Flaky fore­casts of cer­tain cli­mate dis­as­ter

The melt­down over global warm­ing re­sem­bles ear­lier ice age fears

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Weather ob­serv­ing 160 miles above the Arc­tic Cir­cle leaves a last­ing im­pres­sion. In the be­gin­ning of my at­mo­spheric science career, I ob­served weather for a sea­son at an iso­lated mil­i­tary out­post on Alaska’s west coast. Al­though snow fell on July 5, the tem­per­a­ture in the sum­mer of 1977 later reached 70 de­grees Fahren­heit on two days. More typ­i­cally, the Arc­tic air was quite cool and the sky cloudy. Rain and mist were fre­quent.

Since then, my decades of work in me­te­o­rol­ogy have been within the lower 48. But cap­ti­vated by my in­au­gu­ral ex­pe­ri­ence, I am drawn to news of po­lar con­di­tions, such as cli­mate change in the Arc­tic. When I learned of sub­stan­tial, doc­u­mented Arc­tic warm­ing ref­er­enced in cli­ma­tol­o­gist Roy Spencer’s re­cent book, “An In­con­ve­nient De­cep­tion,” I took no­tice.

It had been re­ported that “fish­er­men, seal hunters, and ex­plor­ers who sail the seas about Spitzber­gen and the east­ern arc­tic, all point to a rad­i­cal change in cli­matic con­di­tions, and hither-to un­heard of high tem­per­a­tures in that part of the earth’s sur­face.” An ex­pe­di­tion ob­served that ice con­di­tions were ex­cep­tional. “In fact so lit­tle ice has never be­fore been noted. The ex­pe­di­tion all but es­tab­lished a record, sail­ing as far north as 81 de­grees 29 min­utes in ice free wa­ter. This is the far­thest north ever reached with mod­ern oceano­graphic ap­pa­ra­tus.”

This ac­count is re­mark­able, maybe even alarm­ing. Yet it was from “The Chang­ing Arc­tic” by Ge­orge Ni­co­las Ifft, pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Society in Monthly Weather Re­view, Novem­ber 1922.

The piece goes on to de­scribe: In Arc­tic Nor­way, “[m]any old land­marks are so changed as to be un­rec­og­niz­able. Where for­merly great masses of ice were found, there are now of­ten moraines, ac­cu­mu­la­tions of earth and stones. At many points where glaciers for­merly ex­tended far into the sea they have en­tirely dis­ap­peared.”

But a cou­ple of decades later, the Arc­tic ice was ob­served grow­ing again.

It’s not likely that in 1922 any­one was se­ri­ously look­ing to blame the pro­lif­er­a­tion of the Model T for the dis­ap­pear­ance of glaciers. But in the 1970s, peo­ple were look­ing to blame nu­clear weapons test­ing and ex­ces­sive par­tic­u­late mat­ter pol­lu­tion from in­dus­try as the rea­son the next ice age seemed to have been im­mi­nent. As the back cover of the 1977 book “Our Chang­ing Weather: Fore­cast of Dis­as­ter?” by Claude Rose, put it: “North­ern hemi­sphere tem­per­a­tures have been fall­ing steadily since the 1940s. Glaciers are ad­vanc­ing once again. Sci­en­tists no longer de­bate the com­ing of a new ice age, the question now is when?” And “The Cool­ing” (1975), by Low­ell Ponte, noted that “[a] hand­ful of sci­en­tists de­nied ev­i­dence that Earth’s cli­mate was cool­ing un­til the 1970s, when bizarre weather through­out the world forced them to re­con­sider their views.” Sound fa­mil­iar? Back then, you were a “de­nier” if you weren’t in the global cool­ing camp.

Even a short book for young­sters by Henry Gil­fond, “The New Ice Age” (1978), made the point with its dust jacket dis­play­ing six large ther­mome­ters in a row mea­sur­ing omi­nously de­clin­ing tem­per­a­tures.

Other books and pop­u­lar press like Time, Newsweek and Na­tional Ge­o­graphic in the 1970s spread the fear. And a Chris­tian tract by Wal­ter Lang and Vic Lock­man asked, “Need we fear an­other Ice Age?”

Of course, at­mo­spheric science has ad­vanced tremen­dously since the com­ingIce Age scare of the 1970s and long since the early 20th cen­tury when ice evap­o­rated in the Arc­tic. Rather than sooty smoke­stacks coax­ing a new Ice Age, we are now cer­tain that in­creas­ing car­bon diox­ide will yield a melted ice cap and in­tol­er­a­ble global tem­per­a­tures by the end of the 21st cen­tury. You can bet on it. But I wouldn’t.

It had been re­ported that “fish­er­men, seal hunters, and ex­plor­ers who sail the seas about Spitzber­gen and the east­ern arc­tic, all point to a rad­i­cal change in cli­matic con­di­tions, and hither-to un­heard of high tem­per­a­tures in that part of the earth’s sur­face.”

Anthony J. Sadar is a certified con­sult­ing me­te­o­rol­o­gist and au­thor of “In Global Warm­ing We Trust: Too Big to Fail” (Stair­way Press, 2016).

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