The global stupidstorm

Published May 1, 2000

Planetary surface temperature may have increased slightly in the last 100 years (some 0.7ºC), but environmental hysteria has increased exponentially in the last two–culminating in Art Bell and Whitley Strieber’s new so-called “nonfiction” book, The Coming Global Superstorm (Pocket Books, January 2000).

Here is a book so bad, so inaccurate, so outrageous that it effectively marginalizes any and all climate gloom-and-doomers, including Presidential candidate Al Gore, who will not denounce this book. Anyone in a position of political or scientific responsibility who considers this scenario even remotely possible underscores the absurdity of his views on global warming and climate change.

Let’s start with the story line. In the middle of Northern Hemisphere summer, the temperature of the high-latitude Atlantic and Pacific oceans suddenly drops 15 degrees. What caused this shift? Our emergence from the zodiac sign of Pisces into Aquarius.

At the same time, the temperature of the North and South has become unbelievably hot. In a series of massive thunderstorms, the atmosphere flips over, and the increasingly cold stratospheric air is drawn down to the surface, creating a hemispheric-scale low-pressure system that produces hundreds of feet of snow. Temperatures in Canada drop 100 degrees in an hour. Most everyone north of Washington, DC, dies. (Drat! Didn’t get far enough South!)

The next summer, much of the ice melts and a terrible flood rages. But then the ice thickens, and the next glaciation ensues. All of these calamities occur because of global warming, and the reason that no one tries to stop it is a small but “highly activist coal company [called] Western Fuels.” I did not make any of this up. (I consult for Western Fuels, too!)

Who are these guys?

In real life, from a rural Nevada outpost, Bell hosts a late-night radio call-in show that features talk of UFOs and Y2K survivalism (another all-for-naught scare). Strieber is a freelance writer whose 1987 bestseller Communion: A True Story recounted how he was “probed” by aliens from above (and behind) who flashed him information on Earthly environmental changes to come. Now he and Bell are authorities on climatology.

And they’re experts on archeology and history, too. They write that this exact thing happened 8,000 years ago, which is why there are water marks around the Sphinx and the great sunken civilizations. All perished in the nuclear war that followed, waged by a society that had already undertaken interplanetary travel. The evidence is as clear as the mastodons that were found last century frozen to death with fresh vegetation still in their teeth. (How they survived the nuclear war is not explained.)

Quite a story. Now, let’s try a little reality.

About 4,000 to 7000 years ago, the Earth was 1°C to 2ºC warmer than it is today. This period accompanied the rise of civilization and used to be called, in climatology textbooks, “the Climatic Optimum” because of the concurrent flowering of culture. Somewhere back there, the “ice man” wenteth, freezing to death in a snowfield in eastern Europe. You may recall that he was melted out a few years ago, minus his penis (talk about violent weather!). He, like the mastodons, had food in his tummy, and he died in a snowstorm, not a superstorm.

Miraculously, the atmosphere did not flip over. That’s because it can’t. No one with Bell and Strieber’s knowledge of climatology could pass the Virginia Standards of Learning for 9th grade (affectionately known there as the “SOL”). Even high school freshmen know that there is very little convective admixing of air between the stratosphere and the troposphere.

That “a storm circulation could be so violent that it would draw supercooled air all the way to the surface was a subject for classroom speculation,” they write. No, it isn’t, unless it’s a class in (non)science fiction.

Nor do I know what on Earth “supercooled air” is. Supercooled water is water that remains liquid but is below freezing. Maybe supercooled air remains gaseous at temperatures below its liquefaction point, which isn’t much above absolute zero.

NBC’s “Today Show” seemed to take this book and its authors somewhat seriously; they made no mention of Strieber’s otherworldly sources and asked no hard questions on the veracity of their meteorological analysis. Yet this is a book that claims that the “deep connection between Christ and the zodiac is revealed by the fact that his earliest symbol is the fish.”

I have yet to hear one advocate of global warming hysteria–not the Veep, not NBC, not the National Council of Churches, not anyone consuming the $2.1 billion of our tax money that goes to “global change” research–caution the public about what a bunch of junk science, junk history, and junk stupidity this book is. That speaks volumes about The Coming Global Superstorm and the culture that buys it.

According to Nature magazine, University of Virginia environmental sciences professor Patrick J. Michaels is probably the nation’s most popular lecturer on the subject of climate change. Michaels is the author of Sound and Fury: The Science and Politics of Global Warming.