Famous Journalist’s ‘70s Ice Obsession: ‘Glaciers Down to the Mason-Dixon Line’

‘Murrow Boy’ Howard K. Smith also feared ice age, cited scientists and called their arguments ‘pretty convincing.’

Some climate alarmists are already trying to play up legendary journalist Walter Cronkite’s April 3, 1980, coverage of “global warming” and the “greenhouse effect.” But what they will almost certainly ignore is that only a few years earlier Cronkite and fellow journalists were warning about a “new ice age.”

The media have been susceptible to climate change alarmism for more than 100 years, but it wasn’t always about warming. In the 1970s journalists were chilled to the bone and found arguments for a coming ice age “pretty convincing.”

Like Cronkite, “the most trusted man” in news, reporter and commentator Howard K. Smith also brought up the threat of a new ice age. Smith did so repeatedly.

“Warm periods like ours last only 10,000 years, but ours has already lasted 12,000. So if the rhythm is right, we are over-ready for a return of the ice,” Smith said in his comment on the January 18, 1977, ABC evening newscast.

He cited “experts like Reid Bryson” who based their worries on “cooler temperature readings in the Great Plains” and elsewhere and the “retreat of the heat-loving Armadillo from Nebraska to the southwest and to Mexico.” Bryson argued the return to an ice age had begun in 1945.

Smith credentialed Bryson saying he ran “the biggest meteorological department in the world.” Although the media listened to Bryson in the 1970s, he fell out of favor with them years later due to his skepticism of human-caused global warming.

“The argument that we face some long cold years is pretty convincing,” Smith said that night on ABC.

And he remained convinced of this, making two similar warnings in commentaries in January and February 1978.

“Don’t pack your things and investigate real estate prices in the tropics yet, but there’s a theory advanced by climatologists that the last two years of battering by winter means that an ice age is returning to the Earth with glaciers down to the Mason-Dixon line and freezing temperatures south of that,” Smith told ABC viewers on January 11, 1978.

Again he cited those cooler temperatures and the migration of the armadillo, but added to the list. One addition he noted was, “computerized, esoteric data I can neither explain, nor understand.”

By February 8, 1978, Smith used the “belting we’ve been taking from the weather in the past few years, bitter winters in the Northern Hemisphere, spreading droughts and deserts in the south” as evidence of “some far-reaching, long-range change is taking place.”

He said climatologists were divided whether that change was a “new ice age” coming or “a permanent warming up of the Earth” because of carbon dioxide emissions. Smith said he “leans toward the ice-agers for the evidence adduced by Professor Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin, our leading scholar.”

Bryson was a geologist and meteorologist and founded the department of meteorology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also founded the school’s Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research.

The school even awards scholarships in Bryson’s honor to students “whose research mirrors the innovative and interdisciplinary studies of Professor Bryson, involving either fundamental climate and meteorological processes or topics that connect climate, people, and the environment.”

Bryson was a media favorite during the cooling scare. But years later, when many scientists and the media were warning of the threat of anthropogenic (manmade) global warming, Bryson was skeptical.

According to Marc Morano and Climate Depot, Bryson said, “All this argument is the temperature going up or not, it’s absurd. Of course it is going up. It has gone up since the early 1800’s, before the Industrial Revolution, because we’re coming out of the Little Ice Age, not because we’re putting more carbon into the air.”

Smith’s long career in journalism had included time on Edward R. Murrow’s wartime radio correspondents team called the “Murrow Boys” before spending many years with CBS and then ABC television networks, according to The New York Times. By the 1970s, Smith anchored, coanchored and shared commentary on the ABC evening news broadcast, according to American National Biography Online.

— Julia A. Seymour is Assistant Managing Editor for MRC Business at the Media Research Center. Follow Julia A. Seymour on Twitter.