90 years ago – a climatic revolution – in the Arctic

pozaBb[1]The course of climate had been running unagitated since the last violent eruption of the Krakatoa, Indonesia, in 1883. Immediately after Krakatoa the Arctic cold down slightly, but from 1888 until 1918 a modest temperature increase occurred[1]. But suddenly, winter temperatures ran amok at Spitsbergen, the archipelago situated between the Arctic Circle and the North Pole in and since winter 1918/19. In winter 1918/19 the modest trend changed dramatically. The Arctic temperatures rose until 1940 with an extraordinary pace. A. W. Ahlmann[2] called the event a ‘climatic revolution’, and B.J. Birkeland[3] saw the temperature rise, as “probably be the greatest yet known on earth”. These assessments are correct until today. Never since meteorology was establish as a scientific discipline two centuries ago, such a dramatic temperature rise had been ever observed again. Arctic temperatures seem not to have surpassed the data series from 1918-1940 nowadays.

Although the ‘climatic revolution’ is on record for more than 80 years, the current knowledge on: Where, When, and Why, is rather limited. For example, Lennart Bengtsson, et al. regarded this event only few years ago as “one of the most puzzling climate anomalies of the 20th century” [4], while Ola M. Johannessen et al.[5] merely offered as conclusion the suggestion “that the earlier warming was natural internal climate-system variability”. That seems too little and too superficial to deal with an unprecedented ‘climatic revolution’. Much worst is the behaviour of Oscar price winner Al Gore with his claim that men has put so much carbon dioxide into the thin shell of air surrounding the world that literally the Earth heat has been changed, causing a universal threats of cosmic in scale[6]. Back in the late 1910s men released only a small amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Here is certainly not the place to challenge the greenhouse thesis, respectively assessing its possible impact[7], but discussing the climate change issue in this way seems irresponsible as long as a ‘climatic revolution’ that occurred under the eyes of modern meteorology has not thoroughly analysed and the causation has been convincingly explained.


The objective of this investigation


The objective of investigating the Arctic Warming from 1918 to 1940 is to demonstrate that the oceans and seas control and determine the global climate. Insofar it is a part of a wider analysis[8]concerning the four major climatic diversions during the 20 th Century[9]. What makes the early Arctic Warming interesting and challenging is the necessity to establish at least two facts first, namely: Where and When, before considering any probable causation: WHY.

 Imagine that a ‘revolution’ took place 90 years ago, but “many” only talk about future climate changes, and some even claim that they can predict the climate in 10, 20, or even 100 years ahead, having no idea or explanation what had happened not very long ago. That seems hardly acceptable, when there is a case at hand, which could show, at least to a considerable extent, how climate ticks. The basis of the case is quite simple. The annual arctic mean temperature swelled 2,5º Celsius between 1918 and 1939, the winter temperatures were much higher. But neither the general attribution of this event to the Arctic region, nor reference to a time period over of one or two decades are sufficient to get a clear picture of this extraordinary climatic event. In the next sections we will outline the principal parameters on which the subsequent discussion will take place.



The boundary of the Arctic is generally considered to be north of the Arctic Circle, which runs along the latidude of 66° 33’North, comprising an area of about 1.5 times the size[10] of the United States. What happened in one corner of this huge area does not necessarily occurred in another corner as well. Speaking only generally about arctic warming may disguise importent information. The ‘climatic revolution’ is precicely such case. The sudden warming at a very confined location, the remote archipelogos of Spitsbergen at the latitude of 77-80° North, or about 1000 km north of the Nord Cape of Norway is a key factor for analysing the Arctic Warming in the late 1910s.

The overriding aspect of the location is the sea; the sea around Spitsbergen, the sea between particularly the Norwegian-, the Greenland-, and the Barents Sea (Nordic Sea). The Norwegian Sea is a huge, 3000 metres deep basin. This huge water masses stores a great amount of energy, which can transfer warmth into the atmosphere for a long time. In contrast the Barents Sea, in the southeast of Spitsbergen has an average depth of just around 230 metres. In- and outflow are so high that the whole water body is completely renewed in less than 5 years. However, both sea areas are strongly influenced by the water masses coming from the South. The most important element is a separate branch of the North Atlantic Gulf Current, which brings very warm and salty water into the Norwegian Sea and into the Spitsbergen region. Water temperature and degree of saltiness play a decisive role in the internal dynamics of the sea body.


And what might be the role of the huge basin of the Arctic Ocean, 3000-metre depth and a size of about 15 million square kilometres? The difference towards the other seas mentioned is tremendous. The Artic Ocean is permanently ice covered, the other seas only partly on a seasonal basis (see: Annex B, orAnnex C). Only between the open sea and the atmosphere an intensive heat transfer is permanently taking place. Sea ice reduces this transfer about 90% and more. In this respect the Arctic Ocean climate relevant impact is not oceanic but ‘continental’



This investigation is fully aware that the sudden rise of arctic temperatures could be a mere coincidence of circumstances, but is unwilling to accept such an approach without challenging it. An explanation is necessary because this event didn’t come from nowhere; it must have been caused by a physical force and dynamics, which resulted in sudden and unexpected temperature rises. Fortunately the collection of temperature data had already started in the early 20 th Century. Already in the 1930s and 1940s the phenomenon was analysed, albeit on a long-term statistical basis only. Although O.V. Johannsson[11] draw attention the fact that “in 1919, the statistical means crosses zero-value; or in other words, all previous years are colder; all later years are warmer” already in 1936, one need to try to analyse the timing much more precise. This will be done thoroughly, whereby the suddenness and the value of increase at the time of commencement of the event and during the following time period will be given particular attention. In so far it surprises a bit that I.V. Polyakov, et al[12], state that: “t he period between 1918 and 1922 displays exceptionally rapid winter warming”, but did not elaborated this aspect any further. We will demonstrate that warming started within a few months period in 1918, latest in January/February 1919. The precise timing is, as the location, a decisive aspect to consider the causation of the event.


In this respect it is to note that the investigation rests on observed wintertime temperatures. This is a decisive tool. It excludes very clearly any direct influence of the sun and carbon dioxide (C02), due to a long polar night. From October until February, sun radiation is virtually inexistent at Spitsbergen, and its direct influence on temperatures is practically zero. The winter season also diminishes any claim that CO2 could have played any significant role.



Once the location and time of the commencement of the arctic warming has been determined with high precision, and that will be done, the next question arises inevitable: WHY? After all the matter concerns a ‘climatic revolution’. No earthquake shook the earth crust, no volcano of significance had erupted, no meteorite had hit the Earth, neither had any tsunami been observed. We will certainly not exclude the option that nature did it on “its own”. But this conclusion can and should only been drawn, if a serious contender for having caused the arctic warming since winter 1918/19 has evidently been excluded, namely the naval war around Great Britain and at other Northern European sea areas from 1914 to 1918. Not only was World War I presumably the biggest interference to the natural commons since Krakatoa, but most of the sea water which had been subject to naval war activities did not remain in their place but travelled with sea current system into the Spitsbergen region were suddenly the temperatures exploded in winter 1918/19. The thesis will be elaborated in depth in: Chapter D “What caused the Arctic Warming?”.


  1.  See graph “Arctic Temperature Anomalies 1880-2004; by Steven Milloy; ‘Arctic Warming Update’, January 15, 2005;http://www.globalwarming.org/article.php?uid=889
  2.  H.W. Ahlmann; “Research on Snow and Ice, 1918-1940”, The Geographical Journal, 1946, p.11-25.
  3.  B.J. Birkeland; “Temperaturvariationen auf Spitzbergen”, Meteorologische Zeitschrift, 1930, p 243-236.
  4.  Lennart Bengtsson, Vladimir A. Semenov, Ola M. Johannessen, The Early Twentieth-Century Warming in the Arctic—A Possible Mechanism, Journal of Climate, October 2004, page 4045-4057
  5.  Ola M. Johannessen, Lennart Bengtsson, Martin W. Miles, Svetlana I. Kuzmina, Vladimir A. Semenov, Genrikh V. Alekseev, Andrei P. Nagurnyi, Victor F. Zakharov, Leonid Bobylev, Lasse H. Pettersson, Klaus Hasselmann and Howard P. Cattle; Arctic climate change – Observed and modeled temperature and sea ice variability; Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Report No. 218, Bergen 2002; Tellus 56A
  6.  Al Gore, Moving Beyond Kyoto, The New York Times, July 1, 2007, WK 13.
  7.  For details see: Arnd Bernaerts, “War Changes Climate, The Naval War Effect”, Victoria/CA, 2006, p.25-35; also available via:www.warchangesclimate.com ; Chapter A
  8.  See for example: www.seaclimate.com;www.warchangesclimate.com; and related book publications. Essays from 1992 to 1997: www.oceanclimate.de.
  9.  The major climatic events during the 20 th Century are:
    • The Arctic Warming from 1918 to 1940;
    • The extreme cold war winters in Northern Europe, 1939/40, 940/41, and 1941/1942;
    • The global cooling from ca. 1942 to ca 1970;
    • The resume of the pre WWII warming trend since the 1980s.
  10.  This size corresponds roughly to the Arctic Ocean basin which an area of about 14,056,000 km²
  11.  Johannsson, O.V.; ‘Die Temperaturverhältnisse Spitzbergens (Svalbard)’, in: Annalen der Hydrographischen Meteorologie, Maerz 1936, pp. 81-96
  12.  Igor V. Polyakov, Roman V. Bekryaev, Genrikh V. Alekseev, Uma Bhatt, Roger L. Colony, Mark A. Johnson3, Alexander P. Makshtas, and David Walsh; Variability and trends of air temperature and pressure in the maritime Arctic, 1875 – 2000; ca. 2003; J. Climate, 16 (12), 2067-2077, 2003. Extract via: Website of the Int. Arctic Research Centre, IARC, Alaska; or:http://www.frontier.iarc.uaf.edu/%7Eigor/index.php