A volcano may look hot, but the sulfur dioxide it releases can actually have a cooling effect on the planet. KalypsoWorldPhotography
Strangely enough, massive volcanoes might be part of the answer.
By Nicholas Lund
Exactly two centuries ago this summer, it was winter.
A snowstorm in early June 1816 surprised New England, Ontario, and Quebec with a foot of snow. Below-freezing temperatures killed crops throughout the Northeast, forcing thousands of farmers to up and move west in search of warmer pastures. In Europe, the cold air was wetter and soaked the continent for more than 120 of the 150 days of summer; floodwaters displaced thousands. Crop yields in parts of Europe were 75 percent less than normal. With no concept of insurance, and no welfare, the number of people begging in the streets of Europe reached “unmanageable proportions.”
People thought the summer of 1816 was the end of the world. They called it “the Year Without Summer,” “the Poverty Year,” and, memorably, “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.”
The world didn’t end in 1816, but it’s still worth observing this bicentennial. It’s a good reminder that it doesn’t take much for the world’s climate systems to be thrown completely out of whack as we are currently learning, thanks to the extra CO2 we’ve pumped into the atmosphere. In fact, since our problem is essentially the opposite now, some even think the Year of No Summer might provide an unorthodox solution to the problem we find ourselves in today. Could we use the same mechanism that cooled the planet then to cool the planet now?