a. A "lightning war" (blitzkrieg) collapses in
early December 1941
fact that weather prevented Adolf Hitler’s army reaching
before the winter season is widely acknowledged. The New York Time
brought the news on the front page of the
December 9th 1941
issue: “Nazis give up idea of
in 1941. Winter forces abandoning big drives in the north until
says” (NYT, Dec. 09, 1941). Temperature
and snow conditions became worse than the wildest imagination. What is
not known is that Hitler could only blame himself and his advisors for
this enormous miscalculation. They had expected a mild winter. They
had not learned anything from the previous two cold winters, and the
role that naval war had played. Now the adverse had happened. The
‘great commander’, according to his own assessment, had shot
himself in the back. Thank heavens. The abandonment of the big
drive in early December 1941 already marked the beginning of the end
of the Third Reich, which unfortunately lasted until 1945.
E1-1; Winter temperature (Nov.- March) Eastern Baltic.
topic is about the role of naval war on weather during autumn of 1941.
From all the numerous naval activities in Europe and in the
, the eastern Baltic was very severely under siege from June to
December 1941. The moderating role of the Baltic in the adjacent
countries and eastwards, into the Euro-Asian continent, was
immediately perturbed. Against all statistical expectations, when
weather stopped the largest military operation in human history both
in manpower and casualties. Unusually low temperatures in November and
December rendered plans and expectations as mission impossible. The
region, which usually expected mean temperatures of +1° to –3°C
(November) or –3° to –7°C (December), was now faced with
conditions far below –20°C. For example, Field Marshal von Bock,
commander of Army Group Center, recorded in his war diary, on November
5, 1941, that the mercury dipped to -29°C (-20°F) while it had been
reported that it was a steady -30°C (-22°F)
around November 24. In one report, the New York Times referred to a
radio communiqué from
, as follows:
Misplanning Alleged. ‘The Germans complain about the Winter and said
it prevented their plans from materializing,” the radio said.
‘First, there was no proper winter in the Moscow area, and second,
the complaints reveal that the Germans were not properly provided with
warm clothing because they hoped to finish the war before Winter set
in’. …’They believed the Russians were much better equipped and
conditioned for Winter warfare than the Germans, recalling that the
Russians carried out the Finnish campaign in the dead of the Arctic
to Finnish/Russian winter war, two years earlier (11/1939 to 03/1940):
German army, navy, and weather service had full knowledge about the
meteorological situation in Northern Europe and plenty of data and
material, but had shown not the slightest interest, or lacked
principle knowledge about the functioning of the climatic system, to
look for the reason of the colossal winter weather deviation during
the first and the second war winter.
severe cold days set in during the latter half of December. In 1941
however, cold weather started four weeks earlier and was more severe
than other usual severe winters that had been recorded. So what went
wrong, or what was not taken into account?
before the onset of winter, Hitler’s ‘blitzkrieg’ concept failed
due to bad weather forecasts. Weather forecasting was the
responsibility of special services. Why they failed so thoroughly is
not so difficult to imagine. Anyone who considered the oceans and seas
E1-2 (map) & E1-3 (strength); Ambush on
and controllers of weather and climate should at least have taken into
consideration the previous two extreme winters, during which war and
naval war took place, and should have asked the question: why? Why did
those winters come without warning? Why had there been so many exceptional weather conditions? Why was there so much sea ice in
the Baltic? This is not the place to discuss the failure and the
scientific ignorance of the WWII weather experts. On one hand, any
free and independent research was unusual, if not inexistent. All
weather information fell widely under the mark: Top Secret. All living
conditions were too often very difficult, if not life-threatening.
When the U.S. Government discontinued the publication of weather maps
a few days after the
incident, the New York Times wrote that from that moment on “we must
look at our own thermometer and the skies and draw whatever
conclusions if we can. Meteorologically, we are living in the year
1800” (NYT, Dec. 17, 1941). On the other hand, that happened a long
time ago. Meanwhile, there has been a lot of time to do what the
weather experts had not been able or competent enough to achieve in
the early 1940s.
climatology should at least now do what their predecessors should have
done. For a long time now, science should have investigated and
explained the reason for the exceptional winter conditions that took
into an icy grip. For a long time now, they could have known why the
naval war itself became a very decisive factor in preventing German
war machinery from entering
in the 3rd war winter of 1941/42. Without the naval war
operation in the Baltic and in the
, weather would have not turned into an arctic mode. The available
weather information provides many clues in support of the naval war
thesis. Science is invited to offer better explanations and to start
taking notice of one of the most pronounced winter weather situations
for at least 180 years.
Temperature map 9 (TM9); Fig. E1-4; .
b. An overview of Naval Battlefields and weather deviation
1941, naval warfare became a more and more global affair. The German
U-boat flotilla could operate from Atlantic ports, the Luftwaffe from
air fields in
. German surface raiders operated deep into the
. The number and military capacity of air bombers grew steadily. The
British provided convoy escort for the entire crossing distance of the
had an increased participation as well. The Germans started war
in June 1941 and that included naval activities in the
. The Allies supplied
with war material by Arctic convoys, which sailed from
up to the sea ice boundary of Greenland and Spitsbergen to
or Archangelsk. German submarines operated in arctic waters as far as
and some of them even beyond that island (Mandel,
in the Mediterranean, the English Channel, the North Sea, the sea off
and the Baltic, naval war was still a European affair. In these areas,
naval war activities relied on thousands of ships and boats operating
at sea every day, but were also more and more supported by air forces.
Thousands of bombing and mining missions took
place every month. Eventually, the naval war theater became a global
became a war party immediately after the
December 7th 1941
. From that moment on, the naval war operation entered a
new dimension which the world has never seen before or ever since.
, the year was dull and cold. For southern
, it was registered as the coldest on record, but with the hottest
, it was the second coldest year of the 20th century, after
1940 had been the coldest since 1871. In the south – eastern
particularly, October had precipitation above average, with up to
350%. Coastal areas of the North Sea and Baltic had favourable
conditions: 5-15° less precipitations, less cloud cover (2-5%), about
2 to 10 dull days less and up to 200 hours more sunshine
(Witterungsbericht, 1948). This indicates that the sea water
conditions were too cold, due to the previous winter and naval
activities. In summary,
was too cold, too dull and too wet.
, the precipitation figure for the NE district accounted to 250% above
average for January and February 1941, a clear indication of the
confrontation between maritime and continental conditions. That
continued when, under the influence of north-easterly winds, the
temperature remained below average (although not pronounced, except
for mid-May frost) continuing until the third week of June, when a
warm, dry, sunny period began, lasting about four weeks. The
conditions became wet again in August. From that moment on, the autumn
was pleasant, December still being regarded as mild
, the German army was quickly confronted with three weather phases.
The initial phase was very dry and hot, with up to 30°C during
troubles were nothing compared to those faced once autumn rains
arrived in mid-October for a one-month mud season. This was eventually
topped by the early and very low temperatures that started in the
middle of November marking
the beginning of the end of Adolf Hitler’s ambition to rule the
world at his terms. That would not have happened if the German High
Command had avoided major naval war activities in the
and Baltic. But the advisors on weather matters lacked the required
competence. Unfortunately, it was not the end of Hitler’s murderous
adventure; but instead, the German Army was weakened by unfavourable
climatic conditions and eventually by the overpowering force of Allied
c. Did the winter commence too early?
winter started in
on normal terms. December, at least, was slightly above normal in
, November was very variable, with a full snow cover throughout the
Reich due to high air pressure west of
, around November the 3rd and 4th. A warm period
followed, after which temperatures were subnormal until the 16th.
The strong weather variation continued throughout the month. Also,
December was mild and wet. In
, December weather was mild, anti cyclonic and too dry.
, there were frequent changes between high and low pressure in
December 1941. With two exceptions, from the 6th to the end
of the month, the weather was dominated by passing cyclones, which
sometimes had opposite wind directions (Norrland – easterly;
Götaland – westerly), enormous weather variations and ‘a deep
drop’ of temperatures of up to 15 degrees within 24 hours. On
December 27/28, wind forces of 10 and 11 (according to the Beaufort
scale) were registered on the West and South coast. By all means, the
winter of 1941/42 did not come early. At a few stations, in December,
the temperature deviations were warmer in the west and colder in the
east, for example:
–1°C versus 1930-1938.
–0, 3°C versus 1930-1938.
about –5°C versus 1930-1938.
about –1.2°C versus 1930-1938.
Berlin/Dahlem: about +1,4°C versus 1930-1938.
about +2.3°C versus 1930-1938.
+0, 8°C versus 1930-1938.
d. Curiosity or what happened at Malgoviks primary school in
the end of 1941, an extraordinary drop of temperature occurred at
mid-distance between Narvik and
. On December 13th, a very low temperature was recorded on
a plain alcohol thermometer at Malgoviks primary school.
Based on the comparison with a common thermometer, it could be assumed
that a temperature of minus 53°C (−63.4°F) was registered.
According to the Swedish Meteorological Service, it was a new record
Why did that happen so early (December 13) and in a year when December
had been close to normal? Could the intense fighting at Hanko in the
Gulf of Finland
(details below) have led to an aerial pressure field that allowed
arctic air to briefly show up in Lappland? Or should one look for an
‘atmospheric hole’ created during the Japanese ambush on
only five days earlier, which travelled eastwards with the jet stream?
That is certainly too fanciful as an explanation. Would
it be possible to give an answer? Fortunately, this investigation does
not need to look for an answer, as the issue, although very
interesting, is not relevant for the naval war thesis.
e. Early sea ice?
Early sea ice at the German coast?
The sea ice began to form around January 13th of 1942.
However, this is only half of the truth. By that time, a number of
stations already had
about 14 days with sea ice, starting from November 15th
1941 (DHI-Eis, 1961). How does that fit into the generally non
exceptional weather conditions? Early timing, as well as the
considerable number of ice days before January 13th, may
serve as a strong indicator regarding the influence of naval war
activities. On one hand, they lowered the heat content of the sea
during autumn, but subsequently kept the sea free of ice, by
‘shovelling’ remaining heat reserves to the sea surface. Along the
German Baltic coast (Lübeck to
), the first sea ice appeared on the 13th, but icing set in
January 20th 1942
The start of sea icing along the Swedish coast:
The formation of ice took place at a rather normal period of time in
the Gulf and the Sea of Bothnia; it started in the Baltic and at the
west coast of Sweden (Skagerrak) during the first part of January,
generally one to two weeks earlier than normal (Liljequist,
A Finish view on the sea ice build up:
In autumn of 1941, freezing began earlier than usual in the northern
part of the
. The shallow bays froze in the middle of October. But freezing of the
surface was quite exceptionally early in the south, in the region of
Gulf of Finland
, were ice formed in the coastal bays at the end of October. During a
further frost period in the middle of November, ice covered the inner
archipelago of the
Gulf of Finland
. A new and comparatively rigid frost period began in the early part
of December. In the middle of December, the open sea of the
Gulf of Finland
was iced over in the field of view of fixed observation stations set
along the coast as far west as Pellinki. By December, a new period of
hard frost set in, while ice shifted due to wind. On December 31st,
ice was pressured against the coast of
; pressured ice of about 4 meters magnitude was formed off Porkkala,
among other places. (Palosuo,
1953) More about sea ice conditions in section E5.
f. What made the winter of 1941/42
seems that, except for early icing in the
Gulf of Finland
, the winter made a very normal start, and, towards the end of 1941,
there were not too many reasons to bet on an exceptionally cold winter.
Liljequist (1942) wrote:
winter 1941/42 was colder than the winter 1939/40 and 1940/41. At
it was one of the coldest winters since 1756 when regular temperature
observation were started. If we graduate the severity of a winter
according to the value of the mean temperature of the three coldest
months of the winter half year, 1941/42 is found to be the coldest
since 1756; by taking the mean temperature of the months
December-March, the winters 1788/89 and 1808/09 are found to be colder.
As winter did not start in
December 1941, but only in January 1942, the reason was its severity
and duration, which continued throughout February and March 1942 (see
TM10, p. 143). Actually,
remained under subnormal temperatures until July 1942. This indicates
the entire spring season,
was deeply below the average temperature. The reason is the low sea
water temperatures and the most extraordinary sea ice conditions in
the Baltic, which will be a subject for a full section later.
the northern North Atlantic and equatorial Atlantic regions are much
above average, the section from the Gulf of Mexico and
is colder. This might serve as an indication that naval war covered
this entire section since the days of
. Did that push colder water up to the sea surface?
extension of the cold region through northern
is due to the west wind drift.
temperatures over the equatorial Pacific are close to neutral in early
1942 (TM10), which hardly constitutes an El Niño event, which serves
as demonstration that an unspecified correlation claim is not very
helpful (for more details see: Chapter F).
at: http://www.personal.dundee.ac.uk/~taharley/1941_weather.htm ;
Excerpt: August 1941:
Quite cool and very wet. September 1941: Very dry and warm
- the third driest of the century. October 1941: The month
had a very warm, fine start, with some hot days, sunshine and fog
at night. 24ºC were recorded in the SE on the 1st and
2nd, the 6th and 7th. However, it
became colder with showers, as the winds changed to northerly in
the closing days of the month. The maximum was only 5ºC in the SE
on the 29th.
Dull and mild. December 1941: Generally
dry and anti cyclonic, and milder than average.
A3, B, C1,
C2, C3, C4,
C5, C6, C7,
C8, C9, D,
>>> E2, E3, E4,
E5, E6, F,
G1, G2, G3,
H, I, J,