Commerce Department Study Finds “Unprecedented” Arctic Melting

Washington, D.C., November 2, 2007—The story is ominous, chronicling the melting of glaciers, the disappearance of Arctic sea ice, and the eradication of seal habitat. It could have been written yesterday, but it was actually written 85 years ago today.


On November 2, 1922, The Washington Post published a story on a government report that described “a radical change in climatic conditions,” “unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone,” and the disappearance of “well known glaciers.” These developments are all oddly similar to current claims about what global warming is doing to the Arctic.   


“As this 1922 story demonstrates, scare stories about the environment should always be treated with a degree of skepticism,” said Competitive Enterprise Institute General Counsel Sam Kazman.


The story summarizes a report to the U.S. Commerce Department from the American consul to Norway on changing climate conditions throughout the Arctic. The changes noticed at the time turned out not to represent any long-term threat to the region. The 1922 story reminds us that current stories of allegedly “unprecedented” changes in sea ice, temperatures, and animal habitat need to be seen in the context of natural climate variability.


“In 1922 some people thought the Arctic was melting away forever, and in the 1970s scientists were warning of an impeding ice age due to global cooling,” said Kazman. “Overheated rhetoric about environmental disasters has been around for a long time. Hopefully when the next story of impending doom hits the news, it won’t take 85 years to put the claims in perspective.”



The original November 2, 1922 article:


Arctic Ocean Getting
Warm; Seals Vanish
And Icebergs Melt*

(By the Associated Press)

The Arctic ocean is warming
up, icebergs are growing scarcer
and in some places the seals are
finding the waters too hot, ac-
cording to a report to the Com-
merce Department yesterday
from Consul Ifft, at Bergen ,
Norway .

Reports from fishermen, seal
hunters and explorers, he
declared, all point to a radical
change in climatic conditions
and hitherto unheard-of tem-
peratures in the Arctic zone.
Exploration expeditions report
that scarcely any ice has been
met with as far north as 81
degrees 29 minutes. Soundings
to a depth of 3.100 meters
showed the gulf stream still very

Great masses of ice have
been replaced by moraines of
earth and stones, the report
continued, while at many points
well known glaciers have entirely
disappeared. Very few seals and
no white fish are being found in
the eastern Arctic, while vast
shoals of herring and smelts,
which have never before
ventured so far north, are being
encountered in the old seal
fishing grounds.

*Re-Typed for Clarity




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