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Blog

Weather forecasting and analysis, space and historic events, climate information

Filtering by Category: Historic Events

6:00 AM | *Weather and the "Battle of Trenton", December 25-26, 1776*

Paul Dorian

December 1776 was a desperate time for George Washington and the American Revolution.  Morale was low, hope for winning the war was diminishing, and the Continental Army led by George Washington was thinning in numbers after many battles lost to the British.  December began with lots of rain and muddy travel conditions for the men which did not help with their spirits.  After retreating through New Jersey, they set up camp in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania where the army was met with very cold weather that led to plenty of ice on the Delaware River.  All in all, things were not looking good for Washington's army.

However, George Washington devised a plan that would change the course of the war and the history of our nation.  With only a week before his soldiers' enlistments expired, Washington had to do something fast.  He decided he would attack Trenton, New Jersey, which the Hessians (German soldiers fighting with the British) controlled.  He planned to cross the Delaware River on Christmas Day and invade Trenton before sunrise on December 26th.  Washington thought this action could catch the Hessians off guard and create a better possibility of victory, thereby boosting the morale of his army.

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11:15 AM | *The role of weather on December 7th, 1941 and a little known important indirect benefit*

Paul Dorian

The weather on Oahu, Hawaii in the early morning hours of Sunday, December 7th, 1941 was not at all unusual for the time of year with mild temperatures and mainly clear skies.  Unfortunately, the weather conditions on that particular day would play a role in the bombing of the U.S. naval base by Japanese fighter planes at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii.  As Japanese fighters crossed the Pacific Ocean, they were given hope that their mission would succeed when the announcement was made of “clouds mostly over the mounts…visibility good”.  It is believed that the decision to attack on that particular day had plenty to do with the projected favorable weather conditions.

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8:00 AM | *A race against time in Alaska to recover the wreckage and human remains from a 1952 military plane crash as an advancing glacier pushes towards a nearby lake*

Paul Dorian

For 60 years, the Colony Glacier of Alaska hid the remains of 52 servicemen in a frozen grave after an Air Force plane crashed into the side of a mountain during bad weather.  The military transport plane was on route to Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage when it crashed into Mount Gannett on November 22nd, 1952 in the Chugach Mountain Range about 40 miles east of Anchorage.  The wreckage of the plane and the remains of the 52 servicemen slid into the glacier next to the mountain.  Recovery efforts never got into high gear that year as Alaska’s unforgiving winter came on quickly and by later the following year, the glacier and new deep snow pack had claimed the aircraft and its passengers.  

It was not until 60 years later in June 2012 that the wreckage was spotted about 12 miles from the original crash site by members of the Army National Guard during a routine training mission. Since then crews have returned every summer to try to recover the remains and personal effects during a small window of opportunity of about one month when it is relatively safe to do so on the glacier. This painstaking effort is in a race against time, however, as the relentlessly north-flowing Colony Glacier continues to advance relatively quickly and it won’t be long before the plane wreckage and passenger remains are pushed into nearby Inner Lake George - and perhaps lost forever to history.

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8:00 AM | *Weather’s role in “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” on November 10th, 1975*

Paul Dorian

Forty-three years have passed since a major storm over the Great Lakes helped to sink the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior taking the lives of all 29 crew members on November 10th, 1975. When launched on June 7, 1958, it was the largest ship on North America's Great Lakes, and to this day she remains the largest to have sunk there. The Edmund Fitzgerald was in the worst possible location during the worst weather of the ferocious storm. The wind and waves from the west hit the freighter broadside as it tried to flee south to safety in Whitefish Bay. The Edmund Fitzgerald was loaded with about 26,000 tons of taconite pellets on Nov. 9, 1975, at Superior, Wisconsin and was bound for Detroit, Michigan when the storm hit.

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8:00 AM | *Weather’s impact on the World Series in recent history*

Paul Dorian

The World Series begins on Tuesday night in Boston, Massachusetts where temperatures are likely to drop through the 40’s during the game with a shower or two possible and it’ll be even colder tomorrow night for Game 2 and windy as well. While this is quite chilly for baseball standards and also well below-normal in terms of climatological temperatures for this time of year, it will not be the coldest game in recent World Series history. That distinction goes to Cleveland in 1997 and there have been some other memorable World Series games in recent history that were impacted significantly by the weather. Cold weather certainly will not be an issue in the National League park in this year’s World Series year as Games 3, 4 and 5 will be played in Los Angeles, California where high temperatures should reach the 80’s on each game day.

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11:00 AM | *The Great New England Hurricane of 1938*

Paul Dorian

On September 21, 1938, one of the most destructive and powerful hurricanes in recorded history struck Long Island and Southern New England. It was the first major hurricane to strike New England since the year 1869. The storm developed near the Cape Verde Islands on September 9, tracking across the Atlantic and up the Eastern Seaboard. The storm hit Long Island and Southern Connecticut on September 21, moving at a forward speed of 47 mph! This Friday marks the 80th anniversary of storm known as "The Great New England Hurricane of 1938" as well as "The Long Island Express" and the "Yankee Clipper". With no warning, the powerful category 3 hurricane (previously a category 5) slammed into Long Island and southern New England causing approximately 682 deaths and massive devastation to coastal cities and became the most destructive storm to strike the region in the 20th century. Little media attention was given to the powerful hurricane while it was out at sea as Europe was on the brink of war and the overriding story of the time. There was no advanced meteorological technology such as radar or satellite imagery to warn of the storm’s approach.

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8:00 AM | *America's deadliest natural disaster...September 8th, 1900 in Galveston, Texas*

Paul Dorian

At the end of the 19th century, America was beaming with confidence and feeling bigger and stronger than ever before.  The city of Galveston, Texas was booming with a population of 37,000 residents on the east end of Galveston Island which runs about thirty miles in length and anywhere from one and a half to three miles in width. Its position on the harbor of Galveston Bay along the Gulf of Mexico made it the center of trade and the biggest city in Texas in the year 1900.  A quarter of a century earlier, a nearby town was destroyed by a powerful hurricane and this object lesson was heeded by many Galveston residents and talks of a seawall to protect the city were quite prevalent.  However, no seawall was built and sand dunes along the shore were actually cut down to fill low areas in the city, removing what little barrier there was to the Gulf of Mexico.  This proved to be a fatal mistake for the city of Galveston in what nobody could foresee happening to this magical place that seemed destined to become the New York of the Gulf of Mexico.

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8:00 AM | *This kind of solar storm could be devastating in today’s world…the "Carrington Event" of 1859*

Paul Dorian

The sun has been relatively quiet in recent years and the current solar cycle (#24) is actually on pace to be the weakest in over one hundred years. Even weak solar cycles, however, can produce significant solar storms. In fact, it was this same time of year back in 1859 when a super solar storm - now known as the “Carrington Event” - took place during another weak solar cycle (#10).  The event has been named for the British astronomer, Richard Carrington, as he observed from his own private observatory the largest solar flare which caused a major coronal mass ejection (CME) to travel directly toward Earth.  Fortunately, solar storms of this magnitude are quite rare as it would very likely have a much more damaging impact on today’s world than it did in the 19th century.  

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11:00 AM | *79 years later, the tornado scene in the “Wizard of Oz” still a classic*

Paul Dorian

In a movie filled with memorable quotes, one of the shortest and simplest might have been “It’s a Twister!”, but it was part of a tornado scene that is still considered to be a classic nearly eight decades later.  August 25, 1939 was the official release date of the “Wizard of Oz" which was the first movie to depict an authentic looking tornado using improbable “1930’s style” special effects. Through the decades, this all-time classic has inspired movie-goers and “weather weenies” alike with the scene of a twister lifting Dorothy’s home into the sky over rural Kansas farm land.

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8:00 AM | *It was this same time of year in 79 A.D. that Mount Vesuvius erupted and Pompeii, Italy was changed forever*

Paul Dorian

It was shortly after noon on August 24th in the year 79 A.D. and Mount Vesuvius sent a tall cloud of steam and ash high up into the atmosphere.  The ancient Roman town of Pompeii near modern day Naples was soon covered in complete darkness and the thickness of the falling debris increased by about 6 to 8 inches per hour.  The rocks which comprised the debris were up to 3 inches in diameter and fell with a speed of up to 100 miles/hour.  This first phase of the eruption led to casualties primarily caused by roof collapses.  After 12 hours of continuous explosive activity, the second phase of the eruption began and it was characterized by substantial flow of lava down the sloping Mount Vesuvius and this caused additional deaths and destruction.  In fact, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius spewed 1.5 million tons of lava per second into Pompeii and surrounding towns.  In a short period of time, two thousand people were killed, the small towns of Herculaneum, Oplonti and Stabiae were destroyed, and Pompeii was changed forever.

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