Follow That Armadillo!

One of the early articles that Scott and I wrote was called, with characteristic understatement, “The Global Warming Hoax.” It appeared in the Minnesota Journal of Law and Politics in late 1992. One of the things we wrote about was the global cooling scare of the 1970s; we quoted articles from Time and Newsweek about fears that we humans were about to cause another ice age.
This has been on my mind of late, especially since the global warming-themed Oscar event Sunday night. Coincidentally, earlier tonight a friend put into my locker in the gym a copy of the very Time article, dated June 24, 1974, that we quoted in 1992. The memories came flooding back:

As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.


Telltale signs are everywhere–from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest. Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7 degrees F. … When Climatologist George G. Kukla of Columbia University’s Lamong-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.

To its credit, Time noted that cooler weather was probably due to less energy reaching the Earth from the Sun. But:

Man, too, may be somewhat responsible for the cooling trend. The University of Wisconsin’s Reid A. Bryson and other climatologists suggest that dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight from reaching and heating the surface of the earth.

Time closed with grim predictions of the future global cooling could bring:

Warns [Climatologist Kenneth] Hare: “I don’t believe that the world’s present popuation is sustainable is there are more than three years like 1972 in a row.”

Fortunately, things warmed up a bit. Here in Minnesota, the prospect of another ice age is one to be taken seriously; the last one left 15,000 lakes behind. Over the weekend, we got a foot of snow. It isn’t exactly an ice age, to be sure, but here is the snow pile in the street in front of my house; it’s about ten feet high:
Snow is expected to start falling again tomorrow, with another foot or more due by Friday. The kids are hoping for a snow day, and there isn’t an armadillo in sight.
UPDATE: I saw my pal Clark Griffith in the gym tonight; he wondered why I hadn’t identified him as the source of the Time article. Consider it done!
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