Turkey Earth Quake – 27. December 1939 – ~32’000 dead

1939 Erzincan earthquake struck on 27 December local time – magnitude of 7.8

Post: December 26, 2018

It seems time to ask science why the ignored a meteorological highly interesting weather conditions surrounding the 1939 Erzincan earthquake in December 1939. Due to Second World War Europe was in turmoil since 1st September 1939. Several highly extreme weather conditions had already occurred. During the closing days further ‘surprising’ weather conditions showed up the Barents Sea down to the Mediterranean, extreme low temperatures, extreme high air pressure, exceptional snow, culminating in a very destructive earthquake in Turkey on December 27th, 1939. It followed a rare tsunami in the Black Sea, with further weather implications, as summarized in a CHRONICAL (below). By the end of December 1939 to general weather condition in Europe including the entire  Erzincan earthquake offer a huge set of information on “how weather works” under extraordinary conditions, that one can only wonder why science has shown no interest in understanding and explaining the situation almost eight decades ago.

It follows an excerpt from Chapter “B.  Cooling of Europe”,
Section:  “141  Turkey Earth Quake – 27 December 1939 (2_51)”
from the Book: Climate Change & Naval War 

Link to the Chapter: http://www.2030climate.com/a2005/02_51-Dateien/02_51.html

 “Once more a great disaster has visited a country, caused this time not by man’s inhumanity to man, but by a gigantic force of nature.” – “It is not likely that the new upheavals will teach the geologist anything new. They are evidence that nature has not yet finished with the earth.” – “What we urgently need is some method of predicting quakes and warning a threatened population.” (Extracts from the NYT Commentary on 29 December 1939).

Weather conditions before the earthquake

 First indications that Central Europe had been ‘conquered’ by an anti-cyclone weather system, preventing milder maritime air from flowing through the middle of the continent, were available in the first half of December 1939 itself.  Most significant deviation from the average weather became visible just a week before the earthquake struck. Between 21st and 22nd, temperatures dropped to below minus 30°C in Finland north of the Arctic Circle.

Around the same time (20th December), Northern Turkey had two high pressures of 1,040 mb attracting cold air from Siberia via the Caspian Sea. A low pressure (1,010 mb) shortly took control over Southern Turkey on 22nd, the high pressure returned again with two centres on 24th (ca. 1,040 mb), the pressure centre above 1,040 over the location of the epicentre on 25th, increasing to above 1,045 mb on 26th  (02 hours), which increased over Eastern Anatolia to ca 1,050 mb during the early morning and presumably remained high until the earth trembled violently. Cont.

What happened after the earthquake?

 All information on the Anatolia quake for readers interested in news was published by the NYT. The New York Times did a marvellous reporting job under the prevailing difficult conditions. While the NYT even became almost philosophical in its comments on December 29, about geology, the meteorological impact of the quake is highly interesting for practical purposes as well. Did the quake and its meteorological side effects contribute to the emergence of the extremely cold war winter of 1939/40 in North Europe?

At the Turkish Black Sea coast, about 150 km away from the epicentre, the quake generated a strong tsunami wave of up to a metre height that crossed the eastern part of the Sea in less than one hour. Cont.


6 December 1939; Severe earthquake, probably in Central America. (NYT, 6 December 1939).

22 December 1939; Early morning hours; a low pressure (965mb) over the Gulf of Bothina/ North Finland, and a high pressure over Western Rumania (1,035mb) control the weather in Northern and Central Europe[6].

22 December 1939; A very severe snowstorm brought shipping in the Black Sea and lower Danube river to a standstill on Thursday (21 December). At the coast the temperatures dropped to 15°C below zero. The storm in Bucharest caused considerable damage. (Hamburger Anzeiger, 23/24 December 1939). Snow also fell all over Bulgaria on December 21-22, starting a new cold weather episode (down to -16°C); on December 24th in Northern Bulgaria -20°C; December 25th until the earth quake in Turkey on 27th more moderate temperature below zero, showing no specific weather anomalies, (according to the Bulgarian newspaper ‘Zora’; by personal communication).

24-27 December; Baltic countries temperatures: In the Eastern parts of the Baltic countries (Russian West border) the temperatures fell to minus 17°C from 24th to 25th, and below 20°C one day later, extending to the Baltic coast, with minus 14°C in Klaipeda and minus 17°C in Gdynia (Bight) on 27th December 08-00 O’clock[7].

28 December 1939; 6,000 die in Turkey as quakes are felt around the world. Successive aftershocks take heavy toll of life and property in Anatolia regions. Los Angeles Area shaken. Central America is affected – London seismograph broken due to severity of tremors. (NYT, 28 December 1939). “Three additional tremors, subzero weather (minus 17°C) and blizzard winds, ..” – “Temperatures 22 degrees below zero (minus 30°C) and strong winds from the Black Sea claimed many victims…” (NYT, 29 December 1939).

 28 December 1939; Tremors registered in California (116 miles south of Berkeley) South Africa, Italy. (NYT 29 December 1939).

 28 December 1939; In New York record cold of 11.9° F; Four inches of snow reported in parts of State; Storms throughout the East. (NYT, 28 December 1939). (See above: NYT Dec.28,1939)

 28 December 1939; Pope to visit the Italian King Victor Emmanuel today, for the first time since 1870, (NYT, 28 December 1939), see next: “28 December 1939”.

 28 December 1939; Rome. “A cold dreary rain did nothing to dim the brilliance of the ceremony that began shortly before 10 o’clock.” – “ ….to see the Pope at all in such a weather.” (NYT, 29 December 1939).

 29 December 1939; “10,000 soldiers with shovels, had cut through mountainous drifts of snow” – “The continued cold – as low as 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit – seemed to be the greatest threat.” (NYT, 30 December 1939).

 29 December 1939; Temperatures in Turkey temporarily minus 30°C. Casualties in the Erzingan’s region about 42,000. (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 29 December 1939).

 29 December 1939; Ice closes Danube to German supplies; Rail traffic expected to be hampered by snow (NYT, 30 December 1939) “Cold winds have been blowing recently westwards from Russia, and the constantly low temperature in the river valley indicates a general freeze will set in soon.” (NYT, ditto).

 29 December 1939; From Agram in Yugoslavia minus temperatures of 32°C are reported.  (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 31 December 1939).

 30 December 1939; Turkey: New quakes add to toll in Turkey. Many more villages reported destroyed – Relief efforts hampered. Floods in West Anatolia. Erzingan’s casualties in quake at 42,000 – Allied and other Governments speed aid. (NYT, 31 December 1939).

 30 December 1939; “In Naples region today an unprecedented severe snow storm…”. Rome’s heaviest snowfall in recorded history – six inches – made the Romans feel as New Yorkers did in the 1888 blizzard. There had been nothing closer to this since the snowfall for three days from December 16 to 18, 1846”. (NYT, 31 December 1939) .

 30 December 1939; Cold wave over the Riviera. Genoa rapid fall of temperature, extensive snowstorm. Trieste reports heavy winter storms. Malians had –10°C. (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 31 December 1939).

 1 January 1940; “Turkish people suffered a third natural disaster today, following earthquake and floods, when terrific storms swept the Black Sea. Huge waves were dashing against Anatolian shores, and it was feared that many ships were floundered.” (NYT, 2 January 1940).

Read the entire invesigation at: http://www.2030climate.com/a2005/02_51-Dateien/02_51.html

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