Scientists Considered Pouring Soot Over the Arctic in the 1970s to Help Melt the Ice - In Order to Prevent Another Ice Age → Washingtons Blog
Scientists Considered Pouring Soot Over the Arctic in the 1970s to Help Melt the Ice - In Order to Prevent Another Ice Age - Washingtons Blog

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Scientists Considered Pouring Soot Over the Arctic in the 1970s to Help Melt the Ice - In Order to Prevent Another Ice Age

(Environmentalists: Kindly start by reading the end notes to see my background and why I am writing this)

On April 28, 1975, Newsweek wrote an article stating:
Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.
Here is a reprint of the article in the Washington Times, and here is a copy of the 1975 Newsweek article.

Why were scientists considering melting the arctic ice cap?

Because they were worried about a new ice age.

Newsweek discussed the 1975 article in 2006:

In April, 1975 ... NEWSWEEK published a small back-page article about a very different kind of disaster. Citing "ominous signs that the earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically," the magazine warned of an impending "drastic decline in food production." Political disruptions stemming from food shortages could affect "just about every nation on earth." Scientists urged governments to consider emergency action to head off the terrible threat of . . . well, if you had been following the climate-change debates at the time, you'd have known that the threat was: global cooling...

Citizens can judge for themselves what constitutes a prudent response-which, indeed, is what occurred 30 years ago. All in all, it's probably just as well that society elected not to follow one of the possible solutions mentioned in the NEWSWEEK article: to pour soot over the Arctic ice cap, to help it melt.
Newsweek was not alone. Some scientists and the press have been warning about an ice age off and on for over 100 years.

For example, on February 24, 1895, the New York Times published an article entitled "PROSPECTS OF ANOTHER GLACIAL PERIOD; Geologists Think the World May Be Frozen Up Again", which starts with the following paragraph:

The question is again being discussed whether recent and long-continued observations do not point to the advent of a second glacial period, when the countries now basking in the fostering warmth of a tropical sun will ultimately give way to the perennial frost and snow of the polar regions.

In September 1958, Harper's wrote an article called "The Coming Ice Age".

On January 11, 1970, the Washington Post wrote an article entitled "Colder Winters Held Dawn of New Ice Age - Scientists See Ice Age In the Future" which stated:

Get a good grip on your long johns, cold weather haters--the worst may be yet to come. That's the long-long-range weather forecast being given out by "climatologists." the people who study very long-term world weather trends.

In 1972, two scientists - George J. Kukla (of the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory) and R. K. Matthews (Chairman, Dept of Geological Sciences, Brown University) - wrote the following letter to President Nixon warning of the possibility of a new ice age:

Dear Mr. President:

Aware of your deep concern with the future of the world, we feel obliged to inform you on the results of the scientific conference held here recently. The conference dealt with the past and future changes of climate and was attended by 42 top American and European investigators. We enclose the summary report published in Science and further publications are forthcoming in Quaternary Research.

The main conclusion of the meeting was that a global deterioration of climate, by order of magnitude larger than any hitherto experience by civilized mankind, is a very real possibility and indeed may be due very soon.

The cooling has natural cause and falls within the rank of processes which produced the last ice age. This is a surprising result based largely on recent studies of deep sea sediments.

Existing data still do not allow forecast of the precise timing of the predicted development, nor the assessment of the man’s interference with the natural trends. It could not be excluded however that the cooling now under way in the Northern Hemisphere is the start of the expected shift. The present rate of the cooling seems fast enough to bring glacial temperatures in about a century, if continuing at the present pace.

The practical consequences which might be brought by such developments to existing social institution are among others:

(1) Substantially lowered food production due to the shorter growing seasons and changed rain distribution in the main grain producing belts of the world, with Eastern Europe and Central Asia to be first affected.

(2) Increased frequency and amplitude of extreme weather anomalies such as those bringing floods, snowstorms, killing frosts, etc.

With the efficient help of the world leaders, the research …

With best regards,

George J. Kukla (Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory)

R. K. Matthews (Chairman, Dept of Geological Sciences, Brown U)

The White House assigned the task of looking at the claims contained in the letter to its science agencies, especially the National Science Foundation and NOAA, who engaged in a flurry of activity looking into the threat of an ice age.

On August 1, 1974 the White House wrote a letter to Secretary of Commerce Frederick Dent stating:

Changes in climate in recent years have resulted in unanticipated impacts on key national programs and policies. Concern has been expressed that recent changes may presage others. In order to assess the problem and to determine what concerted action ought to be undertaken, I have decided to establish a subcommittee on Climate Change.

Out of this concern, the U.S. government started monitoring climate.

As NOAA scientists Robert W. Reeves, Daphne Gemmill, Robert E. Livezey, and James Laver point out:

There were also a number of short-term climate events of national and international consequence in the early 1970s that commanded a certain level of attention in Washington. Many of them were linked to the El NiƱo of 1972-1973.
A killing winter freeze followed by a severe summer heat wave and drought produced a 12 percent shortfall in Russian grain production in 1972. The Soviet decision to offset the losses by purchase abroad reduced world grain reserves and helped drive up food prices.

Collapse of the Peruvian anchovy harvest in late 1972 and early 1973, related to fluctuations in the Pacific ocean currents and atmospheric circulation, impacted world supplies of fertilizer, the soybean market, and prices of all other protein feedstocks.

The anomalously low precipitation in the U.S. Pacific north-west during the winter of 1972-73 depleted reservoir storage by an amount equivalent to more than 7 percent of the electric energy requirements for the region.
On June 24, 1974, Time Magazine wrote an article entitled "Another Ice Age?" which stated:

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 ...

Whatever the cause of the cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth's surface could tip the climatic balance, and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another ice age within only a few hundred years.

(here's the printer-friendly version).

Science News wrote an article in 1975 called "Chilling Possibilities" warning of a new ice age.

A January 1975 article from the New York Times warned:
The most drastic potential change considered in the new report (by the National Academy of Sciences) is an abrupt end to the present interglacial period of relative warmth that has governed the planet's climate for the past 10,000 years.
A May 21, 1975 article in the New York Times again stated:
Sooner or later a major cooling of the climate is widely considered inevitable.
A 1994 Time article entitled "The Ice Age Cometh?" stated:
What ever happened to global warming? Scientists have issued apocalyptic warnings for years, claiming that gases from cars, power plants and factories are creating a greenhouse effect that will boost the temperature dangerously over the next 75 years or so. But if last week is any indication of winters to come, it might be more to the point to start worrying about the next Ice Age instead. After all, human-induced warming is still largely theoretical, while ice ages are an established part of the planet's history. The last one ended about 10,000 years ago; the next one -- for there will be a next one -- could start tens of thousands of years from now. Or tens of years. Or it may have already started.
Note 1: I have an extensive background working to preserve natural areas and reduce urban pollution. I studied global warming at a top university in the early 1980's. I was taught - as Al Gore was taught in college - that temperatures are directly correlated with CO2 levels.

Note 2: I not only do not receive a penny from oil or any other energy, industry or political person or organization of any nature whatsoever (I make a few peanuts from ads on this site, which I do not choose, but are selected without my input by my ad service), I am also wholly and completely against big oil, big coal and big nuclear. As I have repeatedly argued, power should be taken away from the oil giants and decentralized. I have repeatedly argued for microgeneration and for alternative energy. These things are beneficial for a number of reasons - including better health, less corruption of our political systems through decentralization of power, and a boost to our economy - in addition to whatever climate benefits they may have.

Note 3: One of the main reasons for writing this essay is to point out that we must make sure that our "solutions" are not more dangerous than the problems themselves. For example, the Washington Post noted that the government forced a switch from one type of chemical to another because it was believed the first was enlarging the ozone hole. However, according to the Post, the chemical which the government demanded be used instead is 4,470 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Currently, "government scientists are studying the feasibility of sending nearly microscopic particles of specially made glass into the Earth's upper atmosphere to try to dampen the effects of 'global warming.' " Others are currently suggesting cutting down trees and burying them. Other ways to geoengineer the planet are being proposed.

Noam Chomsky has said that he would submit to fascism if it would help combat global warming:
Suppose it was discovered tomorrow that the greenhouse effects has been way understimated, and that the catastrophic effects are actually going to set in 10 years from now, and not 100 years from now or something.

Well, given the state of the popular movements we have today, we'd probably have a fascist takeover-with everybody agreeing to it, because that would be the only method for survival that anyone could think of. I'd even agree to it, because there's just no other alternatives right now." (page 388).
Are those ideas any better than pouring soot on the North Pole?

Our primary responsibility must be to ensure that we are not doing more harm than good.

Note 4: Given that scientists considered pouring soot on the North Pole to melt the ice in the 1970's, it should come as no surprise that soot may be having a dramatic effect on the ice sheets and glaciers now.

Note 5: Some global warming advocates warn that a warming-induced shut down of the huge ocean current known as the thermohaline circulation could cause a new ice age in certain limited parts of the world that are warmed by the by the North Atlantic current, such as Iceland, Ireland, the Nordic countries, and Britain. But scientists in the 1970s were talking about something different: the start of a worldwide ice age due, for example, to a 100,000 year cycle in solar radiation hitting the Earth.

Note 6: For further information on the swing between warnings of ice ages and runaway global warming, see this and this. I have verified all of the facts made in the main post above, but I have not yet verified all of the claims made in the last two aforementioned web pages.


  1. Here's the problem. Global warming changes ocean currents so that the warm waters from the tropics no longer flow north. This very quickly results in Arctic expansion south creating a new ice age. Is not inconsistent with global warming but a result of it.

    This is not a new theory, btw.

    Here's an article from 2004.

    Published on Friday, January 30, 2004 by
    How Global Warming May Cause the Next Ice Age...
    by Thom Hartmann

  2. Climate Change is nothing new. The graph at the bottom of a recent post
    shows that like most other things , climate is just another cycle event. It has happened before and is about to happen again if you believe the charts. One interesting little twist I noticed at the top of the latest cycle is that temp is leveling out yet co2 is continuing to rise. I think Tom is right on Ocean currents are the key to understanding the cycle. A bothersome thing to me is the change in the acidity of the ocean and it's effect on marine life..

  3. Uh, Tom ... Take a queue and note, it was "scientists" who had the brainstorm to use soot to affect climate change.

    It is also "scientists" you quote -trying to rebuff this statement of fact.

    You are like a man who gets drunk night after night -drinking Vodka and water, Scotch & water, and Whiskey and water, -and- thus incredibly deduces his hangover is due to the water he consumes.

    Global warming, -whether or not it is real -in whatever form it might be real, -IF- global warming is due to human activity, -that activity- is laid squarely at the clay feet of so many slouching, round-shouldered and unscrupulously immoral -SCIENTISTS- who would gamble away the future of humanity -for some small chance they might be heralded as geniuses!


    Science is dead, Tom. Forget it.

  4. Science is dead?

    Science always was dead. Or to be precise, faddish. It's not just global warming, but just about every scientific "discipline" that are faddish. One pop idea after another.

    Why is this so? Because "scientists" are basically just a lot of big egos. If they can sell their idea, their name will go down in the history books. Everyone wants to be an Einstein or a Newton, but very few are of that caliber. (And those that are, like Linus Pauling, are more concerned about ideas than they are about their place in the history books.)

    Right now the fad is global warming. As this post shows, not that long ago it was The Ice Age Approaches. Next year it might be The Sky is Falling. Seriously.

    Of course, science can have all the fads it wants & we can all read about the latest miracle cures for cancer in the Science section of the New York Times. Miracle after miracle after miracle. Gee, I thought cancer was cured decades ago. You mean it wasn't? Science articles are low-brow entertainment for self-proclaimed high-brows.

    The last thing, the Very LAST THING that anyone should do is base policy on this drivel. While I can't say we should ignore everything scientists say & do, it is safe to wait two or three decades to see what settles out. Let me see.... Ice age - bust. Interferon - bust. Super-sonic transport - bust. Cheap & safe nuclear energy - bust. The gleaming City of the Future - bust. Individual jet-packs - bust. Domes over cities - bust. Cure for cancer - bust, but that hasn't stopped the endless fund-drives for research that, for nearly a century, has gone nowhere. I'm forgetting three-fourths of it all as so much was simply forgettable.

    So now it's global warming. With the track record that science has, why should anyone pay any attention?

  5. In the late 1800s, Yellowstone National Park’s game population -- its elk, bison, antelope and deer -- began to disappear. So in 1886, the U.S. Cavalry took over management of the park. And its first order of business was to help bring back the game population.

    After a few years of protection and special feeding, the game population started to come back strong. But what the government didn’t understand was that it was dealing with a complex ecosystem. You can’t just change one thing and think that it won’t also lead to cascading changes elsewhere.

    The surging elk and deer populations ate a lot more. This caused the plant life to diminish. Aspen trees, for instance, started to disappear, eaten by the numerous elks. This hurt the beaver population, which depended on the aspen tree. The beavers built fewer dams. The beaver dams were important in helping prevent soil erosion by slowing the flow of water from the spring melt. Now the trout population took a hit, because it didn’t spawn in the increasingly silted water. And so on and so on…

    The entire ecosystem started to break down because of man’s desire to boost the elk population. It got worse. In the winter of 1919-1920, more than half of the elk population died -- with most of them starving to death. But the National Park Service chalked it up to predators. So it began killing wolves, mountain lions and coyotes -- all of which only made the problems worse.

    This anecdote from Yellowstone’s past comes from Michael Mauboussin’s book, Think Twice. He writes: “The population of the game animals began to experience erratic booms and busts. This only encouraged the managers to redouble their efforts, triggering morbid feedback loops.”

    By the mid-1900s, the Park Service managed to kill off nearly all of the predators. In 1926, it shot the last wolf.


    the story stops there and there is certainly more to come/argue about, but the point i'm trying to make is, do we really know ALL the factors that are in climatology? Even if so, do we know how it operates?

    Heck, even climate scientists can't predict 2mrw's weather with precision, how the heck can they "extrapolate" data a few decades/centuries ahead?

    So what should we really do now? I would think letting the free market solve the problem would be much better, though I only have a vague idea of it... better than all these political nonsense.

  6. if global warming is NOT read then why did we have record tempertures and we had the hottest summer on record where i live in Bulgaria? Al ver Europe we have had extraordinary hot summer for the last 50-6-7years now. People died en masse in Moscow n 209006, people died in France in 2003. People in Germany report hot summers in Norway. How do yo explain all those anomalies?

  7. I'm trying to figure out what the deniers are for? More of the same old economic downturn?

    A return to the credit card binge?

    I think the fact that Venice will be underwater in a hundred years is tragedy enough to consign all automobiles to the recyclers starting tomorrow. What will we leave our children?

    As far as it goes, 'the science' is irrelevant, it's a red herring. The question is what is greater than us; what transcends the present? What do we as Americans represent? Luxury? Or something more enduring. I don't think the Founders risked His Majesty's hangman for 24 hour convenience stores, 1,000's of channels w/ nothing on ... and 'acres of free parking'.

    The entire climate argument is between the insignificant and foolish present and what we have the courage to design as the future. The deniers claim that nothing must be risked. They demand that any future be provided for free. Similarly, they also demand loans from their grandchildren. It's all of a piece.

    I cannot believe so many people cannot meet the challenge that a different way of being presents. Two hundred years of US history illuminate that change itself ... matters. The adventure of change is what made this country a world leader in everything. The US invented the future, patented it, made it from whole cloth and sold it around the world.

    What do we sell now? Credit Default Swaps! This is the 'triumph' of the status quo. I read the comments and wonder when Americans became such cowards.

  8. Frankly, this is more about the science of long-term forecasting rather than climate science; they strike me as entirely separate. Further, controlled studies, commercial green-house operations, and the commercial cultivation of cannabis indicate that the plant growth rates increase in response to higher CO2 levels. My point: CO2 emissions are merely one part of the equation--the built environment the other. Meanwhile, the intelligentsia propose increased financial complexity and increased mechanization. In comparison, sooting the Artic seems equally rational.

  9. Regardless of the deniers attacks on the science, scientific research shows with out doubt that the level of pollution in the environment, not only the air, is highly toxic to life. Just supposing that global warming is not happening or that humans do not contribute to it, it is still a high priority to reduce pollution by correctly pricing externalities and regulating polluters.

    Don't believe in science? Then stop using all the technology it has produced and go back to growing beans with a stick.

  10. I don't believe in Science and would love for the world to go back to growing beans with sticks. Science has been a cancer to this world for far too long. Science is good for one thing only and that is killing the human spirit.

  11. "Don't believe in science?" Then stop writing on the papyrus. That is how old that argument is, Tom Hickey.

    Look, Tom, you are missing the point about -pollution-.

    Science is the facilitator of all the pollution -the globalists decry, and that they want to use to justify a global government that will only be more immoral -than any other government yet invented.

    Science -writ large- is a huge immoral gamble, 100% -a godless religion, -one that has a forced animism, -whose supposed-omnicient-mind must provide the beneficent guiding hand -that is supposed to keep science from -the discovery of that clever knowledge-breakthrough -that leads to directly to a globally fatal invention.

    No, Tom, you have -it all- backwards. It is not the -water- that is responsible for the headache you have. It is the -booze- of science.

    There is no difference whatsoever -between the holier-than-thou environmental scientists, -and- the weapons of mass destruction scientists. They are each about discovering ways to destroy the planet.

    They got exactly the same education, from exactly the same school, from the exactly same professors, -and- they use exactly the same -utterly immoral- scientific knowledge sets.

    All this pollution, all the immoral inhumanity, all of it -is the fault of arrogant people like you, Tom Hickey, who do not understand the limit of their own, -and all- human intelligence as it stands out -so meager- against the backdrop of an infinite complex Universe.

    You want to make the world better.

    Then shut up -and- take your rightful place in it. Be thankful for the life you have been given and the party you have been invited to, LIFE!

    The world is going to get no better under the direction of any scientist.

  12. This is the sort of thing that makes Americans look ignorant. Le Monde website a Sunday or two back had a lead article on the "seven (false) criticisms of global warming and their responses." They say a couple journalists did a search of academic journals for articles on climate change between 1965 and 1979, and, from among the 71 they found, only 7 proposed global cooling, nearly a quarter saw indications of global warming, and, back then, most just didn't know. The global cooling meme is almost totally the fault of Time magazine's sensationalistic and irresponsible cover from 1971. A poster child for how poor pop journalism can still poison intelligent debate on a serious issue a quarter century later.

    And a lesson on why science is a conservative enterprise and it is often best _not_ to jump onto the bandwagon of the 10% who hold dissenting opinions over the informed and learned judgment of the majority.

    And a lesson for people who get their science from the mass media and consider themselves informed.

  13. IT IS WRITTEN, THE GREAT FLOOD. Earth's climate cannot be controlled by men. Round and round it goes on circle and whatever happened in the past will surely happen again. The main difference is that men grew wiser. That's the main reason why they build ships, not only to transport goods, - but subconciously they are thinking of Noah - that he came out alright.

  14. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere sounds big but very very small compared to the entire atmosphere of the planet. It's a scam plain and simple, one of the best ways of fixing this is removing the black carbon from the atmosphere, and it's not the west thats the problem as your led to believe, it's Asia and Africa with their black carbon.

    Sort this you sort the warming mitigation. Cap 'n' trade scam for the big company's and humanities expense.

  15. I noticed that the majority of your quotes are from news magazines. These are good sources for illustrating the relevant science news in the public domain during the 1970's. In the more recent past, I have found that news magazines tend to gravitate to the most dramatic scientific theories each year. I suspect this is not a new phenomena. I know this because I read the science papers and then the interpretations in the news media.

    Climate science forecasts or theories summarized by a reporter in a news magazine or newspaper article are not automatically the ones with the highest statistical probability of occurring in the future or the ones with the heaviest weight of scientific consensus. They are frequently, though, the most interesting ones.

    See here:


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