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Table of Contents

War History of the Australian Meteorological Service




Chapter 1: D.Met.S.—Australia's Wartime Weather Service

Chapter 2: The Weather Factor in Warfare
Meteorology Through History
Enemy Use of Weather Strategy
Battle of the Coral Sea
Milne Bay and Buna-Gona
The Lae and Salamaua Landings
Weather in the Allied Advance
Chemical Warfare Experiments

Chapter 3: Met in the Retreat

Chapter 4: Met in the Advance

Chapter 5: Meteorology in Aviation

Chapter 6: Central Forecasting Services

Chapter 7: Met With the Army

Chapter 8: Research and Personnel Training

Chapter 9: Instrumental Development and Maintenance

Chapter 10: Scientific Developments in the RAAF Meteorological Service

Chapter 11: Divisional Bureaux and Their Work

Appendix 1: List of Reports Provided by D.Met.S. for Advances Operational Planning and Other Purposes

Appendix 2: List of Service Personnel RAAF Meteorological Service

Appendix 3: List of Civilian Personnel Who Worked Together with Service Personnel of the RAAF Meteorological Service

Appendix 4: List of Locations at which RAAF Meteorological Service Personnel Served


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Chapter 2: The Weather Factor in Warfare

Meteorology Through History

According to the historian Livy, the Carthaginian general Hannibal gave much consideration to the weather factor when planning his famous crossing of the Alps during the Second Punic War, but, in common with other great military commanders of the past, he was forced to treat the future behaviour of the elements as an unknown factor in tactical planning. History suggests that all great military leaders of bygone times planned their campaigns in the light of whatever details of topography and climate were available to them but these, at best, provided only a general picture of seasonal conditions over a wide area. Different indeed is the position of the modern commander, for the development of detailed weather forecasting in relatively recent years enables him to obtain from his meteorological staff reliable predictions of weather and operational conditions in precise localities and for precise periods, in addition to which general climatological surveys are available to a degree of considerable accuracy and detail.

Enemy Use of Weather Strategy

The modern general contemplating attack on enemy territory may now utilise the knowledge and skill of his weather officers to select a future time in which the elements will so behave as to assist his forces in their task, perhaps by providing cover that enables introduction of the surprise element so important in battle, or, perhaps by hindering the enemy through reduction in mobility in his attempts to repulse the invading force. Reliable predictions of weather conditions in the area of an objective at a certain time enables the present-day commander to vary the components of his force to include the elements capable of taking advantage of expected weather and, generally, to minimise the possibility of failure. Closest dependency on weather conditions is, naturally, to be found in air force operations, since navigation of aircraft is affected by wind conditions, cloud cover, visibility, rainfall, squalls and storms which, moreover, must be understood and utilised by the fighting aviator for the success of his missions and the protection of his life.

Thus air generalship, most of all, needs the constant cooperation of the meteorologist, with the result that weather science has reached its fullest operation, in the military sense, in the field of aviation. There the three dimensional problem of operational planning is further enhanced by the extent and complexity of the field of battle, but the weather man may justly claim to have marched abreast with other technical experts in the inexorable progress of recent years, reflected in the efficiency of our air arm during the Second World War.

For example, air reconnaissance is limited not only by darkness but also by stormy weather and the amount of cloud present in the sky so that, in combination with the speed of mechanised advance, timing of strategic movements to gain concealment in bad weather has become a standard modern method to obtain security or achieve surprise.

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Haldane, T. 1997 'War History of the Australian Meteorological Service in the Royal Australian Air Force April 1941 to July 1946', Metarch Papers, No. 10 October 1997, Bureau of Meteorology

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
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