, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 97-120

The 1810s in the Baltic region, 1816 in particular: Air temperatures, grain supply and mortality

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Abstract

The mean acidity of the ice core from Crête, Central Greenland, for the layer dating to 1816, one year after Tambora's eruption, has been found by Hammer, Clausen and Dansgaard (1980) to be nearly three times greater than that of the layer dating to 1884, one year after Krakatau's eruption. Despite the aforementioned fact, air-temperature data of the Baltic meteorological stations that took observations both in the 1810s and the 1880s (Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Trondheim, and Uppsala), do not show that the coldness of 1816 relative to 1814 was any greater than that of 1884 relative to 1882. Moreover, the year 1812 was much colder than 1816 when the two are compared with 1814 at all Baltic stations, although no known important eruption took place shortly before 1812. It seems plausible that the plumes reaching the Baltic Region following the two eruptions were too ‘thin’ to have produced any appreciable effect on air temperatures.

An examination of data available on grain harvests in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden does not indicate that either in 1816 or 1817 there was any note-worthy crop failure. In contrast, the year 1812 (a cold year) was marked by short-fall of the harvest, in consequence of which in 1813 there was a partial famine in Norway, partly because of war conditions (blockade by the British Navy) it was hard to get supplies from abroad.

Mortality data are also available for the above four countries. Mortality was relatively high in 1812 and/or 1813, but not in 1816–17.

No harvest or mortality data are available for Russia. Lists of famines in Russia show none in 1816. In 1817 there was a price rise in a limited area of the Empire.

All-in-all, the Baltic Region had not suffered from Tambora's eruption unlike the lower mid-latitudes of Western and Central Europe. It is suggested that the Region, as well as the south of European Russia, were spared as they were crossed by air masses whose stratosphere had become depopulated of small volcanic particles, while the troposphere became cleansed of particles through washout by rain previously.

A nearly identical version of the present paper was an invited paper to the ‘Climate in 1816’ Meeting, held at Ottawa, Canada, 25–28 June 1988.
In 1986–90 visiting with the Department of Meteorology, University of Copenhagen.