Because of the wild weather in 1816, it was hard to grow the oats that horses needed to eat. Oats were very expensive. Karl Drais wanted to invent a way to get from place to place without a horse. He invented the bicycle. Unlike bicycles today, the first bicycle did not have peddles.
Illustration from French patent

The Year Without a Summer


Strange things happened during the summer of 1816. Snow fell in New England. Clouds and cold rains covered Europe. The weather didn’t seem like summer weather at all. The year became known as “The Year Without a Summer.”

Why was there cold and gloomy summer weather in Europe and North America? The cause was on the other side of the planet - at Indonesia’s Mount Tambora.

In April 1815, Mount Tambora, a volcano, started erupting and it didn’t stop for four months. So much ash and aerosols were sent into the atmosphere by the volcano that the sky darkened and people could not see the Sun. Over the next few months, these particles spread through the atmosphere and caused climate to cool. The cooling did not last very long. The particles fell out of the atmosphere, allowing the sunshine through.

The cold weather and little sunshine made it hard for farmers to grow crops. That made food more expensive. It was more expensive for people to feed their horses oats too. Since horses were the way people got from one place to another, expensive oats meant that the cost of travel increased. A German inventor named Karl Drais decided there should be a way to get around without a horse. He invented the bicycle.

The gloomy summer weather inspired writers to write about gloomy things. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, a horror novel that takes place in an often stormy environment. Lord Byron wrote a poem called Darknessduring that summer.

Last modified July 18, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.

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