JUMPING ON A BANDWAGON BEFORE IT SHOWS UP Buzz Bernard, Senior Meteorologist With the first summary from the next set of Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateMessage 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2007View Source
JUMPING ON A BANDWAGON BEFORE IT SHOWS UP
Buzz Bernard, Senior Meteorologist
With the first summary from the next set of Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) reports about to be released, I thought I'd
reflect on the role global warming has played in my life.
Old curmudgeon that I am, resistant to change and new ways, I find it
surprising -- looking back -- that I once jumped on a bandwagon before
it even showed up.
Long ago and far away I became acquainted with the late Dr. Hurd
Willett, a professor emeritus at MIT. Dr. Willett was a recognized
authority on the correlation between solar activity and the earth's
weather. He'd developed some convincing relationships between long-
term solar cycles and climate. In the 1970s he foresaw a trend toward
colder winters in the eastern U.S. through the end of the 20th century.
Interesting stuff. I wrote a book about it. But in the course of
researching the book and talking with other scientists, I came across
a theory which back then was known as an enhancement of
the "greenhouse effect," global warming caused by man injecting
increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
I asked Dr. Willett about the increased greenhouse effect and he
essentially pooh-poohed it. "Don't worry about it," he told me, "it's
not an important factor." I wasn't sure about that, however. It seemed
to me a bigger deal than Dr. Willett and a number of other researchers
at the time believed.
Maybe worth another book, I thought. I developed a questionnaire and
mailed it off (this was long before e-mail, kiddies) to a couple of
dozen researchers in the field. Plus, I read a lot about the
Like most operational forecasters, I didn't really want to believe
that human activities could change our climate and perhaps eventually
doom one our favorite things in the whole world: wild winter weather --
snowstorms and arctic outbreaks.
Alas, as the questionnaire responses came back and I continued to
review books and technical papers, the preponderance of evidence
seemed to me to favor global warming. The clincher was a graph by Dr.
Wallace Broecker of the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory
suggesting that CO2-induced warming would completely overpower
Willett's cooling cycles by the beginning of the 21st century.
Thus I wrote The Greenhouse Effect, published in 1980. I followed it
up with Global Warming Unchecked in 1993 at which point the evidence
for human-caused climate change had become overwhelming. (By the way,
don't run out and try to buy these books. They're out-of-print and out-
In both books I presented what I felt were convincing double-barreled
arguments for weaning ourselves from fossil fuels. We could stem the
tide of global warming and simultaneously become less reliant on
imported oil, much of which was coming (and continues to come) from
countries that aren't going to sit down with the U. S. around a
campfire and sing "Kumbaya."
For my efforts, I was called a charlatan by a Fellow of the American
Meteorological Society. The guy obviously was clueless about the
economics of publishing (and, as it turns out, clueless about global
You don't make money writing books unless, for instance, your name is
John Grisham or Al Gore. And more power to Al Gore for his efforts. My
books were only modest sellers and I understand why. People didn't
know who I was. Just a weather forecaster. Not a researcher. Not a
Ph.D. Not a politician. (I've often said that unless an author's name
on the cover of a book is bigger than the title, he or she isn't going
to make money.)
But believe it or not, I had my chance. One brief, golden opportunity
to gain national recognition. It was undone by world events. The
Bernard Curse, my dad later told me.
Good fortune doesn't run in the family.
I'll tell you about it in my next blog.
This article by a Senior Meteorologist at The Weather Channel Blog is in my best qualified panel for my selection of best article for 2007. [Comment #1 - Thu Feb 1, 2007]
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