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Other WWI Aviation Airfields, equipment, tactics, training, uniforms and all other WWI aviation topics

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Old 15 December 2006, 10:25 PM   #1
SCMc
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Weather on the western front

Does anyone know how I would find wind patterns for the western front? Did aviation units keep records of surface winds? Did balloon units record wind at altitude? Has anyone compiled weather data from the war?

Answers to any of these questions would be appreciated.

Steve
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Old 16 December 2006, 07:15 AM   #2
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Talk to Bletchley.
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Old 16 December 2006, 02:33 PM   #3
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Hi Steve

Shredward and I are currently compiling weather data for the Flanders area and Northern France, but not in a detailed way (just simplifying the available data to three basic categories: FINE, POOR and DUD with notes on snow fall when relevant for the Front as a whole, to provide a new 'historical weather option' for the Over Flanders Fields flight sim).

Weather observations were taken by the French Met. Service during the war at a number of weather stations along the Front, and the daily weather charts that they produced can be viewed in the British Meteorological Office archives (and, presumably, in the French Met. Service archives as well). The British Met. Office established their own Met. Station at Albert just prior to the Battle of the Somme in mid 1916, and a second Met. Station at Dunkirk in 1917 - the daily weather forecasts that they produced from about July 1916 to the end of the war are also available for viewing at the British Met. Office Archive, located in the Devon County Records Office in Exeter.

We are not currently compiling any observations of wind direction, but the Met. services certainly did record both prevailing wind direction and strength, but at first only at ground level as this was important data in the planning for gas attacks; observations of the wind direction and strength at higher altitudes were not undertaken until later in the war when this became important information for the planning of long range strategic bombing missions into Germany (late 1917 through 1918).

Incidentally, the term 'weather front' was coined in this period, and is derived from the 'front' in Flanders.

I don't know if there are any weather observations available from German met. units: I have not heard of any.

Bletchley
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Old 16 December 2006, 05:29 PM   #4
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Bletchley and Shredward,

Thanks for your replies. Are you planning on having a day by day weather record for OFF?

I am looking for the wind patterns for an add-on Gabi is currently working on for RB. If I can find general periodic trends broken into 6 or 12 time blocks for the four sectors of the game, I would be very happy. The wind was a significant factor in WWI aviation, and it would be nice to see this modeled.

Are the records, at the British Met. Office, original documents, or are the availble electronically? Do you know how I would contact them?

Steve
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Old 17 December 2006, 03:24 AM   #5
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Aside from wind directions/values, i think also temperature/pressure values may be very useful - they could be used to modify air density (which effects the flight model) as an additional 'realistic weather' effect in RB.

Gabi
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Old 17 December 2006, 04:34 AM   #6
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Steve, yes we are doing it on a day-by-day basis, but it is generalised for the whole OFF map area (from south of Albert north to the coast) and, as I said in the previous reply, only in a very basic way at the moment without including wind direction or strength. I do in fact have several observations taken from unit diaries for most of the period that I am now working on (August 1914 through to July 1916), and this clearly shows that there was considerable variation in weather from North to South along the length of the Front (as, indeed, you would expect). Something I forgot to mention in my last post is that from about July 1916 the RFC communiques include very brief summaries of the weather reports that they recieved from 'Operation Meteor', the Met. Office station established at Albert: I don't have these to hand, but these communiques have been published in two volumes (I think Shredward has them? I can look up the publication details if you want). I am working on the period before July 1916, because it pre-dates this systematic weather reporting, and we are having to piece the data together from a variety of other sources. I can e-mail this to you, if it would be useful (just a list of FINE, POOR, DUD days at the moment). PM me with your e-mail address.

Not sure what you mean by 6-12 time blocks - do you mean 6-12 changes in wind direction/strength per day? The French Met. Service collected their data on a 4 or 8 hourly basis I think, with the exception of the Paris station which was more frequent (hourly or half hourly, I think, but I would have to check back on my sources for this) and this data is available, along with the daily weather charts, at the Met. Office archive in Exeter but only in the original hard copy, not in a digital format. I have yet to visit and look at this material myself, so this information is via the archivists there. They will photocopy and post, I think, so long as you know exactly what you want...but it isn't cheap but I can look up the contact information and archive reference numbers for you if you want to pursue this. The data on wind direction/strength will most probably be measurements at ground level, as the Allies did not start to use either aircraft or weather balloons/kites to take measurements at higher altitudes until later in the war (by which time the British Met. Office had a dedicated weather observation 'flight', just one aircraft I think, at their disposal in France). I am afraid I know nothing of the German side of things, or if any weather data they collected is still available...

Gabi, yes I can provide you with a digital copy of an original monthly British Air Board Pressure/Temperature gradient chart for Northern France (1916 I think). Just PM you e-mail and I will send

Bletchley
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Old 17 December 2006, 05:57 AM   #7
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Kite Balloon sections (which were situated all along the Western Front) recorded the weather every day, you would have to go to the National Archives at Kew to trawl through an awful lot of documentation if you are that keen to know wind strength and direction, temperature, cloud cover etc. for every army zone of operations.
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Old 17 December 2006, 07:17 AM   #8
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Thanks for that info. MikeW, I wasn't aware of that (although it makes a lot of sense) and I will have a look for the data next time I go the National Archives - I would guess that this was locally collected and distributed to the artillery units associated with the kite balloon sections. I know the The Met. Office section in France set up their own network of weather stations from mid 1916 onwards, although they may well have had access to this balloon section data as well.

The infantry and artillery unit diaries nearly always record some kind of general weather observation at the end of the daily entry (it must have been specified somewhere on the form), although this does vary greatly in detail (and as these were often filled in arrears they are often a bit vague or suspect). Also, they very rarely mention cloud cover, wind strength or direction, and are mostly concerned with temperature and precipitation at ground level.

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Old 17 December 2006, 06:22 PM   #9
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Bletchley,

By 6-12 time blocks, I meant monthly or bimonthly. If we knew the average and range of the wind velocity in those blocks, daily variation could be generated randomly. This would not be historically accurate to the day, but would reasonably reflect the conditions.

It may be easier to use recent data for the regions, since it is probably more readily availble.

Steve
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Old 18 December 2006, 05:12 AM   #10
Bletchley
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Yes, recent data should work just as well for that. But in case anyone is interested in the Met. Office archive holdings I have looked back at my notes, and this is a more accurate account of what the Met. Archive in Exeter has:-

French Met. Office: simple daily plotted charts, weather summaries (in French), daily weather observations from a selection of stations in France, plus observations every 3 hours at Paris (for the whole periodof the 1914-18 war).

British Met. Office: weather forecasts issued to Service Units on the Western Front (Oct. 1916 - Mar. 1919), and weather observations from Calais (May 1917 - August 1918) initially 4 times a day, but later increased to every 2 hours.

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