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December 1916: Deadly Wartime Weather

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Percy Toplis

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BerichtGeplaatst: 06 Dec 2018 11:09    Onderwerp: December 1916: Deadly Wartime Weather Reageer met quote

December 1916: Deadly Wartime Weather

One of the worst meteorological disasters in history took place in the southeastern Alps during the infamous winter of
1916/17. Avalanches following a massive snowfall event killed thousands of soldiers as well as civilians. Novel insight
into the event arises from a detailed reconstruction based on weather forecast models and shows the potential of
combining numerical techniques with historical documents. This helps to better understand worst-case weather events
in the past and future and their societal impacts.

A century ago, Europe was in the midst of World War I. On
the Italian front, the Austro-Hungarian and Italian armies faced
each other on some of the harshest battlefields in history Ė on
the summits of the southeastern Alps (Box 1: The Italian front).
Here, during a large part of the year, the fighting would cease
almost completely, as a different war took place: a war against
cold, ice, and snow.1,2 With an average precipitation exceeding
2m per year in some locations, this part of the Alps is one of the
wettest places on the continent. Soldiers were literally buried by
snow and their bodies, exposed by shrinking glaciers, still provide
a touching reminder of that absurd carnage.
Fate was not on the side of those men, as the winter of 1916/17
turned out to be one of the snowiest of the century (Fig. 1), a fact
already noticed by contemporaries.3,4 Between November 1916
and January 1917, a rain gauge located on todayís Italy-Slovenia
border measured 1432mm of precipitation, about 80% of
the local mean annual total. After a dry February, an additional
560mm fell between March and April 1917. (...)

Cite as: Brugnara Y, BrŲnnimann S, Zamuriano M, Schild J, Rohr C, Segesser DM (2016) December 1916: Deadly Wartime Weather. Geographica Bernensia G91. ISBN 978-3-905835-47-2, doi:10.4480/GB2016.G91.01
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