Christmas Quiz due to NYT Report on
 25 December 1939

Russian-Finish Winter War
Whose responsibility is it to explain: the Press, the Judiciary, or Meteorology?
Here: 22 December 2008

The Christmas Quiz is quickly told if one lets the New York Time story by the reporter James Aldridge published on the 25th of December speaks for itself:

NYT 24 December 1939: “The cold numbs the brain in this Arctic hell, snow sweeps over the darkened wastes, the winds howl and the temperature is 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Here the Russians and Finns are battling in blinding snowstorms for possession of ice-covered forests. …I reached the spot just after the battle ended. It was the most horrible sight I had ever seen. As if the men had been suddenly turned to wax, there were two or three thousand Russians and a few Finns, all frozen in fighting attitudes. Some were locked together, their bayonets within each other’s bodies; some were frozen in half-standing positions; some were crouching with their arms crooked, holding the hand grenades they were throwing; some were lying with their rifles shouldered, their legs apart….(T)heir fear was registered on the frozen faces. Their bodies were like statues of men throwing all their muscles and strength into some work, but their faces recorded something between bewilderment and horror.”

 Is this story an imagination and an outrages lie?  But why should the reporter have done so? Fact is that the weather run amok. On the 21 December a sudden low pressure center had developed at the Lofoten (see the graphic). Fact is also that latest since the 21st the temperatures had been well below 30° C, presumably more than 20° lower than the usual mean temperatures in December, which makes the story puzzling.

Is it reasonable to assumes that the soldiers even if insufficiently prepared for the winter war could have turned to “monuments”? No doubt, minus 30 degrees can be deadly but not make from a hand grenade throwing soldier a statute of wax, which presumably would require a much bigger ‘shock’, e.g. the use of war gas or a shock freezing. Had there been for a brief period temperatures much lower than recorded? Would it not be time for climate and weather experts to explain what has happened during the Christmas season 1939 under the Polar Circle, and why the weather had started to run amok in Northern Europe with the beginning of WWII, as explained HERE

In Finland the days before Christmas looked as follows: 

 Friday, 15 to Thursday 21 December – Third week

17 December 1939
: “Last week’s fighting took place on days, that saw the thermometer in Central Finland go no lower than 4 degrees below zero (-20° C), while in Karelia temperatures ranged from 5-14 degrees above (-15 to -10° C).  (NYT, The Week in Review, 17 December 1939).

18 December 1939; The German weather service observed that cyclone activities in the high North have become strongly active again, at the same time the extreme cold had been continuing in that area. At Spitsbergen, in a strong northerly air current -15° C has been measured, providing the European arctic sector with a very cold air mass.

18  December 1939: A squadron of the Soviet Baltic Fleet (one battle ship Oktjabrskaja Revolutsija, five destroyers and further support vessels) shelled the 254mm Finnish coastal battery at Saarenpaa on Koivisto, with the arrival of a further battle ship, Marat,  on the 19th. Also planes bombed the island.

„The Finnish coastal batteries have been in lively combat for the last few days. Time and again they have been attacked by Russian planes or bombed. The coastal batteries around Koivisto have been especially exposed to bombardments”. (NYT, 20 December 1939).

20  December 1939: A highly spectacular weather event took place in the longest night north of the Polar Circle off the Roest (Lofoten), near the Norwegian port of Narvik. On the 20th December a cyclone developed suddenly, pushing air pressure down by 54.6 mb in 24 hours. 

20 December 1939:  “Russian drive was stalled in the far north by blizzards and temperatures 25 degrees below zero F (-31° C)”. (NYT, 21 December 1939).

20 December 1939: “Fierce fighting surged across the Karelish Isthmus in sub-zero temperatures (below -17.8° C) today, as Russians lost hundreds of tanks in a savage drive, they deployed 200 Red Air Force planes in widespread bombing attacks on the rest of Finland. The roar of artillery could be heard from one side of the 65-mile-wide Isthmus to the other”. (NYT, 21 December 1939). 

21 December 1939: “Russians retreat from Finland, in Arctic cold and snow”.
“By mid-afternoon the Finns were reportedly fighting in heavy snowstorm and subzero cold”. (NYT, 22 December 1939). 

21 December 1939: At the Arctic front the Russians retreat in less than minus 30° C. (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, NZZ, 22 Dec. 193939). North Finland temperatures down to -30 ° /-36° C. (Hamburger Anzeiger, 22 Dec. 1939).

For further details see the book: Climate Change & Naval War[1]; Chapter 2_41, p. 127-140[2];

PDF-File Russia invades Finland, December 1939:

Access to weather maps:

Dec.20; 1939;  

Dec.21 ;1939;       

Dec.22; 1939;

Dec.24, 1939;  

Dec.27, 1939;