March 22, 2022

The Tactical and Strategic Implications of the Weather Situation in the Ukraine

Throughout history, weather has played a critical role in war, and thus it may be of value to review the past, present, and future weather situation in Ukraine to garner insights into the future of this terrible conflict.

Weather Conditions for Offensive and Defensive Operations

Cloudy, rainy, and low-visibility conditions generally favor defense, since offensive operations--from aircraft-based attacks, intelligence collection from aircraft or satellites, and artillery targeting--are undermined by stormy, rainy, or cloud-enshrouded situations.

February was drier and sunnier than normal over Ukraine, and was followed by a cool/cloudier period in early March.  During the last week anomalous high pressure has existed to the north of Ukraine (see upper-level map yesterday, below), producing warmer and drier conditions over the country.   This has been beneficial to Russia's offensive operations.

Upper-level (500 hPa, about 18,000 ft) maps, with the colors indicating how much the situation is different than normal.  Red indicates enhanced ridging (higher than normal heights/pressures), which is producing clear skies and warming over Ukraine. Ukraine is indicated by a blue star.

This situation--favorable for the Russians--will continue for another 3-5 days, but then there will be a major shift in the atmospheric structure with a deep trough of low pressure developing to the north (see forecast map for March 27).   Weather conditions will deteriorate over Ukraine, aiding the Ukrainians.

The European Center forecast of the simulated cloud image for Monday (March 28th) shows extensive deep clouds over Ukraine.

Monday March 28, Satellite Simulation. Courtesy of WeatherBell LLC

Temperatures will subsequently drop below normal and precipitation will spread across Ukraine (the 72h hour total precipitation ending 31 March is shown below).

In short, the weather this week will be favorable for offensive operations (and resupply missions) but that will change over the weekend.  Next week, obscuring skies and precipitation will aid defense.

"General Mud"

What about the situation on the ground?  As noted in a previous blog, and numerous accounts in the media, Ukraine, eastern Russia, and the adjoining areas are well known for very muddy conditions during the spring (as snow melts into poorly drained soils) and autumn (with the return of fall rain), while the hard-frozen soils of mid-winter and dried soils of summer (with dust) are favorable for military operations.   

Currently, snow has melted over most of Ukraine, except for the far eastern regions, as apparent in a visible satellite image yesterday and the European Center snow analysis (both below).

MODIS visible satellite image on Monday, March 21.  Snow is evident over the far northeast side of Ukraine.

European Center Snow Analysis on Monday

To gain some perspective on the situation, the precipitation situation in Kyiv is shown below.  There was no snow at the end of February (no data in March on this figure.).

Courtesy of Weatherspark

Here are the March observations at Kyiv from meteoblue.  Very little March precipitation and temps were too warm for snow for much of the month.

Compare this against a more typical year (2018), where the snow extended into March.

Snowmelt is ahead of schedule because of a warm, dry February and the warm/dry conditions of the past week.  

You can get an idea of where the snow has melted this year by looking at the visible satellite image on Feb. 13th (below).  Lots of snowmelt then over the northern part of the country compared to the image shown earlier.


The bottom line is that the snowmelt over the northern portion of Ukraine was early this year and started with less snow to melt.  Little rain fell on the melting snow.   So if "General Mud" is helping slow down offensive armor and its support vehicles, it is happening now and will not extend into late spring as in more normal years.  

Russian Tanks Stuck in Mud 3 Weeks Ago


  1. HI Cliff, there is no data in the Weatherspark charts from late Feb onwards. That dry spell may just be the absence of data.

    1. Thanks...I was also looking at our sources...added to blog..cliff

  2. Thanks Cliff, I always appreciate your blogs. I'm curious if you might want to write one in response to this article - I'd be curious to hear your take on it.

    1. Diminishing strength of magnetosphere allows more solar particle penetration in at the poles. Coincides with recent proton storm as well as increased vulnerability at the equinoxes.

  3. Hi Cliff, I just wanted to let you know that Ukrainians prefer their country not to be referred to as "The Ukraine" but instead just "Ukraine". Because the word ukraine has a Slavic root meaning "borderland", referring to it as "the borderland" implies that it is not a sovereign country in its own right.

    Thanks for the excellent and interesting posts, as always! :)


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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