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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
12 Jul 2016
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP). A final paper in CP is not foreseen.
The 1816 ‘year without a summer’ in an atmospheric reanalysis
Philip Brohan1, Gilbert P. Compo2,3, Stefan Brönnimann4, Robert J. Allan1, Renate Auchmann4, Yuri Brugnara4, Prashant D. Sardeshmukh2,3, and Jeffrey S. Whitaker3 1Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, EX1 3PB, UK
2CIRES/University of Colorado, Boulder, 80309-0216, USA
3NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory/PSD
4Oeschger Centre, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
Abstract. Two hundred years ago a very cold and wet summer devastated agriculture in Europe and North America, causing widespread food shortages, unrest and suffering – the "year without a summer". This is usually blamed on the eruption of Mount Tambora, in Indonesia, the previous April, but making a link between these two events has proven difficult, as the major impacts were at smaller space and time-scales than we can reconstruct with tree-ring observations and climate model simulations. Here we show that the very limited network of station barometer observations for the period is nevertheless enough to enable a dynamical atmospheric reanalysis to reconstruct the daily weather of summer 1816, over much of Europe. Adding stratospheric aerosol from the Tambora eruption to the reanalysis improves its reconstruction, explicitly linking the volcano to the weather impacts.
Citation: Brohan, P., Compo, G. P., Brönnimann, S., Allan, R. J., Auchmann, R., Brugnara, Y., Sardeshmukh, P. D., and Whitaker, J. S.: The 1816 ‘year without a summer’ in an atmospheric reanalysis, Clim. Past Discuss.,, 2016.
Philip Brohan et al.
Philip Brohan et al.


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Short summary
We have used modern weather forecasting tools to reconstruct the dreadful European weather of 200 years ago – 1816 was the ‘year without a summer’; harvests failed, and people starved. We can show that 1816’s extreme climate was caused by the eruption of the Tambora volcano the previous year. This means we have some chance of predicting such extreme summers if they occur in future, though this is still a challenge to today’s forecast models.
We have used modern weather forecasting tools to reconstruct the dreadful European weather of...