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Winter In The European Soviet Union 41/42.


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  • Location: Ponteland
  • Location: Ponteland

This is another article I have dug out of my archives of "Weather " magazines,This was written by J. Neumann, Emeritus, Department of Atmospheric Sciences,Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

Several momentous events of World War 11 occured in the winter of 41/42,50 years ago. Particularly eventful was December 1941: on the 6th, the drive of the German Army on Moscow failed.


Nothing was so profoundly effected by the outbreak of winter than the attempt by the German Army to capture Moscow. Actually, all three winters of the beginning of World War 11 were rather cold but, while in western Europe, e.g. in thr UK, winter (December/January) 1939/40 was the coldest of the three,in the area of northern Europe,winter 41/42 was by far the coldest. The average temperature of winter 41/42 was the lowest of all the winters instrumental observations began at St Petersberg in 1743 and at Stockholm in 1756.


While the Soviet Meteorological and Hydrological Service published the monthly averages of pressure and temperature,as well as the monthly amounts of precipitation at a selection of stations, no daily data was published for 41/42 until 1966, and even then only the morning temperatures for Moscow for the short period of 31 days, the first 3 weeks of which fall into the Battle of Moscow.

The figures shown between 30th of November and 6 th december(the day the German offensive collapsed) show the temperature dropping 25c, from -1.1c to -26.1c. before discussing the temperature drop,it is essential to point out cities tend to be warmer 6than the rural areas around them, especially in winter, and that the greater the city,the greater is the "heat island" effect.Judging by Oke's paper on European cities(Oke,1979) , in rural areas, away from the Russian capital,where the fighting went on, the temperatures must have been at least -30c. In fact,the official War Diary of the Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces published after the war, mentions temperatures of -35c to -36c on the 5 December and -38c on

The temperatures shown are in centigrade at Moscow 0700 LST,15th November to 15th December.

November 15 -6.7 December 1 -7.8

16 -5.6 2 -11.1 - 3 -7.2

17 -7.8 4 -17.8

18 -10.6 5 -25

19 -8.9 6 -26.1

20 -6.7 7 -28.9

21 -3.3 8 -15

22 -4.4 9 -4.4

10 -0.0

23 -3.9 11 -5.6

12 -2.2

13 --21.7

14 -18.9

24 -8.9 15 -27.2

25 -10.6

26 -8.9

27 -7.8

28 -5.6

29 -1.1

30 -1.1

(Sorry for the above but the tab seems up the creek)

the 6th,as reported from some areas of the Battle for Moscow.

A drop 0f 25c in 7 days appears to be a rather modest rate of cooling when temperature drops of 20c and more in one day are rather frequent in winters 0f the middle and high latitudes. but the modest looking cold outbreak came after weeks of exposure of the troops to early cold and blizzards,with no protection against the weather even during hours when no fighting took place. After the 6th ,the cooling continued for 2 more days,according to Moscow's morning data. This was followed by a sharp rise temperature until the 12th when a sharp cold wave lowered the temperature by 20c in one day. According to US Weather Bureau, the monthly mean temperatures 0f the 41/42 winter at Moscow were as follows: December -12.8c(-6.8c),January -20c (-9.9c)and february -11.8c (-9.5c). March was still cold at -9.7c (-4.2). The figures in parentheses give the climatological norms for 1931-60.


One consequence of the winter 41/42 was the increasing number of frost casualties among the troops on the Eastern Front. Again,figures are only known with respect to the German Army,though some information relating to the Soviet Army has recently become available.

The German meteorologist and climatologist Dr Hans von Rudloff studied the data of frost casualtiesof the German Army on the Eastern Front in 41/42. According to information recieved from him (personal communication) the german army lost 100.000 to 110,000 men either through frost or through frost related deaths between 4 th october and 30 April 42'. During the same period,the number killed by by enemy ction and missing came to circa 125,600 killed and 30,000 missing. Thus the frost-bite deaths amounted to as many as two thirds of those killed in action or missing.

As to the effects of the cold on the Soviet Army, it has been the customart policy of the Soviets to be reticent about accidents,failures,losses,difficulties and shortcomings. No figures have been published to date(1992) on frost casualties in World War 11. But according to private information recieved recently from a Soviet military historian,the data are now under study,and it is already clear that the number was high.

As said at the beginning this is taken from "Weather Magazine" and I have taken the libertyto condense the article where I could.

As my list of temperatures is very confusing here they are in a simplistic manner (I hope).

November----- 15 -6.7, 16-- -5.6, 17-- -7.8, 18 -10.6, 19 -8.9, 20 -6.7, 21 -3.3, 22 -4.4, 23 -3.9, 24 -8.9, 25 -10.6, 26 -8.9, 27 -7.8, 28 -5.6, 29 -1.1, 30 -1.1. December 1 -7.8, 2 -11.1, 3 -7.2, 4 -17.8, 5 -25, 6 -26.1, 7 -28.9, 8 -15, 9 -4.4, 10 -0.0, 11 -5.6, 12 -2.2, 13 -21.7, 14 -18.9, 15 -27.2.

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