Jump to content

The Fightin' Forecasters

Recommended Posts

  • Location: Camborne
  • Location: Camborne

    There is an interesting article in the July/August Weatherwise magazine, The Fightin' Forecasters- The U.S. Navy in China in World War !!.

    Surprisingly it is available online to non-subscribers.


    Also surprisingly another article, The Art of Forecasting a NASA Shuttle Launch, is also available.


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    • Replies 2
    • Created
    • Last Reply
  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)
  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)

    Sort of allied to this subject, I have just read the following interesting article on the possibility that WWII bombing raids altered the weather:


    On May 11, 1944, a warm and cloudless spring day, U.S. Army Air Force B-24 Liberators, B-17 Flying fortresses and their fighter escorts lifted off from airfields across southeast England. They climbed, circled, and then formed into one huge formation before heading out to bomb targets in Nazi-occupied Europe. The bombers and hundreds of fighters flying escort, forming two missions four hours apart, filled the sky with contrails. Researchers from Lancaster University and the Environmental Agency in the U.K. combed through military and meteorological records and determined that the vast cloud cover created by aircraft condensation trails—or contrails—slowed the rise of temperatures on the ground that morning.

    The research gives some credence to the theory that contrails in the sky might alter the weather below. According to B-17 navigator Marshall Stelzriede's journal, the sight from the air was just as awesome as the view from below. "It is difficult to imagine, without actually seeing it, what the sky looked like with 700 to 800 B-17s and B-24s in the air, particularly when each plane produced its own condensation trail under certain atmospheric conditions," Stelzriede wrote.

    Contrails are produced when hot moist air from engine exhausts hit colder air in the atmosphere. Most dissipate quickly, but some stay as long tails marking the path of the plane. In wartime, pilots tried to avoid making contrails over bombing targets because they made it easier for enemy aircraft to track their planes. "The classic conditions for contrails is just ahead of a warm front," said Rob MacKenzie one of the Lancaster researchers now at the University of Birmingham. "To get really persistent cloudiness due to aircraft you really need to be flying the aircraft through air that is ready to form a cloud, supersaturated."

    Essentially, the contrails trigger clouds. The long trails are made up of moisture from the air, not the exhaust, MacKenzie said. The idea that contrails affect weather is not entirely new. After the attacks on Washington, D.C. and New York on 9/11, American skies were clear of all aircraft for three days. Researchers reported a 2 degree Fahrenheit change in the variation between high and low temperatures—which disappeared when commercial flights resumed. But that conclusion is controversial.

    MacKenzie, Roger Timmis, and Annette Ryan at Lancaster, working with the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon, went back through the records from 1943 to the war's end in 1945. With the help of the museum staff, they were able to center on the May 11 raid. From pilot briefings, they found the planes in the morning mission produced contrails when they reached 12,000-15,000 feet, relatively low, so they concentrated on that mission. There were no missions the next few days and the weather did not change notably, providing something of a control. The morning squadron was enormous, 363 B-24s and 536 fighters in escort. The target was marshalling yards in France, places where the Germans assembled troops. All or most of the planes produced contrails.

    Using data from weather stations on the ground, they looked at the increase of temperature through the morning from stations covered by the contrail cloud and found the temperature increase during the morning lagged by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit from stations not under the cloud. The contrails, being white, were reflecting sunlight back into space. The research was reported in the International Journal of Climatology. David Travis of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, who authored the study detailing how the clear skies after 9/11 cooled temperatures, said the Lancaster report is the first to give some empirical support to his theory.

    How much the Lancaster study adds to the debate, Travis said, is unclear because the contrails of modern jets are much higher than those studied by the Lancaster group and the warming-cooling dynamics may be different. What it does hint at is that contrails can alter local weather.


    "We often said that we created weather over Europe. They would persist for many hours, maybe days." Willard Reese - 457th Bomb Group



    Other reading on the impact of contrails during WWII here:

    Analysis of Met Office and military records showed a measurable impact on May 11 1944 when 1,444 aircraft took off from airfields across south-east England into a clear sky. Contrails from the bombers significantly suppressed morning temperature increases in areas which were heavily over-flown. Professor Rob MacKenzie, from the University of Birmingham, who co-led the study, said: "Witnesses to the huge bombing formations recall that the sky was turned white by aircraft contrails. "It was apparent to us that the Allied bombing of WW2 represented an inadvertent environmental experiment on the ability of aircraft contrails to affect the energy coming into and out of the Earth at that location."


    "This is tantalizing evidence that Second World War bombing raids can be used to help us understand processes affecting contemporary climate," MacKenzie said.




    Link to comment
    Share on other sites


    This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

    This topic is now closed to further replies.
    • Create New...