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Predicting Snow for the Summer of 1816

The dust from the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) caused a worldwide lowering of temperatures during the summer of 1816, when the Almanac, legend has it, inadvertently but correctly predicted snow for July.

Credit: Culver Pictures
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I always kept my eye out for copies of the 1816 edition. When I occasionally find one, in some antiques shop or sent to me by a reader, I immediately turn to the July and August calendar pages to see whether they contain the famous snow forecasts Thomas supposedly made for the summer of 1816.

To date, all I've found is "Now expect good hay weather," "A storm is not far distant," or "Sultry with thundershowers." It's so disappointing.

Elusive Edition

However, I remain hopeful that a few copies still exist that do indeed predict "The Cold Summer of 1816," as that summer is known in history book.

There's no question it did snow in New England and Canada during July and August of 1816. An 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in the East Indies had left volcanic dust circling the globe, lowering temperatures as much as several degrees.

But did the Almanac predict the snow that summer?

Certainly the story that it did is an integral part of Almanac lore.

  • Some accounts say the printer inserted the snow prediction as a joke while Robert B. Thomas was sick in bed with the flu.
  • The way I've always understood it, when Thomas discovered the "error," he destroyed all—or most of—the "snow" copies and reprinted the 1816 edition with the more conventional summer forecasts. It's said the word got out anyway, and during the winter and spring of that year, Thomas was repeatedly called upon to deny making such a ridiculous forecast for the following summer. Then, when it really did snow in July, he changed his tune and took full credit. "Told you so!" he allegedly said.

If the story is true, it is one of the earliest and best examples of a subtle skill my uncle always referred to as "almanacsmanship."

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Comments

Yes I have seen it snow

By John landers

Yes I have seen it snow during a 4th of July parade in Pittsfield Ma. either in 1965 / 1966.. it was fantastic... but again it did stop within 30 minuets.

I actually have seen snow in

By DebiiLee

I actually have seen snow in August in my lifetime. In the mid 1960's (probably 1965 or 66), my aunt took us on a chair lift ride to the top of Killington one August afternoon. She rhapsodized about the view, "You can see 5 states and 2 countries." Half-way up the mountainside in open chair lifts, the snow was blowing hard enough to blind us. At the top of the mountain was 2 inches of snow, and you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. We took the next chair down and arrived soaking wet at the lodge - an experience I'll never forget.

i reckon i remember when it

By SLINGBLADE

i reckon i remember when it snowed that summer. mhhm.

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