reporter, by the spring of 1817, corn prices skyrocketed; the crop price jumped from $5 in 1816 to $10 a bushel in 1817.

Observers often wonder why 1815, rather than just 1816, wasn't as bad a year weather wise. After all, Tambora erupted in April of 1815. But the effects of the volcanic winter were delayed as will occur in 2010-11, following the prolonged Icelandic Eyjafjallaj kull eruption.

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