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Extreme Weather In The 1960’s & 1970’s

February 9, 2013

By Paul Homewood




We are all familiar with the “ice age “scare of the early 1970’s. Science News ran a report at the time, with an interview with C C Wallen, chief of the Special Environmental Applications Division, at the World Meteorological Organisation.

According to the article,

By contrast, (with the Little Ice Age), the weather in the first part of this century has been the warmest and best for world agriculture in over a millenium, and, partly as a result, the world’s population has more than doubled. Since 1940, however, the temperature of the Northern Hemisphere has been steadily falling: Having risen about 1.1 degrees C. between 1885 and 1940, according to one estimation, the temperature has already fallen back some 0.6 degrees, and shows no signs of reversal.


This topic has been thoroughly discussed many times previously, so I don’t intend to rehash the same arguments. I am , though, interested in what climatologists at the time thought about the effects were of this cooling.

C C Wallen had this to say,

 The principal weather change likely to accompany the cooling trend is increased variability-alternating extremes of temperature and precipitation in any given area-which would almost certainly lower average crop yields.

The cause of this increased variability can best be seen by examining upper atmosphere wind patterns that accompany cooler climate. During warm periods a "zonal circulation" predominates, in which the prevailing westerly winds of the temperate zones are swept over long distances by a few powerful high and low pressure centers. The result is a more evenly distributed pattern of weather, varying relatively little from month to month or season to season.

During cooler climatic periods, however, the high-altitude winds are broken up into irregular cells by weaker and more plentiful pressure centers, causing formation of a "meridional circulation" pattern. These small, weak cells may stagnate over vast areas for many months, bringing unseasonably cold weather on one side and unseasonably warm weather on the other. Droughts and floods become more frequent and may alternate season to season, as they did last year in India. Thus, while the hemisphere as a whole is cooler, individual areas may alternately break temperature and precipitation records at both extremes.

In other words, Wallen observed exactly the same sort of extreme weather then, that is now blamed on global warming – unusual cold, unusual warmth, floods and droughts. And not only the events. The same meridional circulation patterns, that he observed, are happening again now, resulting in cold winters in some places, and warm summers in others.

I fully accept that Wallen and his contemporaries may not have fully understood what causes these circulation patterns to change. But that really does not matter. What does matter, is that they did change.

They changed as a result of natural factors then, and there is no reason to suppose that natural factors have not caused them to change again today.

  1. February 9, 2013 9:15 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Ponderings.

  2. TinyCO2 permalink
    February 10, 2013 2:54 pm

    Ow wow, that’s a classic find!

    Only today, on Countryfile, they were telling us that the current loopy jet stream was probably the result of polar (both poles) melting and we can expect more of it due to AGW. Well, they had to come up with something to explain why he was drawing his weather chart in the snow. No attempt was made to explain why the phenomena persists when the Arctic ice returns to an area similar to the past or that the Antarctic ice is above average much of the time.

  3. February 24, 2013 11:30 pm

    Here’s an article I wrote on the extreme weather of the 1870s, proving that weather extremes and variability are neither new nor related to human activity:

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