Climatic Change

, Volume 83, Issue 1, pp 87-115

First online:

The winter of 1827–1828 over eastern North America: a season of extraordinary climatic anomalies, societal impacts, and false spring

  • Cary J. MockAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of South Carolina Email author 
  • , Jan MojzisekAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of Otago
  • , Michele McWatersAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of South Carolina
  • , Michael ChenowethAffiliated withIndependent Scholar
  • , David W. StahleAffiliated withDepartment of Geosciences, University of Arkansas

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This study reconstructed the weather and its impacts on society for the winter of 1827–1828, focusing on the eastern United States. Data comprise of daily and monthly instrumental records, diaries with both daily and seasonal resolution, newspapers, fur trapper accounts, and tree-rings. Temperature anomalies were calculated and mapped based on the means during the 1820–1840 period to account for different fixed observation times. Precipitation frequencies provided direct comparisons of the 1827–1828 weather with modern climatic normals. Daily plots of temperature also reveal weather variations at daily timeframes. Results indicate that the eastern United States experienced strong positive temperature anomalies that are among the most extreme known in the historical record, particularly its large spatial extent. In contrast, historical evidence reveals strong negative temperature anomalies over northwestern North America, and positive temperature anomalies are evident for coastal Alaska. These temperature anomaly patterns sharply contrast to what is normally experienced during a warm El Niño event. Furthermore, results clearly describe remarkable climatic impacts in the Southeast U.S., including widespread blossoming of fruit trees in mid-winter (false spring) that led to a widespread severe killing frost in early April of 1828. Widespread positive precipitation frequency anomalies are also evident for much of the Southeast U.S., which also played a prominent role on winter vegetation growth. Other weather events and impacts include unusual opening of river traffic in winter in New England, severe flooding in the Mississippi River Valley, and heavy snowfall in northwestern North America.