MPBN interviews Birkel about Maine’s ‘Year Without a Summer’

Sean Birkel, the Maine state climatologist and University of Maine research assistant professor with the Climate Change Institute, spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Networkf or the report, “Maine 05 have ‘Year Without a Summer’ to thank for its statehood.” 1816 — also known as the Year Without a Summer — was a harsh summer for farmers across the Northern Hemisphere, with snow and hard frosts all through what should have been the hottest months of the year, according to the report. The change in weather was caused by the April 1815 volcanic explosion of Mount Tambora in present-day Indonesia, the report states. “The eruption put enough material in the atmosphere and into the stratosphere that it was sufficient to produce a global cooling that lasted for several years,” Birkel said, adding the impact probably took several decades to completely wear off. Birkel said there also were social effects, including about 10 percent of Maine’s population moving away. “A lot of people thought, ‘We need to get out of New England, because the agriculture is not reliable, the weather’s not reliable,’” he said. “People thought, ‘Well, this might be the new normal.’”

Birkel said if there is another Tambora-sized eruption today, it would have a big impact, but it wouldn’t create the same effects as what happened 200 years ago because of global warming.