As history shows, a planned and prolonged war never begins during unfavorable weather. The cruelest and bloodiest war in human history – World War II – began at the end of a sunny and hot summer.
February 24, 2022 is not a random date. On this day, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. This is already after a period of severe frosts and before spring. Also, the early start of the winter-spring war was to allow time for the possible need to extend the period of military operations.
However, it failed. The spring thaw raised water levels in the marshes, and the area became a natural dam, preventing Russian troops from moving deeper into Ukraine. Then summer, which was characterized by above-average, high temperatures. As the soldiers of the troops defending the territory of the country against the invasion of the invader testified, the heat was conducive to the elimination of the enemy. The lack of habituation of the Russians from the north of the country and the fact that Ukrainian troops deliberately exposed them for several days in an unguarded area led the attackers to withdraw or surrender. Many of them died as a result of being heated inside the metal casing of the tanks.
On June 22, 1941, Hitler launched his attack on Stalinist Russia, hoping that the good physical condition of the Nazi soldiers and the defeat of the Soviet Union troops in the conflict with Finland (known as the Cold War and lasting from November 30, 1939 to March 13, 1940) would allow him to defeat Stalin. However, he did not expect his troops to lose as much to the weather as those of the Soviet Union.
History shows that during the conflict with Finland, Soviet soldiers could not withstand temperatures below -40 degrees Celsius. This was not surprising for the frost-hardened Finns, and the conditions were unbearable. The Nazis, while carrying out military operations, felt the first difficulty on the battlefield due to weather in September 1941. Heavy rain washed away heavy wax tools making it difficult to move through the softened areas. Also, rainwater contributed to the erosion of the armored fleet and the first cases of infectious diseases began to appear in the German army.
After approaching Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), the Nazis encountered another surprise. The city’s three-year siege claimed hundreds of thousands of lives each winter on both sides of the conflict. In the end, however, the Stalinists won because the frost almost froze the Germans. Thus, Hitler repeated the mistake of Napoleon, when his troops were destroyed by frost during the retreat from Moscow.
December 13, 1916, during the military operations between Austria and Italy, can be called one of the deadliest cases in which the forces of nature were deliberately used. After weeks of heavy snow and severe frost, the thaw was surprisingly sudden.
Exhausted troops on both sides, inadequate clothing and food for the weather on the Alpine front, and unsuccessful on the other side, decided to use nature to achieve their military goals.
The situation favored the Italians, whose troops outnumbered the Austrians stationed in the mountain valleys and foothills. The Italians, using explosives, deliberately set off an avalanche that fell directly on the Austrians. Millions of cubic meters of snow, accelerated at considerable speed, hit the head of an avalanche 200 meters high.
It is estimated that the pressure on the sliding ice can reach up to 5 tons per square meter. More than 500 Austrian soldiers were killed in an instant. Over the next few days, both sides of the conflict deliberately set off avalanches, annihilating each other. It is estimated that up to 10,000 people died on both sides of the war.
The acquisition and use of meteorological data during armed conflicts is one of the most important factors influencing the pattern of military operations. In September 1941, during the Harriman and Beaverbrook talks with Stalin, the issue of providing Soviet meteorological data, particularly from the polar regions, was raised.
During World War II, the English Decryption Center “Bletchley Park” housed a team of experts exclusively dedicated to studying German weather reports. Weather forecasting of the period, especially its verification and the nature of subsequent events, was characterized by greater systematicity and predictability of the forces of wind, frost and cloud cover.
Nowadays, in the Anthropocene epoch, climate fluctuations are becoming more and more noticeable. It is not only the increase in the average temperature over a period of time, but also the increase in rainfall events, the strength of strong winds and so on that have a direct impact on our lives. War conflicts have been around since the beginning of the functioning of civilizations and are not likely to disappear in the years to come.
But how much does the current weather hypothetically affect the course of the wars? Battles seem to depend on the weather. It may become forced and implement programs between subsequent atmospheric events. But modern warfare also involves the influence of many biological factors, such as microbes, for example, through mosquitoes.
Also, access to drinking water and food supplies will be a major problem, with drought or floods limiting production. Wars in times of climate change may take on an entirely different dimension, hitherto unknown. Operations using biological or chemical weapons may increase in importance. Also, it seems more likely that actions will be taken aimed at provoking energy wars. Also of global importance.
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