Some old-timer from the '90s told me that one year Portland basically didn't have a summer because of some volcano. Well, here we are freezing in June, and there was that big volcano in Iceland this spring—are we gonna get screwed out of summer again this year? —Like Björk Wasn't Bad Enough

Volcanoes are conspiring to steal our summer, eh? What's next, Freemasons framing Santa Claus for the Tate-LaBianca killings? Normally, letters like this don't make the paper; I just send a quick note by return email suggesting that the questioner might not want to drink jimson-weed tea and read at the same time.

Unfortunately, I can't do that in this case: It is, in fact, entirely possible for volcanoes to have substantial effects on the world's climate.

An 1815 eruption in Indonesia so disrupted European weather that 1816 was known as the "Year Without A Summer." It was that season's persistent rain that inspired some bored holidaymakers to hold the scary-story contest where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.

More recently, the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 temporarily reduced the total sunlight reaching Earth's surface by a fairly apocalyptic-sounding 10 percent, lowering temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere by 1°F and leading to a wet, cloudy summer of '92 in many parts of North America.

Of course, I was just a baby then, lying in my crib dreaming of the many firm, effortless erections I'd totally still be having in 2010. I do have vague memories of a Portland-summer-that-wasn't, but so far I haven't been able prove it was 1992. Readers?

As for this summer, the barbecue-loving peoples of the world will be pleased to hear that Eyjafjallajökull's emissions were only about 1/5,000th of Pinatubo's, so we should be safe (from volcanoes, anyway—obviously, the Freemasons are another story).