Meteorological Malpractice: Accuweather’s Joe Bastardi pushes the “70s Ice Age Scare” myth again

Accuweather’s meteorologist Joe Bastardi likes to push anti-science global cooling conspiracy theories, which is no doubt why Fox News extremists like Bill O’Reilly love him (see O’Reilly’s weatherman, befuddled Bastardi: “Global cooling is actually a cause of drought in California”).

Now Bastardi has a new video, “Worldwide Cold not Seen Since 70s Ice Age Scare,” pushing a very old conspiracy theory. Of course, he doesn’t actually talk about “worldwide cold,” but just some cold over maybe 20% of the Earth. Nor does he explain there’s plenty of warmth elsewhere — see Australian weather bureau: “Central Pacific Ocean surface temperatures are now at their warmest level since the El Ni±o of 1997–98.”³

The video truly becomes meteorological malpractice when Bastardi compares today to the 1970s, utterly misleading viewers into thinking that a few days of cold weather over parts of the word somehow undoes the “unequivocal” warming of the Earth’s climate system that has been demonstrated through direct scientific observation in recent decades. In fact, “The last 10 years are the warmest 10-year period of the modern record,” said NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt. “Even if you analyze the trend during that 10 years, the trend is actually positive, which means warming” (see Must-read AP story: Statisticians reject global cooling; Caldeira “” “To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous”).

Bastardi’s supposedly Accuweather’s expert long-range forecaster, but he’s predicting “we’re going to see more and more of the cold trending here over the next 20 to 30 years”! Perhaps we should call him Inaccuweather meteorologist.


Since he repeats his old falsehoods, I’m going to reprint my old debunkings — Killing the myth of the 1970s global cooling scientific consensus and The NYT’s climate coverage in 1970s was a megaphone for science, not ‘global cooling’ alarmism.

There are two issues about the “70s Ice Age Scare.” First, did the scientific community have a consensus about cooling in the 1970s? Answer — quite the reverse. Second, did the media get the science wrong? Answer — other than some stray bad reporting, which is obviously an inescapable feature of the MSM, many in the media did a fair job of reporting, such as the NY Times.

Let’s start with the first post, from November 2008:

There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age. Indeed, the possibility of anthropogenic warming dominated the peer-reviewed literature even then.

So begins an excellent September 2008 review article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) by Thomas Peterson, William Connolley, and John Fleck. I had blogged on this when USA Today reported it but just realized I hadn’t blogged on the article itself.


The BAMS piece is easily the most thorough explanation and debunking of the issue I’ve seen in a scientific publication. Any progressive who is engaged in the climate change arena must be able to quickly and assuredly respond to this myth because it continues to live on thanks to the deniers’ and delayers’ clever strategy of ignoring the facts.

Heck even commenters on this blog keep defending the absurd line in Crichton’s novel State of Fear, when he has one of his fictional environmentalists say, “In the 1970’s all the climate scientists believed an ice age was coming.

The BAMS piece examines the scientific origins of the myth, the popular media of the 1970s who got the story slightly wrong, the deniers/delayers who perpetuate the myth today, and, most importantly, what real scientists actually said in real peer-reviewed journals at the time. Their literature survey, the most comprehensive ever done on the subject, found:

The survey identified only 7 articles indicating cooling compared to 44 indicating warming. Those seven cooling articles garnered just 12% of the citations.

The authors put together this figure on “the number of papers classified as predicting, implying, or providing supporting evidence for future global cooling, warming, and neutral categories”:

The article ends with a powerful discussion of what the National Research Council concluded in its 1979 review of the science:

In July 1979 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Jule Charney, one of the pioneers of climate modeling, brought together a panel of experts under the U.S. National Research Council to sort out the state of the science. The panel’s work has become iconic as a foundation for the enterprise of climate change study that followed (Somerville et al. 2007). Such reports are a traditional approach within the United States for eliciting expert views on scientific questions of political and public policy importance (Weart 2003).

In this case, the panel concluded that the potential damage from greenhouse gases was real and should not be ignored. The potential for cooling, the threat of aerosols, or the possibility of an ice age shows up nowhere in the report. Warming from doubled CO2 of 1.5°-4.5°C was possible, the panel reported. While there were huge uncertainties, Verner Suomi, chairman of the National Research Council’s Climate Research Board, wrote in the report’s foreword that he believed there was enough evidence to support action: “A wait-and-see policy may mean waiting until it is too late” (Charney et al. 1979). Clearly, if a national report in the 1970s advocates urgent action to address global warming, then the scientific consensus of the 1970s was not global cooling.

What follows is a March 2009 guest repost by Prof. Robert Brulle:

In “Climate Science in a Tornado,” George F. Will has completely misrepresented the historical New York Times coverage of the “global cooling” issue. Despite Will’s claim that the New York Times was a “megaphone for the alarmed” during “1970s predictions about the near certainty of calamitous global cooling,” its coverage was actually nuanced and prescient.


On December 21, 1969, the New York Times ran a UPI wire story, “Scientists Caution on Changes In Climate as Result of Pollution,” which reported that scientists discussed the possible threat of manmade global warming at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, with calls for greater monitoring of the climate:

J.O. Fletcher, a physical scientist for the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., said that “man had only a few decades to solve the problem of global warming caused by pollution.” Global warming could cause further melting of the polar ice caps and affect the earth’s climate.

On December 29, 1974, the New York Times ran the story, “Forecast for Forecasting: Cloudy.” This article is a long discussion of the state of climate forecasting, and has an extensive discussion of the process of global cooling due to aerosols, and the contrary impact of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, and the great difficulty in developing valid and reliable climate forecasting models. The lead paragraph:

In the long term, climate is cooling off “” or is it warming up? As for tomorrow’s weather, even the world’s biggest computer can’t say for sure what it will be.

On May 21, 1975, the New York Times ran the story, “Scientists Ask Why the Climate is Changing; Major Cooling May Be Ahead.” This article begins with a clear statement of uncertainty:

The world’s climate is changing. Of that scientists are firmly convinced. But in what direction and why are subjects of deepening debate.

On August 14, 1975, the New York Times ran, “Warming Trend Seen in Climate.” In this article, the New York Times discusses two scientific articles that focus on the overall climate patterns. It covers the debate over global cooling due to aerosols and global warming due to CO2 increases:

Dr. [Wally] Broecker’s argument is that the present cooling trend in the north will be reversed as more and more carbon dioxide is introduced into the atmosphere by the burning of fuels.

In the decades since, of course, scientists have come to the consensus that our continued burning of fossil fuels are tied to the warming of the planet. It is not the New York Times that is dishonest in its coverage, it is George F. Will.

I would add that The NYT’s entire August 22, 1981 story, “Study finds warming trend that could raise sea levels,” is reprinted here: “Right for 27 years: 1981 Hansen study finds warming trend that could raise sea levels.”

Science is self-correcting based on observation and analysis. The science has been clear for decades that GHG-driven warming dominates the climate system, and the reporting has (mostly) followed the science. But apparently nothing can correct the inaccuweather climate statements of Bastardi and his fellow disinformers.

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