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Titanic Anniversay: Weather on this day 100 years ago (11th April 1912)

  • 11-04-2012 1:18pm
    #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 5,150 ✭✭✭ Deep Easterly


    At 11.30 am on the 11th April 1912, the Titanic dropped anchor in Cork Harbour to pick up the last of its passengers before setting sail for New York. What happend on that journey is well known to everyone, and something that has personally given me nightmares since I was a child. There has been bigger, but less known marine disasters before and after Titanic, one such being the HMS EMPRESS of IRELAND tragedy in 1914 but I guess what makes the Titanic disaster stand out was not only the colossal size of the liner but that it also sank on its maiden voyage.

    The weather on this day 100 years ago was a typical fair weather spring day in Ireland, with light to moderate NW to N winds and temperature close to the seasonal norm. Max temperature at Phoenix park on this day was 10.0c with Newcastle (Galway) reporting max temp of 11.1c. From this, I would say the temperature at Cobh would have been around 9c-10c around the time that Titanic docked.

    Scant reports say that the weather was fair but breezy as the Titanic departed Cork Harbour. Looking at photographs taken as Titanic both entered and departed Cork Harbour, it looks as if the dominant cloud type was broken stratocumulus (Sc) at around 5 or 6 octas.

    The two photographs below show Titanic entering and departing Cork Harbour. I messed around with the contrast of both photos in PS to try and highlight the actual sky as much as possible:

    200042.png200043.png




    MSLP chart showing pressure pattern around the time that the Titanic set off on its final journey. A reasonably slack gradient over Ireland in a stable NW to N air flow:

    200041.png
    Image extracted from the NOAA-CIRES Twentieth Century Global Reanalysis (Version 2)

    The actual pressure gradient suggest that the winds would have been light to moderate on this day over much of the country but possibly fresher in more exposed coastal areas hence the reports that the winds were 'brisk' during Titanic's brief stop off at Cobh.


    Weather reports from Titanic's actual journey across the Atlantic are sparse and not very detailed but the general consensus is the weather remained fair both on the 12th and 13th April with lighter winds than was experience in Cork harbour - due in no small part to the ridge of high pressure on the chart above! - but with reports of some fog banks also.

    Later on the 13th, or possibly early 14th, the Titanic ran into the path of a cold front which was moving west. What reports there was suggest that the winds picked up from the SW (no mention of by how much but unlikely to be very strong) and that it became too chilly for passengers to enjoy staying out on deck. Wave heights reportedly reached around 2.1 m during the passage of the front, which going by the synoptic charts, was probably not all that particularly active.

    The weather cleared and it became colder with temperature dropping to as low as 29F (-1.6c) by nightfall according to some sources. The sheer calmness of the night was noted as being 'unusual' by both the captain of the ship and by its crew. This calmness was due to a strong ridge of high pressure that followed on from the cold front that had passed on earlier.

    This anticyclone had its origins in the NW Canadian Arctic region which help to drag down a deeply cold pool of air on its eastern flank as it moved SE'wards into the Atlantic. This resulted in the vivid clear, starry skies that were were observed by both passengers and crew on the night of the tragedy, and also the intensely cold temperatures that unfortunately helped to increase the fatality count after the sinking.

    Chart below shows the MSLP patten over the western Atlantic at the time the Titanic sank beneath the ocean:

    200044.png
    Image extracted from the NOAA-CIRES Twentieth Century Global Reanalysis (Version 2)

    Going by this chart what wind there was during Titanic's final moments was probably from a NW to N direction but as reported very light to calm as the ridge intensified over the region.

    Just to note, there is some debate as to the actual time of Titanic's sinking. Popular belief is that it sank sometime around 2.20am but many have noted that this based on 'Titanic' time only. The clocks on the Titanic were adjusted on a daily basis in an attempt to keep in with the time-zone they were sailing through at a particular time and were not in accordance with GMT time. Going by this, it is quite likely (although not certain) that the Titanic sank closer to 5.40 am Irish Time.

    This concept is much better explained here as I have been writing long-winded post this since 11.20am and am just about drained out. Can't believe it is 1 o clock already!

    Edit: An nice old folk tune with Titanic theme : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWo6qH7bCIA

    Further reading:
    Titanic Inquiry - Weather during voyage
    The Unfinished Trip
    Did weather sink the Titanic?
    Titanic's last radio transmission


Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,628 ✭✭✭ Elmer Blooker


    The Titanic was launched on May 31st 1911 in Belfast but on the very same day there was a major weather event in Southern England which is still remembered.

    http://www.epsomandewellhistoryexplorer.org.uk/Derby1911.html

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/e/o/Derby_Day_Storm_-_31_May_1911.pdf


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 8,633 ✭✭✭ darkman2


    Here is the North Atlantic synoptic situation on 11th April 1912 (naturally this is very vague by today's standards)


    Rrea00119120411.gif


    Recorded cold/mild airmass distribution

    Rrea00219120411.gif


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 5,150 ✭✭✭ Deep Easterly


    darkman2 wrote: »
    Here is the North Atlantic synoptic situation on 11th April 1912 (naturally this is very vague by today's standards)

    Wetter3.de has a nicer set of archive charts and in 6 hour increments too with more parameters than those on the Wetterzentralie site. Also smaller and more screen friendly.

    Link: http://www.wetter3.de/Archiv/

    Sample:
    1912041100_5.gif


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,693 Redsunset


    TITANIC: CASE CLOSED

    Titanic and the other White Star Line ships were among the only ones with two crew members dedicated as lookouts.

    Lookouts described a thin haze on the horizon and survivors described that the thick smoke coming from the wreck flattened and hung in the air like a mushroom cloud the night of the Titanic's disaster. These conditions indicate that Titanic could have been in the midst of a cold water mirage.

    There was no moon when the titanic was sailing, and the only way the lookouts could have spotted an iceberg was against the backdrop of a blanket of stars. However, the hot and cold air could have caused a mirage, distorting the sea, and raising up the horizon behind the iceberg, cloaking it.

    What Capitan Stanley Lord saw that night could have been affected by refraction, distorting the ship so that it didn't look anything like Titanic at all.

    Due to the conditions, the iceberg that damaged the Titanic could have been effectively invisible for 20 minutes.

    A soft horizon refers to when it's hard to define where the sky ends and the sea commences.

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Did-the-Titanic-Sink-Because-of-an-Optical-Illusion.html
    I watched the Titanic Case closed on National Geographic Channel and I have to say it's very credible as to what may have happened to her.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 5,150 ✭✭✭ Deep Easterly


    redsunset wrote: »
    TITANIC: CASE CLOSED

    Lookouts described a thin haze on the horizon and survivors described that the thick smoke coming from the wreck flattened and hung in the air like a mushroom cloud the night of the Titanic's disaster. These conditions indicate that Titanic could have been in the midst of a cold water mirage.

    A good sign that an inversion was in place during the time of the sinking for sure. The sea temperature was estimated to be in or around -2.0c at the time of the sinking so the air temperature would not have been all that much higher directly above the sea surface up to the point where the inversion was taking place.

    Edit: Original synoptic chart attached below (to big to post up) from the United States Weather Bureau for 1300 GMT 15th April 1912 - roughly 7 hours after the Titanic sank. Shows nicely the intense anticyclone over the the western Atlantic.

    Map taken from Weatherwise: Retrospect: April 15, 1912: Sinking of Titanic


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  • Registered Users Posts: 6,030 ✭✭✭ Oneiric 3


    Can't believe it was 8 years ago when I did up this thread, but time shall do what time has always done.

    Came across this great 'real time' animation of Titanic's sinking over Christmas, which I watched in its entirety, and given that we are coming up to the 108th anniversary of this tragic event, I thought I'd share it here.



    Although the video focuses solely on the ship itself, it does not take away from the absolute horror of this fateful night for the people involved.

    New Moon



  • Registered Users Posts: 14,307 ✭✭✭✭ nacho libre


    Woah!! The Titanic sunk , and now i also find out deep easterly and Oneiric 3 are the same poster:eek:
    I need to lay down. It's too much...:D


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 3,316 ✭✭✭ nthclare


    The Titanic resonates with me too, since I was a kid I had a fascination with it.
    I've those old World Book encyclopedias and there's a great chapter on the Titanic and I found the statue of Liberty intriguing as well.
    Anything built with historical significance was always interesting.

    Today's engineering feats just don't intrigue me, they're not organic enough.
    Handmade is the best made...


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