A Large-Scale Experiment with Climate –
The Extreme Winter of 1939/40 and Climate Research by Arnd Bernaerts
THE ISSUE: Europe suddenly experienced its coldest winter in more than 100 years. Since the 19th century, winters had become successively milder. “The present century has been marked by such a widespread tendency towards mild winters that the ‘old-fashioned winters’, of which one had heard so much, seemed to have gone for ever. The sudden arrival at the end of 1939 of what was to be the beginning of a series of cold winters was therefore all the more surprising,” reported the British scientist A. J. Drummond in the QJoR Met. Society as early as 1943. But neither he nor climate researchers in general went searching for the cause. This article explores the possible reasons.
From the time the Second World War began on 1 September, the weather displayed a broad range of peculiarities on both the local and large scale. Only four months into the war, Northern Europe was back in a small ice age. A look at meteorological developments through the end of February 1940 reveals a direct or indirect relationship to the high level of naval warfare activities in the North and Baltic Seas. But the thesis of the effects of the naval war is only one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is much more decisive and, in view of the ongoing climate discussion, can be called dramatic, even irresponsible. The climate makes an abrupt about-face in the winter of 1939/40, and climate researchers show no interest – neither immediately after the war nor half a century later. The IPCC has been talking about climate change for 20 years now, yet still does not have a clue about events in the autumn and winter of 1939/40 and whether this was the start of global cooling lasting more than 30 years. This is not a question of just any historical study, but of recognising how climate functions, how it can suddenly change and what the underlying causes of such changes can be. In particular, did human activity play a small or even a major role in the occurrence of the most severe winter in a period of more than 100 years?
The naval war in the autumn and winter of 1939/40 was a gigantic field study with verifiable effects. Researchers should have realised this and drawn conclusions relevant for the current climate discussion long ago. continue reading in PDF