CH D (p 63-86)

1Chapter D. 20th Century Climate changed by the Naval War

 A century of climatic perspective

By Arnd Bernaerts
NOTE: All book images replaced
Publisher: iuniverse/USA

We have seen how quickly and decisively a few months war at sea completely changed winter conditions in Northern Europe. Mild winters were suddenly replaced by the harsh conditions of the Little Ice Age, conditions the Europeans had not experienced for more than 100 years. This happened not only once, but three times in a row, namely during the first war winter (1939/40), the second war winter (1940/41) and the third war winter (1941/42).

 During the winter months, average temperatures dropped severely in the entire Northern Europe. Meteorology commonly referred to that period in the following way: ‘climate changes were the average weather for a long period of time’. This may raise the question whether, during the three war winters, there had been an important “climate change” or just some insignificant climatic changes. As there is significant evidence that temperatures turned down into what was called a cooling trend and that they remained at that level for four decades, we can dismiss from the beginning the latter assumption.

3Actually, the 20th Century global temperature statistics indicate three significant trend alterations:

  • The first occurred during the winter 1918/19, at the end of the First World War. A fierce naval war, fought near the European shores for four years, resulted in a strong warming trend which lasted for two decades, until 1939.

  • The second alternation occurred during the winter 1939/40. A four months war at sea in Northern Europe and a global naval warfare between 1941 and 1945 resulted in a cooling trend which lasted for four decades, until about 1980.

  • The third change of temperature occurred around 1975, when the cooling trend which started during the winter 1939/40 came to an end, and the previous trend (1918-1939) replaced it. Temperature evolution after 1975 indicates that there is a strong, mutual relation between the climate and the naval warfare during WWI.

In the following section we will focus on the warming trend (1918-1939) and on the cooling trend (1939-1980), and will provide strong arguments that the three initial arctic winters in WWII were war caused. At least at first sight, naval warfare had been the driving force for global temperatures changing direction twice, in 1918 and then in 1939. It will certainly not be possible to provide a 100% reliable proof, but, after carefully reading and evaluating the facts, you will be astonished by how deeply and convincingly 20th century naval warfare and global climate trends are interconnected.

WWI ended with the Big Warming

 From a climatic point of view, World War I ended with a severe “bang” during late 1918. At Spitsbergen, the winter temperatures jumped up by 8ºC in a few years. The Northern Hemisphere became suddenly and significantly warmer. The terms “Greening of Greenland” and “Warming of Europe” became common expressions.

 The starting point of the “big warming” coincides with the end of WWI, in November 1918. There was no earthquake, no major volcanic eruption, no particularly intense sun spots, no meteorite fall at that specific time. Only one major event could explain the “big warming”: the devastation caused by the naval war at about 2000 kilometres further in the south, around the British Isles, for four years. As the warming lasted two decades, until the end of 1939, the longevity of the warming process could be explained through the geographical positioning: the huge and deep Norwegian Sea, which permanently receives plenty of water masses that have passed the British Isles, either on its Atlantic side or coming from the North Sea.

 During WWI, the naval war never extended at a global level, but was fought mainly around Britain. In fact, the naval war seriously started only in the autumn of 1916 when new naval weaponry became fully available and devastatingly effective: submarines (U-boats), depth charges, and sea mines. In 1917, German U-boats alone sunk 6,200,000 tons of enemy ships and vessels. That means that about 10 merchant ships were sunk every day. The total war damage was of 12 million tons: 5200 ships, plus about 650 naval vessels. Most merchant vessels were fully loaded with cargoes of all kinds, from grain, ore, coal, crude oil to whatever war parties needed. All that stuff polluted the sea and was taken along by the Gulf Current and by the Norwegian Current up to the North, going either into the Barents Sea or, as most of the water flowed, into the basin of the Arctic Sea, after passing Spitsbergen at 79ºN latitude.

 After presenting a brief comparison of the weather during WWI and WWII, we will outline the impact of the naval forces unleashed during the last two war years, from the autumn of 1916 until 1918, then we will focus on the ‘big warming’ of Spitsbergen and on the arguments that support the theory that WWI is the main factor that determined this significant warming.4

 

Weather during WWI and WWII: a short comparison

Several important factors need to be mentioned first. The land war started in 1914, while the naval war commenced at its fullest only in the autumn of 1916.

 The German attack on Verdun started on February 21st 1916, the invading troops counting one million soldiers. This was the longest battle of WWI and ended on December 18th 1916. The French and German Armies lost several hundred thousands of men each. From the climatic point of view, close battle field regions were wetter than usual, e.g. Baden had 30% more precipitations, and in the Black Forest rain level was 50-80% higher than normal.

 The battle of Verdun followed one of the top ranking cold winters of last century. The winter 1916/17 matched closely the record of the winter 1939/40. Not to forget that the devastating part of the naval war started only in the autumn of 1916. Submarine only went into action in 1915, sinking about 100,000 tons of ships per month and attaining about 300,000 tons per month during the second half of 1916. In addition, in 1916, a flotilla of more than 500 vessels was permanently navigating the seas around the British Isles covering a daily average of 1,000 square miles. All this, together with the increased use of sea mines, mine sweeping operations, and depth charges, had a particularly significant influence on the weather all over Great Britain. These changes are mentioned in the weather records. In Britain, June 1916 was a very cold and dull month. Rain persisted in the east and north, e.g. with about 150 hours of rain in Aberdeen and up to 200mm. The next extreme month was October 1916: it was wet and stormy, being recorded up to 200mm of rain daily. Up to this point, it was the highest daily rainfall ever recorded for the British Isles. An extremely cold December 1916 followed.

 As sporadic events and monthly statistics are nevertheless not so relevant, we need more factual data to support our thesis. The position of the Great Britain, surrounded by the naval war, may represent our relevant evidence. For this purpose, we refer again to the time witness, A. J. Drummond from Kew Observatory, Richmond (London), who observed in 1943: “Since comparable records began in 1871, the only three successive winters as snowy as the recent ones (from 1939/40 until 1941/42) were those of the last war, namely 1915/16, 1916/17, 1917/18.[vi]

 As for the cooling down of the seas around Britain, it is also difficult to find veridical and solid evidence. In 1935, J. K. Lumby published a seawater temperature series of the English Channel between 1903 and 1927. Between 1901 and 1914, the temperature varied on a narrow band from 11.5ºC to 12.2ºC. During the war years (1914-1917), the temperature dropped to its lowest point of the series that is 10.9 º C.

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“In September 1916, at Zeebrugge, the German U-boat flotilla alone sank nearly 50,000 tons of ships in the Channel, without any interference of the patrol vessels. Soon, it became clear that the common methods of fighting submarines were simply not working. For example, in September 1916, three U-boats operated in the Channel between Beachy Head and Eddystone Light, an area which was patrolled by forty-nine destroyers (49), forty-eight torpedo boats (48), seven Q-ships (7), and 468 armed auxiliaries – around 572 anti-submarine vessels in all, not taking into account the aircrafts. Shipping in the Channel was held up or diverted. The U-boats were hunted. They sank thirty ships, and escaped entirely unscathed themselves.” [vii]

 In 1949, another investigation of the Irish Sea situation (1900-1950), conducted by D.C. Giles, shows an important decline from 1914 until 1919[viii]. Sea chilling becomes inevitable when naval warfare occurs during autumn and winter, when thousands of ship movements churn the sea day and night, when thousands of explosions under and above the sea surface turn sea levels upside-down. Consequences are obvious. In autumn, the sea cools out quicker, implicitly causing the cooling of the air, followed by a larger quantity of snow and by harsher winter conditions. The cooling down of Britain and the unusual temperature drop of the Isles from 1915 until 1918 are undoubtedly determined by the naval warfare.

 In conclusion, weather anomalies in Britain during WWI are so similar to those occurring during WWII that no one can deny the obvious impact of the war at sea on weather and on climate changes.

Spitsbergen 1918 – The big warming

 The Jump

 The most significant climatic change which took place during the World War One occurred at Spitsbergen, a remote archipelagos situated between the North Cape of Norway and the North Pole. During the winter 1918/19, temperatures suddenly exploded, phenomenon described by the eminent Norwegian scientist B.J. Birkeland as probably the greatest temperature deviation on earth[ix].

 The temperature jump proved to be a lasting phenomenon, its longevity (until war winter 1939/40) remaining a mystery. Such a sudden temperature increase (plus 8°C) in such a short period of time is a peculiar event which could have had a significant contribution to the general understanding of climate almost one century ago. Surprisingly, it might not be so difficult to find clues regarding its causes. The timing, duration and location may help to include or exclude possible options and causes.

 Speaking of timing, there was no other force before the winter 1918/19 than the devastating land and naval war in Europe which could influence so radically the climate, while nature followed its course without any significant disturbance: no earthquakes, volcano eruptions, meteorite fall or unusual sunspots.

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Concerning duration, it is important to mention that we are talking about a sustained event which lasted for two decades in Europe and for one decade in Greenland (from 1920 until about 1930). These events were so striking that people began to use new terms like “Greening of Greenland” and “Warming of Europe”. The sustainability argument proves that the warming phenomenon has its roots in the Northern North Atlantic, north of the Faeroe Island and south of the Arctic Sea.

 As for the location, the sustained warming gives us an idea about the origins and the trajectory of the warm wave. One can quickly exclude all sea areas around Spitsbergen, except for the Norwegian Sea. The Barents Sea (situated at the east of Spitsbergen) has an average depth of 300 metres, which means that its water masses cannot sustain a constant warming throughout many years if not constantly supplied with warm water coming from the Norwegian Sea. The Arctic Sea (at the north of Spitsbergen) is too cold and widely covered with ice to have played any role. The Greenland Sea can be definitely excluded as a source of the Spitsbergen warming as well because it is the Greenland Sea that receives a huge mass of inflowing water from the Norwegian Sea, via the Gulf Current, the Norwegian Atlantic Current and the Spitsbergen Current, and not vice versa.

 Actually, the warming can only have its origins in the Norwegian Sea, which means that during WWI the southern border of the warming source is directly connected to the northern border of the naval war area. Even more, on its way from the North Atlantic Gulf Current to the Norvegian Sea, the most important warm water inflow passes near Great Britain, the place of the devastating naval war. The period of the seawater flowing from the naval war region to Spitsbergen is of only a few weeks. From this perspective, the warming in the north and the war at sea in Europe can be regarded as interconnected phenomena. One can speak about a deeper connection between these two events if one takes into consideration certain typical seawater behaviour as well. 18We will offer a brief overview of this aspect in the following section.

The physics of the Norwegian Sea waters

The Norwegian Sea water has the same physical properties as the seawaters around the globe. Nevertheless, the warm water of the Gulf Current, the cold winters caused by the high latitudes, the influence of many forceful, low pressure cyclones, and the presence of the massive Norwegian mountain ridge, as well the size and depth of the Norwegian Sea result in a unique and various mixture of physical characteristics.

 Fortunately, the basic rules are simple: salty and cold water is heavy and “sinks”, sweet water and warm water are light and “flow” over heavier water. Therefore, cold freshwater forms a layer above the warm water current. Cold freshwater may flow below the warm, saline rich water. We also know that water is an excellent isolator. For example, ‘light’ rainwater (which flows at the surface) can be as good as a refrigerator when it comes to preserving stored food from outside temperatures. Without mixing rain and melt water “swimming” at sea surface with salty Atlantic water off Norwegian coast, the Norwegian Sea would now be frozen, no matter how much warm Gulf water passes through the Norwegian Sea.

 Consequently, there is a long way from registering all principal physical rules to assessing the thousands of possible variations that occur. Usually, the Norwegian Sea surface water which determines the weather and climate for the whole Northern Hemisphere is particularly influenced by three natural events: the warm Gulf current, the freshwater from land and rains, and, last but not least, the wind. In addition, after the replacement of sailing ships with machine driven vessels, a lot of surface water mixing took place every day. Large sea areas and water masses have been turned upside down particularly during the two World Wars.

 The most significant features of the Gulf Current water that enters the Norwegian Sea are its high temperature and high salinity. As soon as water-cools down it sinks like fruit syrup in a glass of water. Due to its high salinity, it is warmer than the water it replaces at the lower level. The more water goes below, the more water will flow from the Atlantic, this involving a greater “warming potential” in the area than before. The more salty water is cooled down, the more forcefully this water masses will start sinking.

In comparison with salty water, freshwater is very light. Rain, river and melt freshwater has the strong tendency to float above brackish and salty water until it becomes much colder than the saline water below, or otherwise an external force must occur and determine the water mixing.

 Wind in any form is the most powerful agent which determines the surface sea water mixing. It is, in fact, the only external source nature has at hand to enforce the mixing. On the other hand, the mixing range the wind reaches is extremely limited and hardly goes further the 50 meters sea surface layer. All the other seawater mixing is due to the internal processes, based on temperature, salinity, and density.

 But what is the contribution of the naval war? Naval war certainly is a source of water mixing. Particularly in wintertime and in all sea areas at the north of Biscay, not only does it determine a rapid mixing between freshwater and more saline water, but it also pushes cooled surface sea water to greater depth in exchange for warmer water, until the summer warmed water is exhausted and arctic air can easily take control. This phenomenon has already been explained in great detail in Chapter B. In the next section, we will focus on the sea situation between Britain and Spitsbergen during WWI. We will discuss about the impact on the Norwegian Sea and about the important warming of Spitsbergen due to naval warfare.

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Seas under naval stress

Naval warfare: 1914-1916

 When WWI started, in August 1914, the German Navy had 28 U-boats. Their capacity was limited. From August 1914 until December 1916, the U-boats sank 2,200,000 tons of enemy ships. This means a total number of 1,500 Allies’ vessels, or an average of about three vessels per day. On the other hand, the loss of U-boats increased mainly due to a newly developed depth charge with 300 pounds TNT or amatol, in 1915, which had become available and fully operable since 1916.

Naval Warfare: 1917-1918

 The situation became dramatic for Britain in early 1917. U-boats sank more ships than shipyards could deliver. In April 1917 only, the annual rate of the previous years was reached in only one month (860,000 tons). In 1917, U-boats alone sank 6,200,000 tons, the equivalent of more than 3,000 ships.

 The total loss of the Allies shipping was of about 12 million tons: about 5,500 merchant ships, 10 battle ships, 18 cruisers, 20 destroyers and 9 submarines. The total loss in naval units for the Allies and the Axis was of 650 ships (including 205 U-boats) with a tonnage of 1,200,000 tons.

Depth Charges – What it meant to attack a U-boat?

 The onslaught of U-boats culminated with the sinking of almost one million tons per month (like, for instance, in April 1917). Although the British Navy was able to prevent hundreds of real or suspected attacks, the result was not at all encouraging. Only 11 U-boats could be sunk in a four-months period. New protection measures became a major necessity: convoying, patrols, a new promising weapon, depth charges, etc.

Sea Mines

The main minefields from the North Sea were on the Britain’s East Coast including the Strait of Dover, Helgoland Bight and Northern Barrage. A rough figure for each of these areas is 50,000 mines. The total number of mines in the North Sea was of 190,000 and the total number during the whole WWI, of 235,000 sea mines.

 Minesweeping is an activity that stirs and shakes the sea on an unprecedented scale. The ‘stir impact’ on the seas could possibly be many times higher than the mine laying and the impact of mines that ‘hit a target’ together. Britain alone had more than 700 fully operational minesweepers. Germans had a considerable number, too. Around 500 ships swept the North Sea every day, day and night.

 

Barents Sea and Baltic Sea

Many intense encounters in the Barents Sea could have played a major role in the icing of the high North, in February 1915 and the harsh winter in the North-West of Europe (1916/17). Since early 1915, more than 450,000 tons of coal and 90,000 tons of weaponry had been shipped to the Russian port Archangel. Russian and German navies had laid thousands of sea mines. Dozen of minesweepers were permanently in service. U-boats sank 25 ships in late 1916 and 21 vessels between April and November 1917.

 Dozens of mine fields with thousands of mines were placed in the Eastern Baltic Sea. Many naval activities took place every day, for four years. British and Russian submarines operated successfully. The increase of sea icing during the war years (1914-1918) can be attributed to the naval warfare from the Baltic waters.

Northern Mine Barrage

 U-boats had been a serious threat to the Allies since 1916. Preventing U-boats from leaving the North Sea and sailing into the Atlantic Ocean seemed an essential thing to do. A long barrage between the Orkney Islands and Norway would be required in order to ‘close’ the northern outlet of the North Sea, about 150 sea miles (approx. 275 km). Near the Norwegian coast, the water is 300 metres deep and near Orkney, about 100 metres. Sea currents can reach 3-4 nautical miles/hour. That was a challenge which required the development of a new mine, the MK6. The charge consisted of 300 pounds of grade B trinitrotoluol (TNT). The mine itself was supposed to have a destructive radius of 100 feet (approx. 30m) and to destroy submarines. Estimations showed that approximately 100,000 mines should effectively prevent U-boats from passing the line. Actually, only about 70,000 mines were laid until October 1918.

 By March 1918, mines were already available. Shortly after the placement of the mines, they began to explode. According to a report for the USA Government, between 3 and 4 per cent of 3,385 placed mines blew up prematurely. In the middle section “A”, mines were supposed to be placed as it follows: 10 rows of mines at a depth of 80 feet, 4 rows of mines at 160 feet, 4 rows of mines at 240 feet. 20,000 mines were disposed of while the work was in progress. The placement of mines ceased in November 1918 when first signs of the armistice appeared.

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Mine sweeping started in spring and ended in autumn 1919. From more than 73,000 mines

  • about 5,000 exploded prematurely soon after having been laid;

  • from the remaining approx. 50,000 mines

  • more than 30,000 mines were already ‘gone’ in spring 1919, either drifted away or exploded during winter storms;

  • 20,000 mines were swept in 1919.

During six months of sweeping, operations consisted of seven sweeping missions involving more than 70 vessels and 10 supply vessels.

A possible cause for the sever warming: 1918-1939

 

Let’s face the facts: WWI was the most destructive event the North-East of the North Atlantic had ever faced. Much of the North Atlantic water going North, and the whole North Sea was part of the naval battleground for four war years before moving northwards, towards Spitsbergen. Since 1918, the Arctic Ocean warmed twice: in 1938 and in 1980. Between slightly above the Arctic Circle and the pole, the warmest years on record in the Arctic Ocean were 1937 and 1938. War winter 1939/40 put an abrupt end to the Warming of Europe. The most convincing conclusion is that WWI has played a significant role in the warming of the climate since 1918, but how?

We started the chapter on Spitsbergen warming in 1918 by pointing out that two decades of sustained warming could only come from the Norwegian Sea, and/or from the northern arm of the Atlantic Gulf current.

The Norwegian Sea basis is a three thousand meter deep hole. The heat reservoir is enormous: enough to preserve the Northern Hemisphere from icing during the Nordic winters and to sustain regularly storms and winds. But water mass isn’t the most important element. What matters even more is the very delicate balance of water temperatures and salinity at any depths.

We can’t ignore the warm water inflow coming from the south. The inflow coming from the west of Scotland is the most significant and about 6-7° C warmer than water crossing the Iceland-Faroe Ridge. The inflow into the Norwegian Sea represents almost eight times the total outflow of all the world rivers (eight million tones per second), while the forwarded energy in terms of heat transport corresponds to an energy output of 100,000 major electricity power plants. In comparison to the 8×106 m3/sec warm water from the Gulf Current, the water transport in the Norwegian Coastal current on the southwest coast is of about 1 million cubic meter per second (1×106 m3/sec), increasing northwards with a speed between 30 and 100 cm/sec, or with 1 to 4 km per/h. It takes between 3 and 8 weeks for the water to reach Spitsbergen. It’s a phenomenon of large proportions, so one can wonder if and how a nearby sea war can actually compete with such natural dimensions. But nature ways are intricate and physics offers thousands of variations and changes. The same way a very thin and still freshwater layer at the surface of vast sea areas would isolate almost completely the seawater body from the atmosphere during winter time, hundreds of other activities can change the structure of seawater layers. That must have happened in 1918 and it was indeed a phenomenon with important consequences. A two decade warming does not come from nowhere. Scientists who speak about climatic changes as a matter of expertise have to answer this question first.

Providing reasonable explanation for the warming of Spitsbergen in 1918 might not be such a difficult task. One explanation could be based on the fact that naval war around Britain and in the North Sea caused the cooling down of the water from September until March, this way having a strong effect on about up to 20% of all water that formed the Norwegian Currents. Therefore, the water coming from the North Sea had significant lower salinity as compared to the high salinity of the Atlantic water. This colder water would go down faster than usually, forcing saltier water (from the inner Norwegian Basin) to the surface. Significant parts of the system were forced into higher motion, and, at the north of Spitsbergen, colder and saltier water flowed quicker into the Artic Basin, which, at its turn, allowed more water to flow into the Norwegian Sea via the Scotland, Faroe, and Iceland ridges. The “experiment” ended with a larger amount of warm water at north of Scotland, after the end of WWI.

 There might be other more convincing explanation and we are always interested in any good reasoning. But what we find difficult to accept is that the severe and lasting warming of Spitsbergen which took place almost one hundred years ago has not been explained yet. One century has passed since this sudden and severe warming first started, then materialized into a two decade phenomenon.

Global warfare – Global cooling

The Half Century Cooling

 After having gone through three cold war winters (1939-1942 world), Europe was forced to go through an even much bigger climate change experiment. With Japan’s ambush at Pearl Harbour with dozen of ships and hundreds of bomber air planes, on the 7th of December 1941, a new chapter of anthropogenic climate change began to be written. For the following four decades, climate switched to a colder status.

 There is nothing pleasant about global cooling. Yet, for all those who are overwhelmed by the scientists affirmations that carbon dioxide is warming up our earth, the large area experiment initiated by the naval warfare can come as a blessing. Global statistics have never shown such a pronounced temperature downturn trend before war winter 1939/40, phenomenon which lasted until 1980th and which only went back to the level of 1939 in 1980. Carbon dioxide (CO2) can be excluded from the list of possible reasons for the global cooling. In the 70s, a serious debate on the danger of a new ice age broke out. The New York Times[i] reported that scientists observed many signs according to which Earth may be heading for another ice age. The Science magazine[ii] published articles about the possible extended glaciations of the Northern Hemisphere, and regarded a return of the Ice Age as a very possible event. TIME magazine claimed[iii] that, climatologically speaking; cassandras are becoming increasingly worried about their cooling trend findings, which may be considered as the signal of another ice age.

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There was no doubt that global cooling was a serious phenomenon. Although the threat was eminent, neither the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) nor other groups concerned with the global warming issue have ever showed any interest in analysing the pronounced global cooling. The half century climate change occurred without any implication of the CO2.

Then what was the determinant factor? Nothing out of the ordinary happened. Throughout the early 20th century, nature resumed its course. No serious earthquake, tsunami, meteorite fall, sunspots occurred. Industrial plants and combustion machines abundantly released smoke, soot, sulphate, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but, instead of a global warming, the world clime cooled down. The only serious event which took place for three years in European waters and for four years at a global level (since 1942) was the warfare.

 The conduction of a naval war at a global level and the turning and churning of huge sea areas in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans lead to the inevitable. Climate changed dramatically into a colder one, for four decades. Oceans and seas which had undergone a strong warming during World War I became now significantly colder. This change lasted half a century.

 As the events and the destructive forces unlashed between 1939 and 1945 have played a determinant role in the global climate change, we will focus on the WWII naval war. The aim is to demonstrate that, as there were no significant natural phenomena during that time period, war at sea remains the only plausible explanation for the climatic modification. For a better comprehension of the interconnection between naval activities and ocean reactions to them, the following section will summarize some physical principles and geographical features of the war areas in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. After all, climate research should restrain from scaring anyone with global warming if unable to explain convincingly what made earth atmosphere cool down for four decades since WWII commenced in the first place.

World Oceans Churned and Turned

 Water influences

 The overview of the naval warfare in the wide oceanic spaces will always remain incomplete. The exterior aspect of the seas remains unchanged before and after a sea battle. All signs left on the water surface by ship movement, sea mine explosions, or shipwrecks disappear quickly. Only oil and cargoes may disturb the picture of unadulterated nature for a short while. Any scenery of action is back to normal very soon, as far as an external viewer is concerned.

 After any anthropogenic action, physical structure of any ocean encounters smaller or bigger changes. The physical composition of the seas inevitably changes in terms of temperature scale and distribution of salinity. They never turn back to their previous state, but strive for a new equilibrium. Some call it a state of chaos, but it is plain physics. And physics, which stays behind all oceanic changes, has a major influence on the climate.

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Naval War in the Atlantic Ocean (1939-41)

 Naval war and supply across the seas became part of ocean physics for a long time. Allies sailed with 300.000 vessels across the North Atlantic. If every ship turned the sea about on a width of 20 meters, we can sum all up to 6 Million meters or 6,000 km. This means that the sea surface of the North Atlantic Ocean was ploughed through three times. Naval Escort Vessels and freely operating war ships certainly doubled the space of ‘turnover’. Many thousands of torpedoes, many hundred thousand depth charges and bombs, and multi-millions of shells certainly doubled again the already ‘doubled space’ of turnover. Presumably not less than a dozen times the surface layer of the middle North Atlantic Ocean was completely ‘churned and turned’ in just over six years. Any ‘turning’ effect could reach down to a few meters, five to ten meters (vessel draught), 200-300 meters (depth charge), thousands of meters (sinking ships, cargo, ammunition, etc).

 As mid-latitude, seasonal climatology heavily depends on the upper sea surface layer of about 30-60 meters, global naval war is a force to reckon.

 Time influences

 The climatic change during WWII has two distinct periods, namely the period before Pearl Harbour and the period thereafter. From September 1939 until early 1942, naval warfare was largely confined to European waters. Great climatic relevance of the war at sea in the North Europe became dramatically clear during the extremely cold winters of 1939/40, 1940/41, and 1941/42.

 Outside European waters, naval activities during 1940 and 1941 were largely confined to Eastern North Atlantic. The most affected areas were the transportation routes from Britain to North America and from Britain to Gibraltar and Dakar.

U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean

 A number of German U-boats were already in the Atlantic when the war broke out, in September 1939. Britain came up rapidly with the convoy system. A convoy consisted of up to sixty, either slow or fast vessels, accompanied by up to ten naval escort ships. The first convoy set off in September. Also in September 1939, groups of three to five naval vessels were formed to control large areas in the North Atlantic Ocean. These groups criss-crossed the seas day and night searching for U-boats and dropping depth charges when a U-boat was detected, or assumed to be around. German surface naval vessels, such as the battleships Deutschland, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, sailed in the Atlantic escorted by a number of escort vessels. Until the end of December 1939, the Allies and Neutrals had lost 55 vessels with a total tonnage of 300,000. Five U-boats were also sunk.

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Fights increased in the North Atlantic during the war years 1940 and 1941. In August 1940, Germans lifted all restrictions on U-boat targets. The number of available U-boats was of 50 (in January 1940) and of 230 (in December 1941), of which about 8 were on permanent mission in the Atlantic during 1940, and 15 during 1941. The total loss inflicted on British, Allied and Neutral shipping by the Axis powers (U-boats, air forces, mines, and surface naval vessels) was of 3 million tons in 1940 and of 4 million tons in 1941. These figures relate to about 1,500 ships, with cargo, stores and fuel. The Germans lost about 40 U-boats in the Atlantic during these two years.

The Atlantic Convoy

Effective supply was essential in order to obtain a war victory. Thousands of accounts talk about dramatic events at sea. On September 21/22, 1940, the Convoy HX72 was caught in a twelve-hour battle, in which eleven ships were sunk and other two damaged, with a total loss of 100,000 tons of supplies and around 45,000 tons of fuel.

 At the beginning of the war, the convoy escort was small in number and not always sailing with the group for the full distance of the voyage. In 1941, the average size of a convoy was of about forty ships, accompanied by six naval vessels as escort. Later on, certain escorts became quite massive. For example, in 1942, the Convoy ON202, made up of 38 merchant ships, had an escort of 3 destroyers and 3 corvettes; while the escort for the Convoy ONS18 comprised 6 destroyers, 8 corvettes, and one trawler.

 A special aspect concerns the loss of tankers between 1939 and 1941. The British fleet lost 1,469 tank-ships and the Norwegians 430 in just 28 months. If one assumes that the average loading capacity of each ship was of 2,000 cargo tons and that half of the sunken vessels were loaded, the total oil overflow could sum up to two million tons in 2 years, an amount corresponding to the total oil overflow of tank ships between 1967 and 2002.

 However, U-boats were not acting alone in the North Atlantic. Since the Luftwaffe could operate out of France since summer 1940, long-range aircrafts were sent out in the Atlantic to attack supply routes. The total shipping tonnage sunk by the Axis airplanes in all sea areas during the first two war years is claimed to be of 1.5 million tons.

Naval War in the Pacific Ocean (1942-1945)

 

On December 8th 1941, The New York Times reported: Yesterday morning Japan attacked the United States at several points in the Pacific, with a major attack on Pearl Harbour. President Roosevelt ordered United States forces into action and a declaration of war was expected soon. Seven hostile actions from a naval ship off the coasts of San Francisco to Malaysia were reported (NYT, 08 December 1941). This was going to continue for four years. Allied forces, namely USA, Britain and the Netherlands, had a total strength of about 220 big naval vessels, including 70 submarines. Japanese had 230 naval vessels and 64 submarines in December 1941. Several aircraft carriers were available on both sides, able to deploy many thousands of airplanes.

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Recording four years of naval warfare and putting them in connection with the modification of the ocean water at its surface level (1,000 metre depth) is an almost impossible task for a small study. It could only attempt to arouse the readers’ imagination concerning the consequences of the war and the ocean temperature and salinity structure. Oceanic matters have been discussed in the corresponding chapter: ‘Ocean system affected’, with the mention that sea surface temperatures were low between 1945 and 1977[iv]

The clash of the naval forces in the Pacific had no other precedent. The opponents made use of every means and military options. Heavy battles were fought. In May 1942, the combatants met in the Coral Sea, each with three-dozen ships and several hundreds of airplanes. In a first attack on May 05th, the US Navy destroyed one Japanese destroyer, three minesweepers, and 4 smaller vessels with 22 torpedoes and 76 bombs (each weighing 450 kg). Other attacks followed during next days. On May 8th, each side had lost about 35 aircrafts. A mighty explosion sank the aircraft carrier Lexington. Even more naval vessels and airplanes were destroyed in June 1942, during the Battle of Midway. The Japanese alone deployed more than 200 big naval vessels under five separate commands. The USA and Japan lost a significant number of naval vessels (more than 120,000 tons) and 400 airplanes.

91 92 93

Aircrafts played a significant role in the Pacific war. The strength of Japan’s front line was in its air power which consisted in about 4,000 planes; the USA had 4,000 in January 1941 and 22,000 in July 1945. After taking over Okinawa, the US Third fleet had deployed 26 aircraft carriers, 64 escort carriers and 14,000 combat aircraft for a final attack on Japan. The Japan’s loss was of 37,000 combat aircrafts (army and navy); the USA lost 8,700 aircrafts in the battle.

 Material loss in the battle was of enormous proportions. Japan lost more than 500 warships (including 150 submarines) with a total tonnage of about 2,000,000, the figure in merchant tonnage was of about 8,000,000 of which 5 Mio (1,150 ships) have been sunk by US-submarines and 1.5 Mio by airplanes. During the war years, Japan had about 700,000 tank ship tonnages permanently afloat and lost, during the war period, 1,500,000 tanker tonnages. The US lost 52 submarines. Many of them fell pray to depth charges. Standard Japanese depth charge contained about 230lb of explosives. Anti-submarine bombs carried by aircrafts were 131lb and 550lb each, the latter being preferred when available. The Japanese had no means to determine the depth and position of an enemy submarine, so the pattern of their attacks usually consisted in dropping depth charges in a variety of settings according to the fuse time. The Japanese lost 150 submarines, many of them destroyed by depth charges. Only by studying special literatures, available in great number and detail, one is able to imagine what happened in the Pacific war theatre. One cannot escape the impression that WWII left its imprint on Pacific seawater.

95 96 97
98 WWII JAPANESE BOMB LEXINGTON 100
103 105 106

War in the Atlantic Ocean (1942 –1945)

 Aerial warfare in the Atlantic Ocean

 

The use of planes during the Atlantic war progressed tremendously as the USA entered the war after the attack of Pearl Harbour, in December 1941. The US production was estimated at 127,000 planes in 1942, which exceeded the total number of German aircraft production during the whole war period. It meant that more aircrafts of a much better quality and power were available for surveillance, bombing and combat missions in the Atlantic Ocean. Even in August 1942, eighteen American B-24 aircraft, called ‘Liberator’, were ready to escort Atlantic convoys. These planes had a range of 2,400 miles, fuel tanks of 2,500 gallons and reached altitudes of 30,000 feet. After the winter 1942/43, anti-submarine missions were assigned to the long-range aircrafts in the Atlantic, which sank 33 submarines between April 1943 and September 1944. 209 long-range bomber aircrafts were available in the US navy in July 1942 and the number increased progressively to 2,200 aircrafts which searched and chased U-boats between June 1943 and May 1944.

 In 1942 and 1943, U-boats had very little support from the Luftwaffe and, even though, that little help diminished after the D-Day (1944). On the other hand, the Allies’ air force presence in the Atlantic Ocean improved significantly. The British Coastal Command launched approximately 238,000 sorties, totalizing 1,300,000 flying hours. According to report of the Coastal Command, fourteen U-boats were destroyed and another twelve damaged.

 As the German Luftwaffe wasn’t well equipped, it couldn’t manage a significant performance in the North Atlantic battle. However, they had a few hundred long-range, four-engine planes in service, which flew from their bases to France, in 1941. During the month of August 1941, they succeeded in sinking more than 300.000 tons of shipping, i.e. almost one-third more than the U-boats sank during the same month. Axis airplanes must have sunk a total of about 800 merchant ships in all war theatres. Even if less than half of that number was sunk in the hazardous waters of the Northern Atlantic and Northern Pacific, it actually meant the use of many thousands of bombs and the fall of hundreds of planes into the oceans.

U-boats near Florida and Cape Hatteras – 1942

 There was a short period, from January until June 1942, when U-boats operated successfully along the American East coast. Within half a year, they sank about 400 vessels. In only two weeks a few U-boats could sink 25 ships with a total tonnage of 200,000, out of which 70% were tankers. The summer of 1942 meant the end of the U-boat operation called ‘Paukenschlag’ (Drumbeat). The US Navy had become effective.

 The Gulf Current flows from Florida to Cape Hatteras, before turning around at Cape Hatteras and flowing into the Atlantic and eastwards, to Europe. The warm current together with the colder Atlantic water off Cape Hatteras built a highly sensitive water body having a significant impact on the daily weather, seasons and climatic conditions in the Northern Hemisphere. The war in these sea waters is to be held responsible for considerable changes of the seawater sphere.

U-boats

 In August 1942, the German U-boat fleet had reached the number of 340, with almost 300 boats more than three years earlier. During the whole war period, the U-boat force was of about 1,100 boats, out of which 850 participated in at least one combat mission and 630 were destroyed during enemy attacks.

German U-boats attacked and destroyed 2,822 vessels (14,220,000 tons). Italians sank 152 boats, 132 vessels (700,000 tons). The Axis U-boat fleet (German, Italian, and Japan) is said to have sunk 25 big naval vessels, 41 destroyers and about 150 other naval vessels. The main operation field of the U-boats was the Atlantic Ocean. But the success of the U-boats attacks ended shortly as they were effective only between 1942 and March 1943.

Atlantic Convoys

 As already mentioned above, the Allies completed over 300,000 Atlantic voyages during this war period. The heroic story of merchantmen has been written and rewritten in an uncountable number of books and essays. Here is only one case.

 In March 1943, two convoys (SC122 and HX229) suffered forty-four hour attack of the U-boats on their route. During the three-day battle that ensued, twenty-three merchantmen of the two convoys were killed. At the same time, the convoy HX229A, which included thirteen tankers, eight refrigerator and four cargo liners (39 ships), was directed northeast, towards Greenland. There they came upon Arctic conditions. The three convoys, with a total of 131 ships, carried about 1,000,000 tons of cargo – petroleum fuel, frozen meat, food, tobacco, grain, timber, minerals, steel, gunpowder, detonators, bombs, shells, lorries, locomotives, invasion barges, aircraft and tanks.

Tanker and Ammunition ships

 The destiny of many tankers proved to be extremely disastrous for their crew and for the ocean waters in the same time. The Allied and Neutral countries had about 1,000 tankers permanently in service since 1942. The total loss of tankers with a size of over 1,600 tons was of 4,221 ships between December 1941 and May 1944.

Depth Charges

 One of the most effective means of penetrating deep below the sea surface is the depth charge. Depth charges, which could explode at a depth of 500 feet, were in use since 1942. The ‘Hedgehog bomb’, a highly powered explosive fired by a multi-barrelled mortar and filled with Torpex, was also in use. Its range was of 250 yards ahead of the escort vessel. When attacking ships, they could fire twenty-six depth charges in pairs, set to explode at 500 feet and 740 feet alternately, every ten seconds.

 It seems difficult to obtain reliable figures with regard to the number of depth charges dropped in the Atlantic. The total figure could go somewhere around 500,000 or even more.

Gunners

 After the WWI experience, transport ships were equipped with guns for protection against U-boats and surface raiders. During 12 months of war, 3,000 vessels were armed with a 4.7-inch gun manned usually by six trained gunners.

The Arctic Convoy

Russians received about 4,000,000 tons of cargo, including 7,000 aircrafts and 5,000 tanks via the most difficult and dangerous route going from Britain to Murmansk. Climatically, this was the most sensitive sea route and probably many times more effective in climate changes terms then the naval activities at one thousand miles further south. Out of the total shipped cargo, 7% was lost in the sea. Danger came not only from the arctic climate, but from the attacks of the German Navy and Luftwaffe from their North Norway bases. The Luftwaffe had 264 aircrafts in that area, while the British Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force flew 17 combat missions to North Norway between January 1942 and November 1944, which involved around 600 airplanes.

 Convoys started to sail in August 1941; the 35th convoy sailed in May 1945; convoys guarded a total of 715 ships. 100 merchant ships, with a total of 600,000 tons, were lost. The German side lost five surface naval ships including a battle ship and a battle cruiser and 32 submarines. British Navy lost 20 surface vessels and one submarine.

 To avoid possible confrontations with German forces, the convoys sometimes travelled to the far North. For example, in July 1942, the ships which formed the convoy PC17 navigated close to Edge Island (Spitsbergen), at 77°N, and at the edge of the ice border, but were still suffered the attacks of Luftwaffe aircrafts and of U-boats.

 The convoys were escorted by a considerable number of ships. Fighting at the East and West of the North Cape had some serious consequences as this was the theatre of the most destructive WWII battles. For the Norwegian and Barents Seas, military presence didn’t pass unobserved: naval war had a huge impact on the sea. 

 

Atlantic Sea Mines

Between 1940 and 1943, an 110,000 mines barrage was placed by Britain between Orkney and Iceland. The ‘Mk XX’ mines were supposed to prevent U-boats from reaching shipping routs in the Atlantic. Whether the barrage was a serious threat to U-boats or not is not a certain fact. It seems that it was not. But it would have been a tremendous threat to the sea if the mines had exploded prematurely.

Summary

 Even if information can’t be very extensive in such a brief presentation of the naval warfare between 1942 and 1945, it is enough to give a general idea of the climatic phenomenon and to raise the awareness that oceans had been ‘stirred and shaken’ in a way that could have caused their unusual cooling which lasted four decades.

 

[i] The New York Times, August 14, 1975

[ii] Science magazine, March 1, 1975,; and December 10, 1976.

[iii] Time magazine, June 24, 1974 “

[iv] Source: www.pmel.noaa.gov/

Original Book Version 2006 (not updated)´- iunivserse/USA

20th Century Climate changed by the Naval War

A century of climatic perspective Get the PDF!

We have seen how quickly and decisively a few months war at sea completely changed winter conditions in Northern Europe.Mild winters were suddenly replaced by the harsh conditions of the Little Ice Age, conditions the Europeans had not experienced for more than 100 years. This happened not only once, but three times in a row, namely during the first war winter (1939/40), the second war winter (1940/41) and the third war winter (1941/42).

WWI ended with the Big Warming Get the PDF!

We have seen how quickly and decisively a few months war at sea completely changed winter conditions in Northern Europe.Mild winters were suddenly replaced by the harsh conditions of the Little Ice Age, conditions the Europeans had not experienced for more than 100 years. This happened not only once, but three times in a row, namely during the first war winter (1939/40), the second war winter (1940/41) and the third war winter (1941/42).

Weather during WWI and WWII: a short comparison Get the PDF!

Several important factors need to be mentioned first. The land war started in 1914, while the naval war commenced at its fullest only in the autumn of 1916.

Spitsbergen 1918—The big warming.
The Jump Get the PDF!

The most significant climatic change which took place during the World War One occurred at Spitsbergen, a remote archipelagos situated between the North Cape of Norway and the North Pole. During the winter 1918/19, temperatures suddenly exploded, phenomenon described by the eminent Norwegian scientist B.J. Birkeland as probably the greatest temperature deviation on earth22.

Seas under naval stress
Naval warfare: 1914-1916 Get the PDF!

When WWI started, in August 1914, the German Navy had 28 U-boats. Their capacity was limited. From August 1914 until December 1916, the Uboats sank 2,200,000 tons of enemy ships. This means a total number of 1,500 Allies’ vessels, or an average of about three vessels per day. On the other hand, the loss of U-boats increased mainly due to a newly developed depth charge with 300 pounds TNT or amatol, in 1915, which had become available and fully operable since 1916.

Naval Warfare: 1917-1918

The situation became dramatic for Britain in early 1917. U-boats sank more ships than shipyards could deliver. In April 1917 only, the annual rate of the previous years was reached in only one month (860,000 tons). In 1917, U-boats alone sank 6,200,000 tons, the equivalent of more than 3,000 ships.

Depth Charges—What it meant to attack a U-boat?

The onslaught of U-boats culminated with the sinking of almost one million tons per month (like, for instance, in April 1917). Although the British Navy was able to prevent hundreds of real or suspected attacks, the result was not at all encouraging. Only 11 U-boats could be sunk in a four-months period. New protection measures became a major necessity: convoying, patrols, a new promising weapon, depth charges, etc.

Sea Mines

The main minefields from the North Sea were on the Britain’s East Coast including the Strait of Dover, Helgoland Bight and Northern Barrage. A rough figure for each of these areas is 50,000 mines. The total number of mines in the North Sea was of 190,000 and the total number during the whole WWI, of 235,000 sea mines.

Barents Sea and Baltic Sea

Many intense encounters in the Barents Sea could have played a major role in the icing of the high North, in February 1915 and the harsh winter in the North-West of Europe (1916/17). Since early 1915, more than 450,000 tons of coal and 90,000 tons of weaponry had been shipped to the Russian port Archangel. Russian and German navies had laid thousands of sea mines. Dozen of minesweepers were permanently in service. U-boats sank 25 ships in late 1916 and 21 vessels between April and November 1917.

Northern Mine Barrage Get the PDF!

A possible cause for the sever warming: 1918-1939 Get the PDF!

Let’s face the facts: WWI was the most destructive event the North-East of the North Atlantic had ever faced. Much of the North Atlantic water going North, and the whole North Sea was part of the naval battleground for four war years before moving northwards, towards Spitsbergen. Since 1918, the Arctic Ocean warmed twice: in 1938 and in 1980. Between slightly above the Arctic Circle and the pole, the warmest years on record in the Arctic Ocean were 1937 and 1938. War winter 1939/40 put an abrupt end to the Warming of Europe. The most convincing conclusion is that WWI has played a significant role in the warming of the climate since 1918, but how? We started the chapter on Spitsbergen warming in 1918 by pointing out that two decades of sustained warming could only come from the Norwegian Sea, and/or from the northern arm of the Atlantic Gulf current.

Global warfare—Global cooling

The Half Century Cooling Get the PDF!

After having gone through three cold war winters (1939-1942 world), Europe was forced to go through an even much bigger climate change experiment. With Japan’s ambush at Pearl Harbour with dozen of ships and hundreds of bomber air planes, on the 7th of December 1941, a new chapter of anthropogenic climate change began to be written. For the following four decades, climate switched to a colder status. There is nothing pleasant about global cooling. Yet, for all those who are overwhelmed by the scientists affirmations that carbon dioxide is warming up our earth, the large area experiment initiated by the naval warfare can come as a blessing. Global statistics have never shown such a pronounced temperature downturn trend before war winter 1939/40, phenomenon which lasted until 1980th and which only went back to the level of 1939 in 1980. Carbon dioxide (CO2) can be excluded from the list of possible reasons for the global cooling. In the 70s, a serious debate on the danger of a new ice age broke out. The New York Times reported that scientists observed many signs according to which Earth may be heading for another ice age. The Science magazine published articles about the possible extended glaciations of the Northern Hemisphere, and regarded a return of the Ice Age as a very possible event. TIME magazine claimed that, climatologically speaking; cassandras are becoming increasingly worried about their cooling trend findings, which may be considered as the signal of another ice age.

World Oceans Churned and Turned

Water influences Get the PDF!

The overview of the naval warfare in the wide oceanic spaces will always remain incomplete. The exterior aspect of the seas remains unchanged before and after a sea battle. All signs left on the water surface by ship movement, sea mine explosions, or shipwrecks disappear quickly. Only oil and cargoes may disturb the picture of unadulterated nature for a short while. Any scenery of action is back to normal very soon, as far as an external viewer is concerned.

Naval War in the Atlantic Ocean (1939-41)

Naval war and supply across the seas became part of ocean physics for a long time. Allies sailed with 300.000 vessels across the North Atlantic. If every ship turned the sea about on a width of 20 meters, we can sum all up to 6 Million meters or 6,000 km. This means that the sea surface of the North Atlantic Ocean was ploughed through three times. Naval Escort Vessels and freely operating war ships certainly doubled the space of ‘turnover’. Many thousands of torpedoes, many hundred thousand depth charges and bombs, and multi-millions of shells certainly doubled again the already ‘doubled space’ of turnover. Presumably not less than a dozen times the surface layer of the middle North Atlantic Ocean was completely ‘churned and turned’ in just over six years. Any ‘turning’ effect could reach down to a few meters, five to ten meters (vessel draught), 200-300 meters (depth charge), thousands of meters (sinking ships, cargo, ammunition, etc). As mid-latitude, seasonal climatology heavily depends on the upper sea surface layer of about 30-60 meters, global naval war is a force to reckon.

Time influences

The climatic change during WWII has two distinct periods, namely the period before Pearl Harbour and the period thereafter. From September 1939 until early 1942, naval warfare was largely confined to European waters. Great climatic relevance of the war at sea in the North Europe became dramatically clear during the extremely cold winters of 1939/40, 1940/41, and 1941/42. Outside European waters, naval activities during 1940 and 1941 were largely confined to Eastern North Atlantic. The most affected areas were the transportation routes from Britain to North America and from Britain to Gibraltar and Dakar.

U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean Get the PDF!

A number of German U-boats were already in the Atlantic when the war broke out, in September 1939. Britain came up rapidly with the convoy system. A convoy consisted of up to sixty, either slow or fast vessels, accompanied by up to ten naval escort ships. The first convoy set off in September. Also in September 1939, groups of three to five naval vessels were formed to control large areas in the North Atlantic Ocean. These groups criss-crossed the seas day and night searching for U-boats and dropping depth charges when a U-boat was detected, or assumed to be around. German surface naval vessels, such as the battleships Deutschland, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, sailed in the Atlantic escorted by a number of escort vessels. Until the end of December 1939, the Allies and Neutrals had lost 55 vessels with a total tonnage of 300,000. Five U-boats were also sunk.

The Atlantic Convoy Get the PDF!

Effective supply was essential in order to obtain a war victory. Thousands of accounts talk about dramatic events at sea. On September 21/22, 1940, the Convoy HX72 was caught in a twelve-hour battle, in which eleven ships were sunk and other two damaged, with a total loss of 100,000 tons of supplies and around 45,000 tons of fuel. At the beginning of the war, the convoy escort was small in number and not always sailing with the group for the full distance of the voyage. In 1941, the average size of a convoy was of about forty ships, accompanied by six naval vessels as escort. Later on, certain escorts became quite massive. For example, in 1942, the Convoy ON202, made up of 38 merchant ships, had an escort of 3 destroyers and 3 corvettes; while the escort for the Convoy ONS18 comprised 6 destroyers, 8 corvettes, and one trawler.

Naval War in the Pacific Ocean (1942-1945) Get the PDF!

On December 8th 1941, The New York Times reported: Yesterday morning Japan attacked the United States at several points in the Pacific, with a major attack on Pearl Harbour. President Roosevelt ordered United States forces into action and a declaration of war was expected soon. Seven hostile actions from a naval ship off the coasts of San Francisco to Malaysia were reported (NYT, 08 December 1941). This was going to continue for four years. Allied forces, namely USA, Britain and the Netherlands, had a total strength of about 220 big naval vessels, including 70 submarines. Japanese had 230 naval vessels and 64 submarines in December 1941. Several aircraft carriers were available on both sides, able to deploy many thousands of airplanes.

War in the Atlantic Ocean (1942–1945)

Aerial warfare in the Atlantic Ocean Get the PDF!

The use of planes during the Atlantic war progressed tremendously as the USA entered the war after the attack of Pearl Harbour, in December 1941. The US production was estimated at 127,000 planes in 1942, which exceeded the total number of German aircraft production during the whole war period. It meant that more aircrafts of a much better quality and power were available for surveillance, bombing and combat missions in the Atlantic Ocean. Even in August 1942, eighteen American B-24 aircraft, called ‘Liberator’, were ready to escort Atlantic convoys. These planes had a range of 2,400 miles, fuel tanks of 2,500 gallons and reached altitudes of 30,000 feet. After the winter 1942/43, anti-submarine missions were assigned to the long-range aircrafts in the Atlantic, which sank 33 submarines between April 1943 and September 1944. 209 long-range bomber aircrafts were available in the US navy in July 1942 and the number increased progressively to 2,200 aircrafts which searched and chased U-boats between June 1943 and May 1944.

U-boats near Florida and Cape Hatteras—1942 Get the PDF!

There was a short period, from January until June 1942, when U-boats operated successfully along the American East coast. Within half a year, they sank about 400 vessels. In only two weeks a few U-boats could sink 25 ships with a total tonnage of 200,000, out of which 70% were tankers. The summer of 1942 meant the end of the U-boat operation called ‘Paukenschlag’ (Drumbeat). The US Navy had become effective. The Gulf Current flows from Florida to Cape Hatteras, before turning around at Cape Hatteras and flowing into the Atlantic and eastwards, to Europe. The warm current together with the colder Atlantic water off Cape Hatteras built a highly sensitive water body having a significant impact on the daily weather, seasons and climatic conditions in the Northern Hemisphere. The war in these sea waters is to be held responsible for considerable changes of the seawater sphere.

U-boats

In August 1942, the German U-boat fleet had reached the number of 340, with almost 300 boats more than three years earlier. During the whole war period, the U-boat force was of about 1,100 boats, out of which 850 participated in at least one combat mission and 630 were destroyed during enemy attacks.

Atlantic Convoys Get the PDF!

As already mentioned above, the Allies completed over 300,000 Atlantic voyages during this war period. The heroic story of merchantmen has been written and rewritten in an uncountable number of books and essays. Here is only one case. In March 1943, two convoys (SC122 and HX229) suffered forty-four hour attack of the U-boats on their route. During the three-day battle that ensued, twenty-three merchantmen of the two convoys were killed. At the same time, the convoy HX229A, which included thirteen tankers, eight refrigerator and four cargo liners (39 ships), was directed northeast, towards Greenland. There they came upon Arctic conditions. The three convoys, with a total of 131 ships, carried about 1,000,000 tons of cargo – petroleum fuel, frozen meat, food, tobacco, grain, timber, minerals, steel, gunpowder, detonators, bombs, shells, lorries, locomotives, invasion barges, aircraft and tanks.

Tanker and Ammunition ships

The destiny of many tankers proved to be extremely disastrous for their crew and for the ocean waters in the same time. The Allied and Neutral countries had about 1,000 tankers permanently in service since 1942. The total loss of tankers with a size of over 1,600 tons was of 4,221 ships between December 1941 and May 1944.

Depth Charges

One of the most effective means of penetrating deep below the sea surface is the depth charge. Depth charges, which could explode at a depth of 500 feet, were in use since 1942. The ‘Hedgehog bomb’, a highly powered explosive fired by a multi-barrelled mortar and filled with Torpex, was also in use. Its range was of 250 yards ahead of the escort vessel. When attacking ships, they could fire twenty-six depth charges in pairs, set to explode at 500 feet and 740 feet alternately, every ten seconds.

Gunners

After the WWI experience, transport ships were equipped with guns for protection against U-boats and surface raiders. During 12 months of war, 3,000 vessels were armed with a 4.7-inch gun manned usually by six trained gunners.

The Arctic Convoy Get the PDF!

Russians received about 4,000,000 tons of cargo, including 7,000 aircrafts and 5,000 tanks via the most difficult and dangerous route going from Britain to Murmansk. Climatically, this was the most sensitive sea route and probably many times more effective in climate changes terms then the naval activities at one thousand miles further south. Out of the total shipped cargo, 7% was lost in the sea. Danger came not only from the arctic climate, but from the attacks of the German Navy and Luftwaffe from their North Norway bases. The Luftwaffe had 264 aircrafts in that area, while the British Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force flew 17 combat missions to North Norway between January 1942 and November 1944, which involved around 600 airplanes. Convoys started to sail in August 1941; the 35th convoy sailed in May 1945; convoys guarded a total of 715 ships. 100 merchant ships, with a total of 600,000 tons, were lost. The German side lost five surface naval ships including a battle ship and a battle cruiser and 32 submarines. British Navy lost 20 surface vessels and one submarine.

Atlantic Sea Mines

Between 1940 and 1943, an 110,000 mines barrage was placed by Britain between Orkney and Iceland. The ‘Mk XX’ mines were supposed to prevent U-boats from reaching shipping routs in the Atlantic. Whether the barrage was a serious threat to U-boats or not is not a certain fact. It seems that it was not. But it would have been a tremendous threat to the sea if the mines had exploded prematurely.

Summary

Even if information can’t be very extensive in such a brief presentation of the naval warfare between 1942 and 1945, it is enough to give a general idea of the climatic phenomenon and to raise the awareness that oceans had been ‘stirred and shaken’ in a way that could have caused their unusual cooling which lasted four decades.