Remembrance Day: WWI soldiers fought over one-third of war in heavy rain or snow

Remembrance Day: WWI soldiers fought over one-third of war in heavy rain or snow

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


At the start of the 20th century, weather forecasting was in its infancy. By 1913, France had more than 2,000 observation stations and it was now possible to get an accurate weather history of France.

However, when the First World War began, weather was dropped as a priority. As a result, the staff in charge of collecting and analyzing weather data were drafted in the war, along with 3 million other men. In northern France, where most of the battles were fought, 85 per cent of the weather stations were abandoned, and that was that.

Forecasters had to depend on letters from the soldiers in the trenches on the front lines for weather observations to make up for the lost years in meteorology. However, it did bring us a rather complete picture that was used as a basis from which to move from after the war.

In October 1914, the advancing armies stalled and dug defensive trenches. They remained in these positions until the end of the war. Many recall haunting images of being huddled in trenches -- wet, shivering and covered in mud. The conflict lasted a little more than 1,500 days, with one out of three, or 648, of those days spent in the heavy rain or snow.

From Jan. 1-17, 1915, 115 mm of rain fell in northeastern France. This was double the average of 60 mm of rain for the entire month. The summer of 1915 was dry, but in December, the bad weather returned and continued over the next year, with above-average precipitation for each month in 1916.

On today's podcast, Chris Mei talks about the evolution of weather data and reporting during the Second World War and how important observations were to fighting key battles.

"This Day In Weather History” is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

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