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When Hell Freezes Over: Remembering the Pop Culture Ice Age Panic of the 1970s

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First things first: there was never a scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into another Ice Age.

On the contrary, roughly seven time as many scientists of the day predicted global warming as did global cooling.

Some folks have sought to portray a scientific consensus about an ice age in the disco decade so they can gaze at the consensus now about global warming and set up a fatuous dynamic or comparison.

It goes: the scientists were wrong then, and they are wrong now!  This denial crowd even conjured a fake 1977 TIME Magazine cover trumpeting the ice age of the 1970s to support their cause.

It was actually a modified 2007 cover on global warming, not a seventies era TIME cover.


But the subject of this article is the pop culture panic over a “looming” ice age, not matters of science.

Basically, the mainstream media and news outlets in the 1970s — despite the lack of evidence — attempted to sell to audiences the notion of a coming ice age.

The 1970s brought us so many weird fads — Bigfoot, The Bermuda Triangle, ancient astronauts and killer bees — and for a time, the idea of the planet slipping into a new ice age was just as prominent a trope.



Recently, films such as The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and Snowpiercer (2014) have similarly imagined a future world of arctic temperatures and endless ice.

But as far back as 1972, The Windsor Star reported “There’s a New Ice Age Coming.”

Additionally, Time Magazine (though not in a cover article) featured a story called “Another Ice Age” on June 24, 1974. It worried that a “series of unusually cold winters has gripped the American far west.”




In 1975, Newsweek printed a similar article, on April 28: “The Cooling World.”  It was concerned about “ominous signs” that the world’s weather patterns were changing dramatically…for the colder.

A book printed by Gross and Dunlop, by George Stone, in 1977 was titled: Blizzard: What if it Doesn’t Stop and even Isaac Asimov worried about a new Ice Age in his 1979 book, A Choice of Catastrophes, which imagined and explained the myriad ways the human race could be destroyed.

A new ice age didn’t seem as bad as some of the other possibilities…



On television, meanwhile, fears of a frozen planet also began to take shape. An episode of Challenge of the Super Friends called “The World Beneath the Ice,” gazed at the possibility of a weapon that could freeze the world, thus spawning a new ice age.

And in 1978, In Search of: The Coming Ice Age was hosted by Leonard Nimoy. It too worried about catastrophic global cooling, and what could be the end of humanity.

Finally, in 1979, Robert Altman’s film Quintet opened to savage reviews, but the post-apocalyptic film starring Paul Newman — a bleak excursion into the end of humanity — was set during a future Ice Age.

There, a small outpost of humanity passed the time until inevitable extinction playing a murderous, savage, and inhuman game.  The Altman film is far more effective and artistic than critics at the time seemed to recognize, and it depicts one of the most unusual cinematic dystopias of the 1970s.  It is worth a second look, even if the Ice Age fears of the disco decade were a lot of hooey.

  • ikonag

    New York Times 1961: 100% consensus for global cooling

    • John Kenneth Muir

      The article’s first line: “There was never a scientific consensus in the 1970s that Earth was headed into another Ice Age.” The NYT article suggesting consensus is from 1961. The second article, from 1976, confirms exactly what I wrote: there was no consensus in the 1970s of an impending ice age, and many scientists were skeptical.

      • ikonag

        Oh there’s plenty more from the 1970’s NY Times about global cooling. In 40-50 years we will be laughing and posting images of the foolishness of the global warming scare as we have a new global cooling consensus. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

        • mathew

          The climatologists who thought we had switched to long term cooling were doing what the denialists now like to do: taking a small interval of data and imagining that it’s going to continue. Look at just 1940-1970 and it kinda looks like temperatures might be going down. But when you look at the longer term trend, you realize it’s just a blip.

          • ikonag

            And that last increase is just a blip too. We are coming out of an ice age so it’s no surprise that temps have increased since then.

          • mathew

            Your graph is carefully missing the data at the right hand side. When you include that data, the story is suddenly rather different.


          • ikonag

            No it’s there as a dotted line. But you are using the “adjusted” data. My data is showing the original data as it was originally published.

          • mathew

            Of course I’m using adjusted data, we’ve learned a hell of a lot over the last few decades. That was the point of the original article…

          • ikonag

            And we will learn a lot in the next few decades also. That’s why it’s important to not get stuck with bad science by silencing skeptics. Adjusting is ok but it needs to be based on good science and not politics. For example, check out how the 1940’s “blip” was reduced significantly after an adjustment. Are we sure this wasn’t done because of politics?:

          • wiggle

            I don’t doubt that it’s possible that some scientific mistakes are being made but I’d still rather side with fully qualified scientists than with fully qualified ideologues.

          • ikonag

            There are no “fully qualified ideologues” on the alarmist side? What is your source for that claim?

          • Raymond Michael Borland

            Read Jahendra Pachauri’s statement he just released after he announced he was leaving his position as head of the UN IPCC after 14 years. He makes it clear that climate science was a religion or dharma to him. There is no place for non-objective belief systems in science. Another woman in the UN IPCC announced that the purpose of climate change legislation is to destroy capitalism worldwide , replace it with socialism, and not necessarily to change future climate.

          • brainpimp

            Then you shouldn’t believe the warming nuts. They go on faith not data.

          • Raymond Michael Borland

            The problem is the UN IPCC which is suppose to be the major organization summarizing all climate science for governments is composed of ideologues and they have been shown to falsify claims. Even some of the authors of published papers used in the UN IPCC reports have complained how much their statements were distorted. Certainly the claim that 97% of climate scientists support climate change was a fabrication by the UN IPCC. What good scientists would count the number of publications rather than polling scientists with specific detailed questions. What does an answer that a person agrees with climate change mean anyway? Almost everyone agrees that climate changes. What is debatable is how much climate change is due to man made CO2, how much CO2 in the atmosphere is due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions, what is the Climate Sensitivity value (the amount of atmospheric warming that will be caused by doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and , of course, whether climate scientists agree that climate science is settled , 117 climate computer models are all accurate and have been proven to predict the past, present and future climate accurately, and whether all the speculative claims about what doom and gloom will result IF temperatures go up 2 degrees, or 4 degrees, or 8 degrees by 2100. I have yet to see one projection from climate computer models come true yet. Arctic Ice did not disappear by 2014. American children are not failing to see any snow by 2012. Polar bear are not going extinct. They are 3 times more plentiful than in the late 19th century. Sea levels have been rising at a constant rate for over 125 years. There is no evidence sea levels are rising now at a faster rate due to higher CO2 concentrations. Hurricanes and tropical storms have not become more frequent nor more severe in recent years as atmospheric temperatures rose (in fact they became less frequent and less severe worldwide). The hiatus in additional atmospheric warming that has been demonstrated for 18 years now was never predicted by even one computer model. Why did 400 ppm CO2 and still rising CO2 levels suddenly stop warming the atmosphere more and more? Himalayan glaciers were not proven to be disappearing . It was a fabrication exposed by a whistle blower at the UN IPCC. 97% of climate scientist do not all agree with ever claim related to climate change made by the UN IPCC. in fact, Senator Inhofe in 2009 published a list of 700 leading climate scientists who stated they did not agree with the supposed “consensus” opinion. There never was a Hockey stick increase in atmospheric temperatures as predicted by Dr. Michael Mann in a graph that inappropriately ignored tree ring data after 1970 or so even though it used tree ring data for 2000 year, and spliced in surface temperatures “because Mann felt the surface temperature were more representative of the global warming he knew (somehow) was occurring. “

          • brainpimp

            Yea, what you’ve learned is to cook the books to get the result you want not the result the data gives.

          • Will

            some would call “adjusted” data, fudged data

          • Raymond Michael Borland

            When GISS lowered temperatures in their 1998 graph by about 1.5 degrees for all recorded values before 1970 or so and then issued their 1998 graph, what they did was make 1934 no longer the hottest year in recorded (since 1880) history. The adjustment which looks like data massaging or manipulation made the warming between 1980-1998 look much larger than it was. Watch out also because by graphing temperature anomalies rather than showing long term actual temperatures, they can hide what baseline period was selected and used. This can make atmospheric warming look very large and menacing or it can make the period between 1970-1998 look like it is no larger than past temperature
            One should note that there were two cooler periods in the 20th century and two warmer periods. If you chose a cooler period as baseline, of course, the warming period looks larger. The rate of increase in 1980-1998 was no different than the earlier rate of warming which occurred before CO2 rose a lot up to 400 ppm. Furthermore, none of the 20th century hot years were as large as hot years in the Medieval warm period and the Little Medieval Warm period.

          • ikonag

            Here’s another chart that shows how it coincides with known events from history:

          • Will

            Are you charting real data or “adjusted” data? (particularly the last 60yrs)

          • ikonag

            And also notice that increase beginning around 1910? The UN IPCC does not attribute the increase from 1910-1940 to “human influence.” So why is the most recent increase attributed to “human influence”?

          • mathew

            >The UN IPCC does not attribute the increase from 1910-1940 to “human influence.”

            [Citation needed]

          • ikonag

            That is from the testimony of Greenpeace founder Dr. Patrick Moore’s Feb. 25, 2014 testimony before the U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. The 1910-1940 blip can’t be anthropogenic because the level of greenhouse gases was quite low before World War-II.

          • brainpimp

            How are you supposed to quote a negative? Weapons grade stupid , son.

      • Will

        Science does not work on consensus, it works on data. Hypothesis, data gathering, theory, support, replication. Also skepticism is a fundamental scientific attitude.

  • ikonag

    New York Times 1976 : Deniers say that global cooling is nonsense.

  • ghostofhallelujah

    Consensus is not a scientific concept. It’s political concept, which is an interesting point to ponder.

    • Will

      Exactly! I’m gonna hurl if I see another dumba** mention the two words together! 🙂

  • devan95

    It’s all crap. Remember when catalytic converters were mandated and would solve air pollution? Other than reading it in my post, when is the last time you heard the words “catalytic converter.” All climate hype is a scam. Anything significant takes thousand of years to develop and is modified by the oceans which are a giant heat sink. So have a donut and relax,

  • Neotrotsky

    For the left, climate concerns have become the new alchemy of this century. In fact, since the left has tried to set it up where any and all factors supposedly ‘support’ climate change, a non-refutable hypothesis is not science, but more like a religion.