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How Weather Changed History
Extreme weather can do more than wreak havoc on homeowners and coastal regions alike. Throughout history, fierce winds, raging monsoons and other weird weather have changed the tides of entire civilizations. From sealing Hiroshima's fate and the demise of Napoleon's army (and horses) to hurrying the onset of the French Revolution and even defeating the leader of a Mongol Empire, here are 10 ways weather has changed history.
Sunshine over HiroshimaSlide 2 of 21
Sunshine over Hiroshima
It was fine summer weather on Aug. 6, 1945, in Hiroshima. At 7:09 that morning, a weather reconnaissance plane passed overhead and radioed back: "Cloud cover less than three-tenths. Advice: bomb primary."
That is, the sky was clear enough to drop the first nuclear weapon used in war. The lack of cloud cover sealed Hiroshima's fate, and spared the back-up target.
Even more dramatic was the effect of cloud cover on Kokura. On Aug. 8, the second nuclear weapon was loaded into a B-29 called Bock's Car. But the skies were overcast over the primary target, Kokura. Instead, the bomb was released over the backup target: Nagasaki.Slide 3 of 21
Hitler Invades RussiaSlide 4 of 21
Hitler Invades Russia
Adolf Hitler, apparently not much of a student of history, decided to repeat Napoleon's attack on Moscow, and did so all too well. In September 1941, operation Typhoon (one of many military operations named for extreme weather) swept into the Soviet Union. The German army was so confident it would win against Stalin's troops that several units brought dress uniforms along for the victory march in Red Square.
What they didn't bring along, however, was winter clothing. Hitler's meteorologically assisted defeats in the Soviet Union, outside Moscow and in Stalingrad, were turning points in the war.Slide 5 of 21
Napoleon Invades RussiaSlide 6 of 21
Napoleon Invades Russia
In 1812, Napoleon assembled the largest army Europe had ever seen — more than 600,000 strong. His plan was to march boldly into Russia. He was not at all worried that winter was approaching. Napoleon's confidence appeared well-founded when his soldiers captured Moscow. They pillaged the city and stole jewels and furs as war prizes, to present to their wives back home.
Then the one thing that Napoleon had failed to consider became abundantly clear. Russia can get very, very cold. As Napoleon's army marched away from the ruined city with their spoils, temperatures fell to minus 40 degrees C. The soldiers fell to frostbite and starvation. In one 24-hour period, 50,000 horses died from the cold. The men wrapped up in their wives' war prizes, but to no avail. Of the 600,000 men who marched into Russia, only 150,000 would limp home. It was the beginning of the end for Napoleon's empire, and heralded the emergence of Russia as a power in Europe.Slide 7 of 21
A Slave Revolt Washed AwaySlide 8 of 21