The Sky Is Falling! (Yet Again)

April 2001By Michael Morassutti

Michael Morassutti is a consulting climatologist and freelance writer with Climet Systems in Toronto, Canada (

The Coming Global Superstorm.  By Art Bell and Whitley Strieber. Pocket Books. 255 pages. $23.95.

With Christianity’s decline during modern times, many substitutions for manifestations of God’s redemptive power in the world have arisen. Not unexpectedly, these worldviews have proven to be malevolent, having manifested themselves in politics, science, and social morality. In Karl Marx’s canon, the revolutionary proletariat was supposed to overthrow the bourgeoisie and inaugurate a “Worker’s Paradise.” Stalin and Mao resulted. Adolf Hitler, claiming to have been elected by “Divine Providence,” helped decimate Europe. During the 1960s, vulgar radicals fought against all forms of authority, arguing that “our generation” will “set things straight.” However, their militant activism failed to redirect man to the Garden of Eden.

All of these substitutions contended that humanity must first endure a time of crisis, a kind of “trial by fire,” before the new utopia could be instituted. Lately, a new player has entered the arena. Not another all-seeing totalitarian state. Not another banana republic dictator with his network of informants. This new thing is omnipresent by nature, namely, the natural environment — a very sick and vengeful environment, or so our ecological champions contend. They foretell an apocalypse on the horizon, an “ecocrisis” of tremendous proportions, resulting from man’s industrial activities, his pollution of land, sea, and sky. Mother Nature, they cry, will revolt against humanity.

The authors of The Coming World Superstorm follow this line of thought. A “climatological nightmare is upon us,” they write. “It is almost certainly the most dangerous thing that has ever happened in our history.” The authors are not vague, and the nightmare is no slow-motion cataclysm. Art Bell and Whitley Strieber are referring to a specific and imminent event: a global superstorm involving “titanic energies” that will rage for four to six weeks. “Even the unthinkable could happen: our civilization could fall.” We stand at “the terminal climax of a massive extinction event.”

Bell is a radio talk-show host. His popular program, Coast to Coast AM, deals with many forms of unexplained and “paranormal” phenomena — from UFOs to government cover-ups, from New Age esoterica to spontaneous human combustion. Strieber is the popular bestselling author of Communion, an account of contact with space aliens.

As a practicing climatologist who interprets weather data, I could take the condescending route of dismissing this book as the product of unqualified amateurs, of conspiracy-mongering gnostics. I could easily maintain that their theory, elaborated below, lacks scientific credibility and belongs to the realm of fantasy. (Most of the research was conducted on the Internet, Strieber confessed in an interview — so allegations, sound bites, and rumors are abundant in the book.) But to emphasize this point would not be terribly interesting. More interesting is that their book appears to be the outcome of the incessant propaganda advocated by the radical green fringe. The book is an indicator of the tendency of today’s culture: Bell and Strieber accept as truths the tales of ecocrisis-mongers and transmogrify them into epics of universal, even religious, proportions.

Their theory goes something like this: “Global warming” (an unassailable truth to them) has increased Arctic temperatures, causing polar ice to melt. Freshwater runoff from this ice melt would flow into the oceans, diminishing its salinity concentration. Because lesser-saline seawater absorbs more heat, the temperature differential between polar and more southerly tropical waters will be less pronounced, and the North Atlantic Current, which normally transports warm southerly water to Arctic regions, will turn quiescent, later diverting to a more southerly course. As a result, frigid Arctic air will move farther south. The convergence of this cold polar air with moist tropical air at southerly latitudes will generate extreme weather events throughout the world, from Nome to Rome, from Sydney to South America. The Northern Hemisphere will suffer the greatest brunt of the storm. “Supercells” at various Arctic localities will coalesce into a “superstorm.” The event will be a massive blizzard, enveloping North America and Eurasia in billions of tons of snow.

Depending on subsequent weather conditions, one of two catastrophic events would occur soon after: Another ice age will be triggered, or warmer temperatures will melt the snow, generating gigantic floods, decimating a good portion of civilization. A civilization to be lost?

Thus, Bell and Strieber — here they’re in their comfortable New Age element — delve into the esoterica associated with “lost civilizations.” They attempt to demonstrate that such a megatempest may have occurred in Earth’s distant past, inundating and destroying ancient and highly technical societies, possibly possessed of superior forms of knowledge (i.e., gnosis). They do this by excising tidbits from geological, archeological, and paleoclimatic records, illustrating their relationships with the myths of ancient cultures. Looking back in time before the “flood legends” (three million years ago, when the climate was different, vegetation was luxuriant, and exotic beasts roamed the continents) “is like looking at a vision of a distant Eden.” They even discern signs in stellar constellations, or (less euphemistically) astrology. Apparently, humanity has undergone a series of historical eras. Leo the Lion, indicating the Sphinx and Egyptian civilization; Gemini, the time when recorded history began; Aries the Ram, as mentioned in the Old Testament; Pisces the Fish, as in Christ, the fisher of men. Ours is the Age of Aquarius, “ending in sudden explosion,” which the authors figure to be a cataclysmic climatic event: the superstorm and an ensuing flood.

The authors conclude on an optimistic note, however. Humanity, they say, can survive the coming superstorm. We must learn from the ancients (the “music of the old myths”), respect the environment, utilize the science of climate engineering (i.e., artificial weather modification), and develop Artificial Intelligence, in which “we will find the meaning of the soul.” A “new kind of humanity” will gloriously arise from the ashes like the Phoenix. This is yet another version of the pagan notion of an eternal world, of continuous cycles of birth, growth, decay, and rebirth.

The Coming Global Superstorm reads like a Vatican spy thriller penned by Malachi Martin. It intermingles fictional scenarios and historical facts with personal conjecture (a popular trend nowadays), which works only to obfuscate matters. But is that not the trick of gnosticism — to tease and titillate about the possible apocalyptic futures with recondite evidence? The authors seem strangely excited about an imminent climatic cataclysm. Alas, the desire to clear the canvas of human affairs and start anew is nothing new. For example, in his novella War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells writes of the people “busy getting ready for a struggle” upon the arrival of Martian invaders. The main character of the story says: “I must confess the sight of all this armament, all this preparation, greatly excited me. My imagination became belligerent, and defeated the invaders in a dozen striking ways; something of my school-boy dreams of battle and heroism came back.”

Bell and Strieber aren’t glancing up to the skies awaiting the arrival of alien invaders. Instead, they are substituting the climatic sky as an avenging god that will teach modern man the lesson that the environment will retaliate against him when it is artificially tampered with. Such theories are completely bogus, advocated routinely by a pseudo-science called the “Gaia Hypothesis.” Unfortunately, Bell and Strieber have provided more ammunition to proponents of the global warming panic. Fortunately, science has nothing much to do with it.

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