This week at Café Sci, Professor Andrew Charlton-Perez gave a talk on weather forecasting during WW2, ahead of Armistice Day. Andrew took us back to 1944, when James Stagg– chief meteorologist at the Met Office – had to forecast the changeable weather conditions for the D-Day landings, probably the most important weather prediction of all time, and one that undoubtedly determined allied victory.
D-Day landings were scheduled to take place on the 5th June, 1944. However, using air reconnaissance, ship observations and UK observations sites, Stagg and his co-workers predicted unfavourable weather conditions, unlike the American team (Irving Crick) who had a more positive outlook. Luckily, Eisenhower took the advice of Stagg and D-Day was postponed until the next day. Conditions were still not ideal, but had the invasion been postponed to the next available date when the moon and tides were right, a storm that occurred would have most likely caused the invasion to fail. Although conditions were not perfect on the 6th June, the Germans had not expected invasion because of this and were taken off guard as a result.
Andrew discussed the way in which weather is now predicted and how computers now help with generating data compared to the manual methods used in the 1940s. Recently, Adrian Simmons used modern numerical weather forecasting to compare how methods used now would have predicted the weather on June 5th, 1944. For the results, you can listen to this audio recording of the results.