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Blog

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

Filtering by Category: Historic Events

7:15 AM | *It was during the height of the Cold War and a solar storm nearly sparked a nuclear war*

Paul Dorian

It was during the height of the Cold War and a powerful solar storm could have led to a disastrous military conflict between the US and Soviet Union if not for the early efforts of the US Air Force to monitor solar activity. On May 23rd, 1967, a solar storm took place that was so powerful, it jammed radar and radio communications in polar regions and the US Air Force actually began to prepare aircraft for war thinking the nation’s surveillance radars were being jammed by the Soviet Union.  Fortunately, space weather forecasters in the military suspected there might be another cause and they relayed information about the possibility that a solar storm could have been the reason for the disrupted radar and radio communications.  As it turned out, this information was enough to keep the planes on the ground and the US avoided a potential nuclear weapon exchange with the Soviet Union.

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7:15 AM | *The role of weather in the Hindenburg disaster of May 6th, 1937*

Paul Dorian

While weather played an important role in the 1912 Titanic disaster, it was perhaps an even more direct cause of another disaster that took place 25 years later – at least that is the prevailing belief. On May 6th, 1937, while the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg was attempting to land at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey, a flame appeared on the outer cover of the rear of the ship. Within 34 seconds, the entire airship was consumed by fire and the golden age of airship travel was over.

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7:15 AM | *The impact of weather on the Titanic tragedy of April 15, 1912*

Paul Dorian

Monday marked the 107th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic (April 15, 1912) and I thought I’d revisit the overall weather pattern that played a key role in the tragedy. By studying weather maps and written records from that time period, some definitive conclusions can be drawn about the weather during the trip across the Atlantic, and there are also some interesting relatively new theories involving atmospheric conditions and their possible effects.

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7:15 AM | *The Great Blizzard of March 18-21, 1958…one of the worst snowstorms ever in Pennsylvania*

Paul Dorian

March is known to feature some crazy and surprising weather and the 1958 blizzard that occurred in the Mid-Atlantic region between March 18th and 23rd was indeed rather unexpected. In general, forecasts on the morning of March 18th had no mention of snow. This was in an era before computer forecast models were being utilized by weather forecasters on a daily basis and it was even before satellite imagery existed which could aid in the forecast. By afternoon on that particular day, the light rain had changed into huge, wet snowflakes and - for the next few days - history was being made.

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7:15 AM | *The “Storm of the Century” March 12-14, 1993*

Paul Dorian

The winter of 1992-1993 was not bad at all in the Mid-Atlantic region in terms of cold and snow, but one storm at the end of the season will put that particular winter in the history books forever.  One of the most intense storms ever observed in the eastern US took place from March 12-14, 1993 and it will be forever known as the “Storm of the Century”.  This intense storm generated tremendous snowfall totals from Alabama through Maine, high winds all along the east coast, extreme coastal flooding along the Florida west coast and incredibly low barometric pressures across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.  The aftermath of the “Storm of the Century” was unseasonably cold and broke records in many spots for the middle of March.  To this day, the storm also known as the “Superstorm of 1993” ranks among the deadliest and most costly weather events in US history.

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7:15 AM | *The role of weather in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986*

Paul Dorian

Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster which occurred on January 28, 1986, when the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight leading to the deaths of its seven crew members.  STS-51-L was the 25th American Space Shuttle Program flight since the program began in 1981. It was also the first mission to have a civilian on board, American teacher Christa McAuliffe. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida at 11:39 EST (16:39 UTC).  According to the Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, weather conditions were likely one of the factors that contributed to the incident. Tests conducted during the subsequent investigation showed that O-rings were much less resilient at lower temperatures, but the extreme cold at the Kennedy Space Center was not the only weather factor involved with this tragedy. 

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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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