11/3/09 - global cooling

In today's excerpt - in the 1970s the science pages of The New York Times, Newsweek and other publications sounded the dire warning of impending global cooling. Headlines from The New York Times of the period included 'International Team of Specialists Finds No End in Sight to 30-Year Cooling Trend in Northern Hemisphere' and 'New Studies Point to Ice Age Again.' The excerpt below is from a New York Times article titled 'Scientists Ask Why World Climate is Changing; Major Cooling May Be Ahead.' There were inevitably dissenting voices:

"There are specialists who say that a new ice age is on the way—the inevitable consequence of a natural cyclic process, or as a result of man-made pollution of the atmosphere. And there are those who say that such pollution may actually head off an ice age.

"Sooner or later a major cooling of the climate is widely considered inevitable. Hints that it may already have begun are evident. The drop in mean temperatures since 1950 in the Northern Hemisphere has been sufficient, for example, to shorten Britain's growing season for crops by two weeks. ...

"The first half of this century has apparently been the warmest period since the 'hot spell' between 5,000 and 7,000 years ago immediately following the last ice age. That the climate, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. has been getting cooler since about 1950, is well established—if one ignores the last two winters. ...

"From the chemical composition of Pacific sediments, from studies of soil types in Central Europe and from fossil plankton that lived in the Caribbean it has been shown that in the last million years there have been considerably more ice ages than previously supposed.

"According to the classic timetable, four great ice ages occurred. However, the new records of global climate show seven extraordinarily abrupt changes in the last million years. As noted in the academy report, they represent transition, in a few centuries 'from full glacial to full interglacial conditions.' ...

"In a recent issue of the British journal Nature, Drs. Reid A. Bryson and E. W. Wahl of the Center for Climate Research at the University of Wisconsin cite records from nine North Atlantic weatherships indicating that from 1951 to the 1968-1972 period surface water temperatures dropped steadily. The fall was comparable, they reported to a return to the 'Little Ice Age' that existed from 1430 to 1850. ...

"There is general agreement that introducing large amounts of smoke particles or carbon dioxide into the atmosphere can alter climate. The same would be true of generating industrial heat comparable to a substantial fraction of solar energy falling on the earth. The debate centers on the precise roles of these effects and the levels of pollution that would cause serious changes. ...

"The observatory atop Mauna Loa the great Hawaiian volcano has recorded a steady rise in the annual mean level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere amounting to 4 per cent between 1958 and 1972. That however was a period of global cooling - not the reverse as one would expect from a greenhouse effect. ...

"If worldwide energy consumption continues to increase at its present rates catastrophic climate changes have been projected by M. I. Budyko a leading Soviet specialist. He says that the critical level will probably be reached within a century. This he has written will lead to 'a complete destruction of polar ice covers.' Not only would sea levels rise but with the Arctic Ocean free of ice the entire weather system of the Northern Hemisphere would be altered."


Walter Sullivan


'Scientists Ask Why World Climate is Changing; Major Cooling May Be Ahead"


The New York Times


May 21, 1975
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