Whitley's Journal

Superstorm, Climate Change and the Future

When I published Nature's End in 1985, I was laughed at by environmental reporters at a press conference in Washington. When Art Bell and I published Superstorm in 1999, Matt Lauer scoffed at us on the Today Show. When the movie based on it came out, even the director said, to defend himself, that it was probably an overstatement.

The movie was, but the book wasn't, and now its basic premise has proved to be true: the weakening of the Gulf Stream is profoundly altering the basic structure of climate. Of course, you won't see this mentioned anywhere in the media. To them, it's simply mysterious. 'What a terrible winter!' Of course, there are senators tossing snowballs on the Mall and jeering at the 'global warming crazies,' all in the interest of making sure that the corporations that support them won't have to pay the relative pittance necessary to reduce their carbon footprints. That's all the fake 'global warming' debate has ever been about, to preserve big coal and big oil from having to add two or three percent to their expense of doing business. The whole Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and internet rant against global warming is about those few percentage points.

Of course, over time, these same companies will pay a far, far greater price for climate change. Like all of us, they will suffer vast problems. As matters stand right now, this winter is going to be a costly one across much of the northern hemisphere. As I write this, Great Britain is experiencing flooding unprecedented in 250 years of record keeping, and even more is coming. The eastern half of the US is having one of its harshest winters in memory. Meanwhile, Southern California is enduring what could be the beginning of a epochal drought.

I have never been a believer in global warming as it is described in most models. It simply will not and cannot evolve in a series of hotter and hotter years. I have a number of reasons for this. The first is that there is a large-scale cycle involved, that has brought Earth a long series of ice ages, punctuated by brief interglacials that each last about 15,000 years. We are at the end of just such an interglacial, and at present climate is about as irregular as it was at the end of the last one. Apparently, the most fundamental cause of this is a long-term cycle or solar warming and cooling. Starting the the 14th Century, the sun's energy output declined. This continued until the 19th Century, when it once again increased. Now, the evidence is building that our star is cooling down again.

All interglacials have ended in the same way: with the Superstorm scenario, a massive, intercontinental climactic paroxysm that results in a new climate regime which then lasts for thousands of years. The reason that this happens is relatively simple. There comes a summer when there is so much snow and ice across the northern hemisphere that it reflects enough summer heat to remain in place when autumn comes. This leads to a much colder fall and a horrendous winter. By the next summer, the ice cover is many feet thick, cannot be melted by sunlight, and another ice age has begun.

Ironically, it starts with global heating, not global cooling. This causes the Gulf Stream to falter, leading the polar vortex to slide south and dramatically cool the middle regions of the hemisphere. This is what is happening now, but so far it's not clear that the snow cover is dramatic enough to persist over the course of a summer. Instead. what is likely to happen is a period of dramatic weather across the spring, followed by a very hot summer. This is because the cooling of the North Atlantic that is occurring now will reinvigorate the Gulf Stream, causing its flow to strengthen across the summer.

This process will continue until, at some point, the entire system will fall apart, with consequences that will be, in their initial phases, hard to predict. But there will be profound disruptions to farming across the whole hemisphere, followed by food shortages and other economic disruptions.

Could we have prevented it? No, but we could certainly have staved it off and made it much less violent. As matters stand, because the world allowed CO2 and Methane to rise more or less unchecked, the change when it comes will be very violent. There will be periods both of extreme heat and extreme cold, culminating in a climax too complex to be predicted, but which will certainly be followed by a new and much colder climate regime.

At that point, the human effect of climate will have been greatly reduced, as our population will have declined significantly worldwide, with the most vulnerable areas, places that depend on food imports, bearing the brunt of the depopulation.

What the timeline for all this is anybody's guess, but it will certainly happen, as I have been warning for 30 years that it will. At first, I was listened to but ignored. Now I am not listened to and even more profoundly ignored. From the beginning, I have been advocating planning for change and action to minimize it as much as possible and delay it as long as we can. We have not planned for it and we have done everything to speed it up.

The fake 'debate' has been the mechanism that has ensured the eventual untold misery of billions of human beings, the collapse of nations and the most profound challenge to civilization that our species has ever known. But you can be sure that the people who created that debate will not have to answer for a single thing.

How ironic that the media now commonly uses a word I coined, 'superstorm,' to describe the great weather events that have become so common. But as to heeding my warnings, forget it. One constituency is devoted to saving a few companies a few dollars by claiming that climate change isn't happening. The other is devoted to the claim that global warming means an ever increasing temperature gradient, leading to eventual catastrophic heating, and God forbid that any sort of natural cycle might be involved.

So reality doesn't have a constituency. It's not part of the debate. But nature, also, isn't a player in the debate. Nature happens. It doesn't care about debates, as will be seen.

Pretty "cool" piece dude

The BBC had an article on the weakening of the Gulf Stream, but I didn't hear a peep about it on mainstream news media here in the states. Instead, we get the same mind numbing news stories we've read year after year about snow storms and school closings, salt reserves, municipal snow removal budgets, and how all the soccer moms and middle manager dads are coping with an "active" weather season. The weather men/women talk about the "polar vortex' and other weather events as if they've seen it all before, and this is all normal. Don't worry...go back to sleep...its all going to be ok.

...And just yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke out about climate change as being a WMD. It was a strongly worded speech and he came down hard on the deniers:


We may not be able to stop the freight train heading our way, but we can certainly take measures and plan on how to deal with it and mitigate losses of all lifeforms, and how to feed and shelter whatever populations are able to survive the initial onslaughts of Mother Nature. The earth and many forms of life have adapted and survived these long-term events in the past. There is also evidence that the last Ice Age shaped humanity in incredible ways in terms of survival and brain power.

I remember when I was a little girl, and back before anyone ever spoke of climate change, reading about carcasses of long-dead, flash-frozen woolly mammoths discovered intact with fresh flowers still in their mouths. I understood what that meant when I was only 10 years old, and that sudden change in weather and climate must be possible.

It has been incredibly cold this winter here in Central Texas, but not even close to what has been seen in the mid-west, south-east, and New England this year. We are also in a drought situation here as well, but excessive development and unabated growth continue, along with a political regime more concerned with big business and real estate interests than with the fact that our rivers, lakes, and aquifers are running dry, along with pollution of same by everything from fracking to urban run-off. We are running out of water, but my community is dead-set on building a huge water park here to lure in tourist dollars. I have lived in this spot for 30 years, with water rationing ongoing in the summer for that entire time, and yet, we keep building, keep enticing more businesses to move here (they get huge tax breaks from state and local governments as well)... And one thing rarely mentioned: The huge amounts of water needed just to clear land and build infrastructure and buildings for new businesses and homes, let alone for things like drinking, food production, and watering golf courses.

I am not into biblical warnings much, but I do believe that we reap what we sow.

Batten down the hatches.

I remember the whole media circus with you and Art when the book, then the movie, came out. I read the book, twice, saw the movie. The recent superstorm over the UK looked sadly familiar. People just live their own little lives, and never look up. Sheeple buying more stuff. Oddly I live around a lot of LDS people who have their food stores, but they think this will never happen because the church doesn't teach it. Ironic, but sad. Sometimes I think some of us will be witnesses to this and that's our role. I think the Hopi quote kind of sums it up for me-

"There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly.

"Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, Least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

"The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from you attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we've been waiting for."

Whitley, you write towards the end: "One constituency is devoted to saving a few companies a few dollars by claiming that climate change isn't happening. The other is devoted to the claim that global warming means an ever increasing temperature gradient, leading to eventual catastrophic heating, and God forbid that any sort of natural cycle might be involved."

Perhaps, in my opinion. After researching climate change over the years, I've come to conclude that humanity's greenhouse gas forcing will likely overwhelm any natural cooling cycle that may have been the natural course of climatic events at the end of our 12,000 year long Holocene period, were humanity's influence not present.

For instance, if only about 5% of the methane hydrates under the shallow (and in summer, now ice free) East Siberian Arctic Shelf are released to the atmosphere, we risk setting in motion a self-reinforcing methane release over a few decades that will likely take us into heating not seen for tens of millions of years. Several of the (natural) mass extinctions of the past were due to runaway warming, such as the end Permian, when lava fields in what is now Siberia caused the release of huge amounts of methane in a short period, just like what we're at risk of doing this century.

I've read "Superstorm", and "The Key" (which I consider very profound) and this is my only minor quibble with the scenario that leads to a new ice age as described in those books. I will acknowledge that how this plays out may surprise many of us, and who knows, perhaps the scenario you describe will play out very close to how you lay it out in this post.

Actually, I hope your scenario of cooling in the relatively short-term does plays out, since I think that'd be much better for all the non-human species we share the Earth with. A runaway greenhouse would lead to extreme ocean acidification and a virtually lifeless "Canfield" ocean, as described by Peter Ward in "Under a Green Sky": http://www.amazon.com/Under-Green-Sky-Warming-Extinctions/dp/0061137928/...

The recovery of biodiversity after an ice-age would be much quicker than recovery after a global hothouse. I don't believe we'll turn Earth into Venus, but the extremely rapid rise in temps and extreme storms will certainly cause a mass extinction on a scale of the big ones of past Epochs. It took Earth millions of years to recover from those, but recover it did, and shall once again, as the MOTK also points out.

I'm a happy Unknown Country subscriber, and I offer the above in the hope of sincere dialog on where we're all headed in this very turbulent and transformative century. With respect. - Mark

Living here in the Phila area, I am getting tired of the never ending winter, as just about everyone else is, But it is also getting tiresome to hear the uninformed proclaim that there is no such thing as global warming or climate change. A co-worker of mine, whom I have a lot of respect for, is of the opinion that it's all a lot of nonsense, made up, a gimmick, whatever youi want to call it. He states that the temperature has NOT been rising, in fact it's been dropping the last few years. Also, he states that the arctic ice melt is not real, it's exaggerated... I realize that there is no arguing with someone who has a closed mind(on this topic anyway). He has a family member who is a scientist(not weather related though) who has been feeding him these ideas, he respects this person and hence has taken his word as gospel truth. I only wish it were true, but global climate change is here to stay.


You may believe you are ignored by the mainstream - but we all here on UK have not ignored. Take satisfaction you have gotten through to those of us you have.

I, who live in Queens, NYC and seeing snow every other day for two weeks, can safely say I am seeing the super storm theory of yours coming to pass. Several years back a tornado went through my back yard - after years of reassuring my kids tornadoes don't form in NY. If there was any doubt before that - that was the clincher for me; and that twister was the first of many since to hit the city. And now did you not mention the other day about the two storms over the UK that were "holding hands" - that sure sounds like the prelude to the combining storms you predict in your book and movie.

All each of us can do is keep watching and listening and share what we observe to our those of our fellows who will listen. Maybe, just maybe it will save a few lives. And in the end - that is the most valuable contribution to the world we can make.

So thank you for your work, this site, and your message.

Whitley, I have been an Unknown Country subscriber for many years and have read your books since Communion (since the mid 80s--so ~30 years).
I therefore must say that you have been right about all of this stuff (and about the Visitors) and very few listened. In many ways I feel that you are like Cassandra from Greek myth who had the gift of prophecy but no one listened to her.

In the end, you and Ann (and Art too) tried to warn everyone and some listened but far too few to change what was coming and now I fear that it is too late.
At a minimum, massive climate change==crop failures==famine==political unrest==BAD TIMES for mankind ahead.

Hello Whitley, I hope you and Anne are doing well - great to see her new book, sounds interesting.

I followed the earlier global warming discussions years ago, including yours. Now, I honestly don't know what to believe, and it's impossible to make sense of anything now. The media has politicized the issues so much, and scientists are pulled into this as well. And the data is probably being fudged at this point - some evidence of that. I'm not a big believer in the current state or views of 'science' - too many lies and conflicts of interest. How are we to know?

I am far more skeptical than you of the corporations and leaders in this world. I think you underestimate just what they're capable of, and doing, as do most people.

Whatever is going on, I'm sure they have much better models than us, and are using these events to what they believe is their advantage. I don't think they care about profits at all. The way they're destroying the oceans and forests, I think they consider it inevitable. These are not people who honor the planet - they destroy it.

Yet now climate change is evident by sticking your head out the window. Only a damn fool could say nothing is happening. As for how it plays out, I doubt we can change it. Best to prepare for change as best we can, and accommodate refugees. Beyond that, stay in joy.

I don't know why you care what idiots think of you. You and Anne have touched so many people in such profound and caring ways. Thank you! I'm always eager to hear your updated views on this (or any) subject.

I read Nature's end in 1985, I also was a weather channel fan, mostly from living on the Gulf Coast and dealing with Hurricanes from Camille - Katrina. I have seen the sutle climate shift in my lifetime, and now it is much more pronounced.

Our world is dying and it is going to get rough in the next couple decades. We know that the Arab Spring was fueled by Russian wheat shortages. When you skin dive in Belize you can see the acidification of coral reefs. When you take a fishing trip to Alaska you can see the Dr Sesus styled telephone poles all crooked from the melting permafrost. When I moved North to PA from MS I watched the 90+ degree weather here in the Delaware valley go from 2 weeks to 2.5 months. All this only confirms what I already knew esoterically.

The most evil part is we have sold our children down the river. The Dark men who knew and allowed this to happen fro a few bucks will pay. Tis again the folley of mankind, we are our own worst enemy. We are killing ourselves with consumerism, and now Indai & China are on teh Western path.. I offer no comfort. It is like trying to stop a large barge from going to fast into the dock.

I am starting to see why the band of ancient structures left in the old world are primarly encircled around our equator.... seems to be the only stable place on earth.

I agree 100% with this, Whitley. Thanks for posting. Ian.

We here in the frozen north have been living through the worst winter I've experience in my lifetime....and that goes back
over sixty years! The snow keeps coming and the cold will not abate. Our government says there is a "normal" risk of
flooding, but I am running out of space to shovel my snow.

We are likely in for another "flood of the century" as it has been called here in Canuckistan, but what really worries me is when is the USA going to claim Canadian water under the NAFTA agreement signed so many years ago? There are already law suits in place and entrepreneurs are hell bent on draining Canadian rivers and lakes to supply the drought stricken southwest USA. So we may be parched so Hollywood can have green lawns. What a travesty! Perhaps it really is time

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Co. ) which is our public broadcaster did run this as part of national news but did a very poor job of explaining why this is a very bad thing.
All they said is it is will effect marine life but didn't make it sound like much to worry about.
Whitley - I am on 4th reading of Key (which deals with climate change among other things) and taking notes - thank you for that book - for writing it. It matters and it counts and in so many weird funny little ways the last few years I have been prepared for it, it seems - one example - got a sudden very uncharacteristic urge to understand physics and did a lot of reading regards theoretical physics - many other things too - then there it all is pulled together in the Key - I think we must learn to be very mindful and pay attention...things are going on for sure.
thank you again and best wishes - Anne Linder to you and your Anne

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