CBC Digital Archives

Are summers getting warmer up North?

Hollywood stars speak out about it, politicians argue about it and books on the subject are bestsellers: global warming is a hot topic today. But just a few decades ago, some scientists were predicting another ice age. CBC Digital Archives looks at four decades of CBC's climate change coverage, beginning with murmurs of a northern warming trend in the 1960s and ending with the Kyoto Conference of the late 90s.

"One thing we have found is that it appears the summers have been slightly warmer in the past 20 to 30 years. This is rather a small difference, but it seems to be significant," says Dr. Geoffrey Hattersley-Smith in this 1961 radio clip. The scientist is being interviewed about his recent research trip to Ellesmere Island in Canada's Arctic, where his team conducted radiation tests. This is one of the earliest clips in the CBC Archives mentioning a subject that will become a worldwide fixation four decades later. 
. Similar findings of a warming trend were mentioned in a 1960 CBC-TV report about a research team working in the Northwest Territories. Though it wasn't the focus of his report, announcer Norman Depoe said researchers "have found out that the ice is slowly melting," and said the ocean seemed to be warming up - "its coat of ice is now only about 60 per cent as thick as it was at the turn of the century."

. A 1961 Globe and Mail article forecasted slightly colder winters for the following four years, but said there would be "no real reversal of the slow warming trend of the past 60 years." The article also warned about potential hazards of increased warming: "British climatologist C.E.P. Brooks estimates an additional worldwide rise of only two degrees in average temperature would melt enough Arctic ice to send the sea flooding into much of New York and London as well as countless seaside towns."

. Later data showed that there was indeed a warming trend in the first part of the 20th century (up to 1945), but average world temperatures fell slightly between 1945 and the early 1970s.
Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: Sept. 21, 1961
Guest(s): Geoffrey Hattersley-Smith
Interviewer: Mildred MacDonald
Duration: 4:37

Last updated: March 9, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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