Indian Summers

Hi, I just wanted to put this into the record, but I wasn't sure what thread would fit best. I was reading this book about settling Canada in the early 1800s, and I came across some references to 'Indian Summer'. I had thought I knew what that was, but the phenomenon referred to seems to be something completely different.

"I had reckoned much on the Indian summer, of which I had read such delightful descriptions, but I must say it has fallen far below my expectations. Just at the commencement of this month (November) we experienced three or four warm hazy days, that proved rather close and oppressive. The sun looked red through the misty atmosphere, tinging the fantastic clouds that hung in smoky volumes, with saffron and pale crimson light, much as I have seen the clouds above London look on a warm, sultry spring morning."

... "I think the notion entertained by some travellers, that the Indian summer is caused by the annual conflagration of forests by those Indians inhabiting the unexplored regions beyond the larger lakes is absurd. Imagine for an instant what immense tracts of woods must be yearly consumed to affect nearly the whole of the continent of North America: besides, it takes place at that season of the year when the fire is least likely to run freely, owing to the humidity of the ground from the autumnal rains. I should rather attribute the peculiar warmth and hazy appearance of the air that marks this season, to the fermentation going on of so great a mass of vegetable matter that is undergoing a state of decomposition during the latter part of October and beginning of November. It has been supposed by some persons that a great alteration will be effected in this season, as the process of clearing the land continues to decrease the quantity of decaying vegetation. Nay, I have heard the difference is already observable by those long acquainted with the American continent." ...

as to the far-famed Indian summer it seems to have taken its farewell of the land, for little of it have we seen during three years' residence. Last year there was not a semblance of it, and this year one horrible dark gloomy day, that reminded me most forcibly of a London fog, and which was to the full as dismal and depressing, was declared by the old inhabitants to be the commencement of the Indian summer; the sun looked dim and red, and a yellow lurid mist darkened the atmosphere, so that it became almost necessary to light candles at noonday. If this be Indian summer, then might a succession of London fogs be termed the "London summer," thought I, as I groped about in a sort of bewildering dusky light all that day; and glad was I when, after a day or two's heavy rain, the frost and snow set in."

I have experienced what I had thought was Indian Summer many times, but I have never found that I couldn't see where I was going or needed to turn on the lights in the middle of the day, or that the atmosphere seemed to be full of smoke.
I wonder if the author is correct and that the conditions that caused Indian Summer were even then going away, so that by now, we don't even know what it really referred to.
Thanks for moving this post. I came to add something. I read another book, a kind of travelogue by someone from England who was in America virtually at the same time as the author of the above book.
I noticed reading this guy's book, he is constantly remarking on all the lightning as he travels around. There are ten control+f hits for lightning.


About one o'clock I heard a rumbling noise, immediately a flash of lightning; this increased so much that though the shutters were closed, and I covered in bed, I could see a blaze of light which continued some time, then louder thunder, so horrible as to throw me into a perspiration, after some time it abated a little, then returned with redoubled fury with heavy rain and I think hail for nearly an hour; it was truly terrific and I was glad to learn that I had seen nearly the worst.

(June 26) Thunder and lightning every evening but the last whilst at Washington.

(July 7) flashes of lightning, afterwards almost one continued blaze with much thunder.

I have speculated here or on the old site that I think the atmosphere was in some way full of more energy in the recent past. I speculate this is why the towers and church spires would have been able to draw 'atmospheric energy' in those times, but not now. I also speculate that very large animals were able to support their processes of life in some way by draw energy from this same source, and that when this atmospheric energy was reduced, there was not enough left to support their continued existence. I think this may apply both to giant people and giant animals.

In relation to the Indian Summer, I would wonder if perhaps the excessive lightning could have been igniting large areas without human intervention, and just as that author says, as European settlers came in and altered the landscape, there was less combustible material accumulating that was liable to catch fire.

Similar articles