Wet summers poor harvests and famines

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Storms at sea were accompanied by very wet weather on land. In England, 1200 was a year of continuous spring rain and severe flooding. The following year was similar, and the winter of 1201-02 was so cold that ale (a type of beer) froze solid inside houses and cellars and was sold by weight.

Summers were stormy and winters cold, but there were also long droughts. In 1212 the weather was so dry that there was a huge fire in London and in 1214 there was so little water in the River Thames that women and children could wade across it. There were good years, with fine summer weather and abundant harvests, but increasingly these became the exception. Winters were often cold, with heavy snow, and the rest of the year wet. There was famine in England in 1258, and a much more severe famine began in 1313 and lasted until the late summer of 1317.

The famine of 1313-17 affected the whole of western Europe and was most severe in 1315, when harvests failed everywhere. Countless people died, and there were also huge losses of sheep and cattle due to disease outbreaks as well as starvation. In the summer of 1315 the wet weather resulted from the distribution of pressure. Large high-pressure areas were stationary over Greenland and Iceland in the north and the Azores in the south, with low-pressure areas between them. This pressure pattern produced easterly and northeasterly winds across northern Europe, bringing cold, moist air from the Arctic and dry air from eastern Europe and Asia. Throughout the remainder of the 14th century the weather became even more extreme. There were prolonged spells of very cold weather, but also droughts, most notably in 1343, 1344, 1345, 1353, 1354, 1361, and 1362.

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