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Flashback 1958: Arctic Ice Sheet Will Envelope NYC, Chicago

Much like today, scientists in the 1950s were warning that warming temperatures will melt the polar ice cap, raise sea levels and flood major coastal cities. The difference is that scientists in the 1950s were warning this will lead to another ice age.

In 1958, Harper’s magazine ran a lengthy story on “The Coming Ice Age” that featured research by geophysicist Maurice Ewing and geologist-meteorologist William Donn who argued the world was “heading into another Ice Age.”

Ewing and Dunn warned that “an Ice Age will result from a slow warming and rising of the ocean that is now taking place.” The two scientists argued that major American and European coastal cities would be submerged as the Atlantic Ocean rises. But that’s not all, Arctic ice melt “will cause great snows to fall in the north — perennial unmelting snows which the world has not seen since the last Ice Age thousands of years ago.”

Glaciers would be able to grow again and advance southward, following the routes carved out in previous ice ages — meaning huge swaths of Europe and North America will once again be covered by a permanent ice sheet that will eventually reach New York City and Chicago.

“It would, of course, take many centuries for that wall of ice to reach New York and Chicago, London and Paris,” Harper’s writer Betty Friedan wrote.. “But its coming is an inevitable consequence of the cycle which Ewing and Donn believe is now taking place.”

At the time of the Harper’s article, scientists were saying Arctic ice coverage had shrank 12 percent from the previous 15 years and the ice was 40 percent thinner. Friedan wrote that a “layman might surmise that if this trend continues the Arctic Ocean will be open and the Ice Age begin in another twenty years.”

But Ewing and Dunn said if “the ocean continues to warm up at the present rate… it is conceivable that there will be open water in the Arctic within about a hundred years” and permanent snow will start to be seen across America.

“We suspect that the ocean is already warm enough to melt the Arctic ice sheet,” Ewing and Donn told Friedan. “For some time it has remained at the highest temperature ever reached in the four previous interglacial stages.”

Oddly enough, scientists today are still looking to melting in the Arctic as a sign of climate change. It’s just that this time it’s global warming, not global cooling.

Climate scientists are now telling us that the world is heading for a warmer period because human activities have pumped too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which is trapping solar radiation and heating the planet.

Scientists warn that the world could warm as much as four degrees Celsius if countries don’t drastically cut their carbon dioxide emissions.

But some scientists are actually still warning that the world could be headed for another little ice age — like the one that persisted from the late Middle Ages to the mid-1800s — based on declining solar activity.

“The stagnation of temperature since 1998 was caused by decreasing solar activity since 1998,” wrote Jürgen Lange Heine, a physicist with the German-based European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE).

“From 1900 to 1998, solar radiation increased by 1.3 W / m², but since 1998 it has diminished, and could reach values ​​similar to those of the early 20th century. A drop in global temperature over the next few years is predicted,” Heine wrote.

For years now, more research has come out suggesting that declining solar activity means the world is heading for cooler times. Maybe there won’t be another ice age, but the world could get a little chillier if these scientists are proven to be right.

“For a long time after the ocean flood subsides, the only effect the Ice Age will have on us down here will be more rain,” Friedan wrote. “The new Arctic moisture that falls as snow on the glaciers will increase both rain and snow here, swelling rivers and watering deserts.”

“Then, gradually, our weather will cool. Icy winds will blow from the advancing glaciers; the great snows will fall farther and farther south,” she added. “In several thousand years a two-mile ice sheet may cover the United States and Europe. If man finds no way to switch the glacial thermostat, there may well be a real estate boom in the Sahara.”

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