Maureen Sweeney, climate watcher who influenced D-Day plans, dies at 100 | EUROtoday

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Before daybreak on June 3, 1944, a postal clerk in Ireland’s County Mayo checked her climate gauges. A storm was coming quick. The barometer readings had been dropping. The wind, pouring off a low-pressure zone within the mid-Atlantic, was slicing by the drizzle within the village of Blacksod.

She double-checked the observations. They then had been handed alongside till lastly they reached Britain’s Met Office, which since 1939 had used the Blacksod submit workplace as one among its climate stations. Blacksod carried explicit significance. Its place on Ireland’s northwestern coast was usually an early warning of Atlantic climate methods headed for Britain.

The knowledge collected that morning was essentially the most vital but. About 7,000 ships and touchdown craft, 11,000 plane and greater than 130,000 Allied troops had been amassed for Operation Overlord, the invasion into Nazi-occupied France. The solely lacking puzzle piece was the climate forecast for the English Channel to determine if June 5 could be D-Day.

The storm observations from County Mayo had been the primary indications of bother forward. The invasion was postponed till June 6. And the postal employee — 21-year-old Maureen Flavin — turned a part of World War II lore as a linchpin within the climate group whose work persuaded commanders to carry off for twenty-four hours the air-and-sea assault that helped change the course the warfare.

“They could arrange everything, but they couldn’t prearrange the weather. … We eventually had the final say,” Maureen Flavin Sweeney, who died Dec. 17 at 100, later recalled.

Analysis: D-Day could be almost inconceivable to drag off in the present day. Here’s why.

Ms. Sweeney was one of many many civilian ladies concerned in almost each side of the warfare effort from the manufacturing facility flooring (assume Rosie the Riveter) to helping in army command facilities to main neighborhood mobilizations equivalent to organizing scrap drives. Few, nonetheless, had moments so immediately linked to main selections as Ms. Sweeney on that gloomy June morning.

For a tense few hours, her climate readings and observations got high precedence as they moved up the chain of command to Group Capt. James Martin Stagg, a Met Office meteorologist hooked up to the Royal Air Force. Stagg additionally was the chief climate adviser for Gen. Dwight D Eisenhower, who was in control of D-Day operations.

In the period earlier than satellite tv for pc imagery, the climate forecast was pieced collectively based mostly on barometric knowledge, wind patterns, cloud formations, and typically simply amassed native data of the skies and seas.

Early June was picked for D-Day due to lower-than-normal tides and a moon cycle that supplied darkness through the early phases of the invasion and, on a transparent evening, a moon glow after rising in a while. Missing the window was a state of affairs “too bitter to contemplate,” Eisenhower stated.

“A bad forecast would jeopardize the entire operation,” wrote creator John Ross in “The Forecast for D-Day” (2014). “If [Eisenhower] gave the word to ‘go,’ and the weather turned sour, the lives of thousands of men and massive amounts of equipment would be lost.”

As Stagg reviewed the incoming data — from Ms. Sweeney and different climate watchers — nothing appeared promising. At 11 a.m. in County Mayo, the cellphone rang on the Blacksod submit workplace. “A lady with a distinct English accent requested me to ‘Please check. Please repeat,’” Ms. Sweeny recounted in an interview with Ireland’s RTÉ.

“We began to look at the figures again. We checked and rechecked,” Ms. Sweeney stated. (Although Ireland declared itself impartial, the nation’s head of presidency, Éamon de Valera, agreed to share climate intelligence with the Allies.)

Stagg’s climate map was coming collectively, with added stories from seagoing vessels.

By the top of the day, it confirmed two main low-pressure areas — one south of Greenland and the opposite simply north of Scotland. They created a cyclone impact that handed although the Channel from June 4 into June 5, with winds of as much as 30 mph and sheets of rain. The circumstances successfully nixed the core of the D-Day operations: the large amphibious touchdown on Normandy seashores and airdrops of paratroopers behind the German strains.

“The invasion would have been a complete disaster,” Ms. Sweeney informed RTÉ. “There they were with thousands of aircraft and they couldn’t tolerate low cloud.”

The climate cleared sufficiently by June 6, 1944, for the invasion to start. “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months,” Eisenhower wrote in his message to the Allied Expeditionary Force. “The eyes of the world are upon you.”

For greater than a decade, Ms. Sweeney was unaware of her half in D-Day. As once-secret warfare data was unsealed, the connections had been made between the D-Day postponement and the climate knowledge, together with the early stories from Blacksod.

In 2021, in a ceremony at her nursing facility in Belmullet, Ireland, Ms. Sweeny’s position within the warfare was cited by the U.S. House of Representatives. A pal, Ruth O’Hagan, wrote a poem for Ms. Sweeney, “The Girl Who Changed the World.” It begins:

Please test. Please repeat.

The howling winds of Blacksod spoke.

Please test. Please repeat.

Maureen Flavin was born in Knockanure in County Kerry on June 3, 1923. After secondary college, she turned a clerk on the submit workplace in Blacksod, a village the place her uncle ran a pub. The submit workplace additionally served as a climate station, sending stories to Dublin that, throughout World War II, had been shared with British officers and Allies forces.

After the warfare, she married Ted Sweeney, a lighthouse keeper, who had helped test her climate readings within the prelude to D-Day. Ms. Sweeney finally took over operations on the submit workplace, preserving the place for greater than six a long time.

The couple carried out climate readings till an computerized metrological station was put in in 1956.

Ms. Sweeney’s husband died in 2001. Survivors embrace a son, Vincent Sweeney, and a grandson, Fergus Sweeney, who confirmed the demise. No trigger was given.

Shortly earlier than his inauguration, President-elect John F. Kennedy reportedly requested President Eisenhower for particulars on why D-Day succeeded.

“Because,” Eisenhower stated, “we had better meteorologists than the Germans.”