Excerpt Interview with Whitley
Strieber and Art Bell
January 11, 2000, Tuesday
MATT LAUER, co-host: Sixty-degree weather in New York City just last
Violent storms across Europe two weeks ago. And now the
government says the 1990s were the hottest decade in 1,000 years.
It's enough to make us all wonder what's going on.
A new book, "The
Coming Global Superstorm," by radio talk show host Art
Bell and Whitley Streiber makes a dire prediction that
global warming will eventually get so bad the result will be a
catastrophic storm that could destroy civilization.
Art Bell, Whitley Streiber, good
ART BELL ("The Coming Global Superstorm"): Good morning.
WHITLEY STREIBER ("The Coming Global Superstorm"): Good
LAUER: Fact or fiction? Is this nonfiction or is this fiction?
Mm. BELL: I would call it documented reality. There's a little
bit of fiction there, but it's very well-documented. Very
STREIBER: We're a little confused about it right now,
because it started out as speculative fiction based on fact. But
in the past few weeks, we don't know anymore. Maybe it's turning
into fact before our eyes.
LAUER: It sounds like you're rounding the corners there right
now. But do you believe the conclusions you draw in this book?
That would make it fiction or nonfiction?
STREIBER: The basic conclusion is that sudden climate change
is the real issue.
BELL: It's occurred before.
BELL: It's going to happen again. They found the woolly
mammoths with the green stuff undigested in the arctic.
STREIBER: In their mouths.
BELL: In their mouths. It came from somewhere. It was
growing. They ate it. They froze instantly.
LAUER: All right. But before we don our chicken suits and yell
'The sky is falling,' let's talk about specifically the storms
you talk about in this book and this coming global superstorm.
Describe it for me. What's going to happen?
STREIBER: OK. We talk about a couple of things. First, as
the North Atlantic current drops south, there will be an
upheaval in the weather. Will it develop into one single, huge
storm? We don't know.
LAUER: But worse-case scenario, in your opinion, it could?
STREIBER: If there's enough energy collected in the
atmosphere from global warming when that happens, yes.
STREIBER: Worst-case scenario is the right way to put it.
LAUER: Well, let's talk about the worst-case scenario. According
to the book, it's a storm that could last six weeks and make a
nuclear war seem tame?
LAUER: Your words. This storm would cover a quarter of the globe
with ice. It would result in unprecedented death tolls and mass
destruction. Here's one that will get people's attention here in
the US. The US could lose three-fifths of its population.
BELL: There would be a mass migration to the south.
BELL: There would have to be. You'd see precursor events,
like, just occurred in France and Germany. Three hundred million
trees just came down in France in this last storm. Hundred and
forty-mile-per-hour straight winds in Germany.
LAUER: Let's get something straight. Not a meteorologist?
LAUER: Not a meteorologist?
LAUER: Not a climatologist?
STREIBER: But informed amateurs who've worked hard...
LAUER: But not a climatologist?
LAUER: Nor you?
BELL: Absolutely not.
LAUER: All right, so...
BELL: Talk show host.
LAUER: Where do you base this information?
BELL: Research. Certainly, if you take a look at history,
we've seen these climate flips occur violently and quickly in
the past. You don't have to be a climatologist to know that.
LAUER: We--we contacted a lot of meteorologists and
BELL: I bet you did.
LAUER: Well-respected people. Here's what they said. 'While you
are using correct data, your analysis of that data has drawn you
to illogical and irrational conclusions.'
STREIBER: No, that's not true. I'll tell you why they said
that. They said that because they don't believe there's enough
energy in the atmosphere...
LAUER: Exactly what they said.
STREIBER: ...to create this storm.
LAUER: That the atmosphere can't sustain and hold enough energy
to create the kind of storm you're talking about.
STREIBER: But every day that passes, the lower atmosphere
gets warmer because heat's being retained. The upper atmosphere
STREIBER: The model is changing. Our book is a wake-up call.
Maybe this won't happen. But the point is, we need science to be
able to tell us what's going on right now, because the weather's
changing so fast.
LAUER: But is it a wake-up call that comes real close to being a
document that will just plain scare people?
STREIBER: It should scare people.
BELL: It should scare people. And it's not sufficiently
scaring people yet. So the book is just, I think, publication
date is actually today, though it's been out. It should scare
people. People should be scared. Whitley and I disagree in one
area. Whitley thinks that it can be mitigated to a great degree
by human action. I don't think so. It's happened in the past
before humans walked substantially and had industrial
civilization. It's going to happen again.
LAUER: Mitigated by human action, meaning we cut down on the
cars we drive, things like that?
STREIBER: There's a list of things in the book that any
individual can do that are not intrusive into your life at all,
that if everyone did them, would substantially reduce global
BELL: Did you know, for example, that 40 percent of the
arctic ice over the last two decades has melted? This is
something we didn't know because our submarines were monitoring
all this during the Cold War. Now we know. Forty percent of the
LAUER: But the contradiction there, Art, is, if you're saying
we're getting warmer and warmer, yet you're predicting a storm
that could cover a quarter of the globe with ice, it seems like
those two things are at odds with one another.
BELL: Right. They are, in fact. But one precipitates the
STREIBER: The other. What happens is this. The ice melts, it
floods the northern oceans with fresh water. This causes the
temperature of the water to rise more quickly in the summer. The
temperature between the arctic and the southern oceans becomes
too much similar. The current stops flowing and suddenly you
have a snapback into a situation where it's very cold.
LAUER: Let me--and I don't have to tell you, and I certainly
don't have to remind the people who listen to your show every
night--you spent an awful lot of time last year talking about
the impending Y2K doom.
LAUER: Let's be honest. Didn't happen.
BELL: I absolutely did.
LAUER: Didn't happen. So do you run the risk of sounding like
the -- the radio host who cried wolf here when you come out with a
book like this?
BELL: Kind of like I have egg on my face.
LAUER: Just that you've come up with another doomsday scenario.
BELL: We've spent worldwide, $ 250 billion on Y2K. So it was
an event that was warned about and was mitigated. I assume that
you own a home. You probably pay insurance. When your house
doesn't catch on fire and burn down, you do feel like you have
egg on your face when you pay the insurance premium?
LAUER: You're saying I'd better go out and pay my insurance on
BELL: Well, I think that's it, yes.
LAUER: The book is called "The Coming Global Superstorm." Art
Bell, Whitley Streiber, good to see you, gentlemen.
STREIBER: Good to see you.
BELL: Thank you.
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Prologue - The Storm Begins
The earliest warning sign was something so small that it was
hardly noticed at all.
The National Data Buoy Center's buoy 44011, anchored off Georges
Bank 170 miles east of Hyannis, Massachusetts, appeared to be
sending a faulty signal. That was the only sign from any
scientific instrument anywhere in the world that two billion
human lives had just come into mortal jeopardy.
The warning should have come weeks earlier, could have come
years earlier. There were climatologists who were concerned
enough to have begun studies that would lead to the deployment
of a warning system. But there was no budget. Congress, mired in
its false debate about whether global warming was even
happening, wouldn't pay for any studies of the flow of the North
Atlantic Current, even though it is the lifeblood of our world.
What happened off Georges Bank was this: The water temperature
reading from this six-meter Nomad buoy fell suddenly from 48.1
degrees Fahrenheit to 36.3 degrees. This is a huge drop in
seawater temperature to happen overnight, and it caused the
National Data Buoy Center to list the buoy as malfunctioning.
The issue was noted, and a bulletin
was distributed within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration to the effect that water temperature readings
from this buoy were to be disregarded until after routine
maintenance was next performed.
This standard notice never reached anybody who might have been
concerned about its true meaning.
A few days later, another buoy appeared to malfunction. This one
was part of the Global Ocean Observing System, feeding data to
the Australian Oceanographic Data Centre from its station in the
Southern Ocean a thousand miles from the Antarctic.
Operating under the protocols of the
Global Temperature-Salinity Profile Program, AODC transmitted
the data to Canada's Marine Environmental Data Service. Again,
the failure of a buoy was duly noted, but the maintenance
bulletin didn't reach the same people who'd seen the one for the
buoy off Georges Bank. Why would it? Maintenance of the
Antarctic buoy would be performed by the Australians, not the
Mankind's greatest civilization now had only a few weeks to
Had the scientists working on the Atlantic Climate Change
Experiment known what had happened, they would certainly have
been alarmed. As it was, their plan to release one hundred
subsurface drifting buoys to study the North Atlantic Current
was still in the preparation stage, still waiting on funding.
Even though there was no source of data to sound the warning
that the world's greatest ocean current had just changed its
route, it wasn't long before people from Sydney to Tokyo, from
Vladivostok to Dusseldorf, from London to Los Angeles, knew that
something had gone terribly wrong with the weather.
New York had been experiencing the warmest February on record.
Temperatures were reaching their highest levels ever recorded
for the month -- 91 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once, people would have been laughing. Nobody was laughing now.
Across the whole southern coast of the United States, from
Brownsville, Texas, to Cape Fear, North Carolina, an unusual
southerly flow of air began. Tender young leaves shuddered on
early sprouting trees in south Texas. In Mississippi, ancient
oaks tossed and bowed.
Along the Carolina coast, the wind
hissed through pine forests. In the warm, winter-naked
northeast, clattering limbs and moaning eaves made it sound
cold. But it was not cold. In fact, temperatures and humidity
were rising. As far as the United States was concerned, even
though it was the dead of winter, summer had begun.
In Australia and New Zealand, the opposite happened. The austral
summer, which had been fairly normal through January, began to
show signs of an unexpected change in February, when snow now
began falling in the mountains of New Zealand's southern island.
Record cold gripped Auckland. Australia, farther north, remained
locked in record heat, but it was clear that this would soon
At the Russian Federation's Meteorological Data Processing
Center at Obninsk, an image was picked up off a high-density
data stream from an orbiting ENVISAT satellite that confirmed
what ground observers were reporting: an extremely unusual storm
had suddenly formed over the Russian Arctic. Weather systems
like this had been seen only a few times before.
The first one, which had formed over
Duplin County, North Carolina, on the night of April 15, 1999,
had been dubbed the "tornadocane." It was a massive
tornado-producing supercell with the circulation characteristics
of a hurricane. Winds in the system had reached 165 miles an
hour. It had even formed an eye in an area near the mesocyclone,
or tornado-producing region of the storm.
Instantly recognizing how unusual the storm they were seeing
was, the Russian scientists reported it to the World
Meteorological Organization. China's FY-1 Polar Orbiting
Meteorological Satellite Program was also watching the storm's
development. They sent the WMO an urgent message: The storm's
CAPE, or collective available potential energy, appeared to be
rising at a very high rate.
What a storm like that was doing there at this time of year,
nobody knew -- let alone why it was becoming so powerful.
All across southern Europe, from Madrid to Istanbul, a hard, dry
wind began roaring up from the south. In New York, low, wet
clouds had been swarming northward for two days. In Atlanta,
average wind speeds had reached thirty miles an hour. In
Houston, the average speed was forty.
All over the world, meteorologists were watching the situation.
So far, however, nobody had connected what was happening in
different parts of the planet. Thinking was still highly
localized, although numerous research facilities were observing
the data being transmitted by the Russian and Chinese
Then a typhoon appeared in the central Pacific. It formed over a
matter of hours -- faster, in fact, than had any typhoon ever
previously recorded. Inside of a week, this massive storm was
menacing coastlines from the Philippines to Japan. It was graded
a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, and declared a
supertyphoon. It was called Max.
The U.S. National Severe Storms Laboratory, recognizing the
extraordinary power of this storm, began to acquire data on it
from all available sources. Close to the center of the system,
wind gusts were exceeding two hundred miles an hour. Emergency
weather bulletins went out across the whole of the Pacific.
Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology was observing
another kind of system on the high seas south and west of
Tasmania. This system was moving on a track that had never been
They also reported this storm to the World Meteorological
Organization. Realizing that it was now receiving data on three
extremely unusual storms in different parts of the world, the WMO appealed to the U.S. National Severe Storms Laboratory for
help in interpreting the situation.
With wind speeds now reaching 200 miles an hour, Max was raised
to Category 5. There was a possibility that it would become the
strongest storm ever recorded. The "tornadocane" over the
Russian Arctic was becoming part of a system of similar storms
that appeared to be forming with the North Pole as their rough
But in Paris, temperatures were rising toward the nineties. In
New York and Toronto, southerly winds in excess of forty miles
an hour were being recorded.
A supertanker, the Exxon Invincible, reported that it was taking
on water off Cape Race, Newfoundland, and in danger of breaking
up. From Newfoundland to North Carolina the alert was sounded:
The area was in peril of the greatest oil spill in history.
In Dallas, you could smell the salt tang of the Gulf of Mexico
three hundred miles to the south. In London, temperatures, which
had been reaching through records, had finally begun dropping.
Across Europe, storms began to crash and roar, and the nights of
fifty cities were streaked by lightning.
By now, climatologists and meteorologists worldwide were aware
that the planet's weather was in upheaval. At the U.S. National
Severe Storms Laboratory the crucial question was first asked:
Chapter 1 - Present Danger
Nineteen ninety-nine was the most violent year in the modern
history of weather. So was 1998. So was 1997. And 1996. Anybody
who glances at a weather report from time to time can see that
something extraordinary is happening. But exactly what that is
remains a matter of controversy.
For twenty years, we have been bombarded with warnings that
global warming is a real and present danger. Equally, there have
been claims that it's all nonsense.
On March 15, 1999, scientists at the University of Arizona and
the University of Massachusetts reported on their construction
of a thousand-year record of earth's average temperature. The
results were shocking. What has happened is that a
nine-hundred-year-long cooling trend has been suddenly and
decisively reversed in the past fifty years. Due to the rise in
heat-trapping greenhouse gases, ferocious warming is under way.
The scientists predicted that the earth will shortly be warmer
than it has been in millions of years.
A climatological nightmare is upon us. It is almost certainly
the most dangerous thing that has ever happened in our history.
However, there is a surprising amount that we can do about it.
Some of it involves personal action. Some of it involves the
whole society. None of it is particularly difficult or
expensive, and none of it will place a cost burden on
government, business, or the individual.
How effective will it be? That remains to be seen. So far, the
fact that we cannot answer the question of just how dangerous
global warming actually is, has meant that nobody is doing
anything very decisive. But the situation is getting more and
more serious. It has become clear that the deterioration of the
atmosphere -- indeed, of the whole biosphere -- is happening a
lot faster than even the most concerned climatologists imagined
just a short time ago.
What does this mean? What might happen? We must find a way to
understand. We must, because we have to empower ourselves to
prevent it. Could it be that the worst climate disaster of all
-- an event barely whispered about -- is actually happening
right now? Could we be at the edge of runaway climate change --
an event so devastating that it could abruptly leave the world
unable to feed itself, perhaps even visit it with unimaginable
To find out, we must take a journey not only through the
shocking record of current climate change, but also into the
amazing history of the world's weather.
At this point, almost any violent change in climate will batter
our civilization because it is so enormous and makes such a
massive demand on the environment. Even the unthinkable could
happen: our civilization could fall.
Earth's climate works like a rubber band being stretched and
suddenly released. For years, eons even, the stresses slowly
build as the chemistry of the air changes. And then, in a matter
of a few years or even a few months, there is a shift so vast
that we can scarcely begin to imagine it.
Earth, it seems, has a powerful regulatory mechanism built into
its climate. Heat increases to a certain point, and then the
whole system breaks down. Cold air comes roaring down from the
north, flooding the previously overheated Northern Hemisphere.
Suddenly, a new era of cold weather begins. We know, generally,
how this happens. But not even science has as yet faced the fact
that this change must be accompanied by an absolutely massive
release of energy, as earth's climate strives to reorganize
In other words, this great shift of
climate is almost certainly accompanied by a great storm or
series of storms, a weather upheaval outside of contemporary
human experience. We believe that it has happened before, and
that traces of what we are calling the superstorm exist in the
fossil record. We believe that it comes on suddenly and that it
is so destructive that it has the potential to end our
These are sensational claims, but we can prove that nature pulls
the trigger suddenly and, therefore, that the rebalancing of the
climate that follows must also be very sudden and involve
titanic energies. This suggests that our present situation may
be extremely perilous.
Over the past three million years the earth has been locked in
an unusually harsh climate system. During this period, our
climate has flipped from warm to cold conditions and back again
many times. Again and again, earth has warmed up, getting hotter
and hotter until -- very suddenly -- the glaciers have come back
and entombed a quarter of the planet in ice for upwards of a
hundred thousand years.
Sometimes, the cooling event has not
resulted in a long-term buildup of ice. Sometimes, as happened
around 8,000 B.C., sudden cooling has not led to the return of
the ice, but has only interrupted the warming process for a
All of the factors that have caused sudden climate change in the
past are lining up right now. This change, which we will show is
part of a vast natural cycle, has been sped up this time by
human activity. When the change comes, it is likely to be much
more violent than ever before, and we will offer evidence from
recent and unexpected climatological data that indicates why
this would be so.
We will look at the last great upheaval through the eyes of the
people who were living then. Examining the fossil record, we
will identify the season in which it took place. And we will see
why that particular event did not result in a new ice age and
learn exactly how to tell if the changes the next one brings
will cause one or not.
What will this climate change be like for you and your family?
This depends on where you live. The farther north your home, the
more likely you will have to move quickly south.
When the warm ocean currents that now flow north cease to do so,
our whole climate will change. It is our contention that the
energy necessary for the superstorm will be created at that
Say you live in Dallas or Madrid or Rome. Your first indication
that the superstorm is building might be weather reports to the
effect that a series of cold fronts are moving down from the
Arctic, one after another. This could happen at any time of the
You would hear that more northern
places -- Toronto, Stockholm, Beijing -- were receiving
extremely heavy weather -- extraordinary rain in the summer,
unprecedented blizzards in the winter. This would continue for a
week or more, always building in intensity.
Across the northern plains of the
world -- the American High Plains, the central Asian steppe --
wind gusts of upwards of one hundred miles an hour would start
to be recorded. We believe that it would get worse, and we will
make our case over the course of this book.
Places like Edmonton and Semipalatinsk, then Minneapolis and
Moscow, would cease to communicate with the outside world.
Alaska and northern Siberia would have gone silent before.
From Europe to Asia to America, whole populations would be
desperately attempting to move south. Because the same changes
that affected currents in the North Atlantic would alter the
movement of currents in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia and
New Zealand would also be affected. There, summer would have
turned to winter, or normal winter would have become extremely
cold. Heavy seas would devastate the southern coasts of the
continent. Typhoons, blowing up suddenly, would smash into the
Philippines, Japan, and the Pacific islands.
The farther north you were, the more extreme conditions would
be. Day after day, the storms would continue, becoming more
complex and organized, larger, taking on forms never observed
All over the Northern Hemisphere, massive population movements
would be taking place. There would be mass disorganization, and
many, many people would be overrun by the superstorm.
After the superstorm was over, it would gradually become clear
that a catastrophe of breathtaking proportions had occurred. The
only reports from Europe would be coming from Portugal, southern
Italy, and southern Spain. The entire American Midwest would be
under a sheet of ice, one that would extend across Siberia and
northern Europe as well. This ice would reflect vast amounts of
sunlight and heat back into space.
If the storm -- as the last one appears to have done -- hit in
summer, the ice would probably melt. It is possible that this
happened the last time and, as we shall see, was recorded in
myth all over the world.
If the storm took place in the fall or winter, then the ice
could conceivably compress so much in the next few months and
reflect back so much heat and light that the next summer simply
would not be warm enough to melt it. The winter that followed
would be the coldest in history.
The ultimate and ironic effect of global warming would have
become clear to the survivors: a new ice age would have begun.
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