So what was the weather like on that fateful night? Well, in a word.. cold. A large area of high pressure had moved into the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland that evening, bringing clear, cold and calm conditions the night of April 14th. (see weather map left showing high pressure area almost directly over the site of the Titanic sinking) Conditions in the hours leading up to the collision and sinking of Titanic are described in the final report of the British inquiry, based on testimony by Second Officer Charles Lightoller:
The Titanic, speeding westward at a brisk 22 knots towards New York City, had been warned by several ships that day about large quantities of ice that lay ahead in Titanic's path. Captain Edward J. Smith, on his last voyage before retirement, altered course slightly southward to avoid the ice field.. but maintained a steady speed of 22 knots.. a puzzling decision on a dark moonless night in ice laden waters (perhaps overconfidence that lookouts could easily spot icebergs on a such a clear night?) The decision not to slow down proved fatal.. as the lookouts did not spot the iceberg in time for the speedy Titanic to avoid a collision at 11:40 pm April 14th 1912. Within 3 hours, the doomed ship had sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic, taking 1500 lives with her. The clear moonless night, together with a flat calm sea that prevented waves from breaking at the base of the iceberg (which would have made it easier to spot the ice a further distance away) gave Titanic's lookouts minimal time to spot a looming iceberg ahead. Had there been a moon that night, or a wind that would have created some waves to make the ice easier to spot ahead of time, the lookouts may have had more time to warn the Titanic's officers about the ice ahead, providing a greater chance to avoid a collision. But it wasn't meant to be.. all the factors came together that night, including the weather, to lead to the most famous and dramatic maritime disaster in modern history. (For more information on the conditions that fateful night 100 years ago, see the current Weatherwise article "Retrospect: Sinking of Titanic")
From 6 p.m. onwards to the time of the collision the weather was perfectly clear and fine. There was no moon, the stars were out, and there was not a cloud in the sky. There was, however, a drop in temperature of 10 deg. in slightly less than two hours, and by about 7.30 p.m. the temperature was 33 deg. F., and it eventually fell to 32 deg. F.