by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber

2000. RATING: 7

Shortly before retiring from his Dreamland radio show for health reasons, Art Bell managed to come out with a somewhat flawed but intriguing new book with co-author (and Dreamland's new host) Whitley Strieber (Warday, Wolf of Shadows, etc.) titled The Coming Global Superstorm. Like the radio show itself, their book regularly tends to mix the prosaic with the bizarre.

Superstorm deals with one of the least understood facets of our planet: the weather. Diving into the past, they discover what they consider evidence for ancient superstorms that radically altered Earth's climate every few thousand years. If true, these superstorms could have been the mechanisms responsible for bringing on (or ending) several ice ages, as well as causing the mass deaths--or even extinctions--of plants and animals worldwide.

Looking into the present, Bell and Strieber use both the findings of modern technology and a view of our present crisis with pollution and global misuse to argue that our own human actions could be accelerating this natural process, moving it forward by several thousand years so that we are once more on the cusp of a global superstorm.

If true, such a major event would threaten to destroy civilization itself. Temperatures would plummet all over the world and some areas would be savaged by winds up to two-hundred miles per hour. Northerly climates could receive dozens of feet of snow and ice, including winter cells so rapid as to cause flash freezing before people could know what hit them. This storm could only result in one of two outcomes: if it happens in the winter, it would bring on another ice age with glacial sheets that could stretch as far south as Washington D.C., and would end up covering all of the British Isles, Northern Europe, Central Europe, and a vast portion of Asia and Japan. If in warmer weather, then the melting ice would cause flooding unparalleled in recorded human history. Either way, the effects on the human (and otherwise) population of Earth would be devastating.

So the question the reader ultimately has to ask is this: do Bell and Strieber make a convincing case both for the past existence of global superstorms, and that we're on the verge of another one?

Where past occurrences are concerned, they have a pretty solid base as long they stick to the geological evidence; yes, it seems that major events did happen in the past to change the weather, change the climates of different areas in the world, and to wipe out many different species. At the very least, they convincingly point out that our own knowledge of ice ages and mass extinctions is tenuous, at best. Less convincing are the arguments of an advanced prehistoric civilization--wiped out by the last superstorm--leaving behind for posterity encoded messages behind in the form of the great monuments in antiquity, such as the Sphinx; or the fact that deep beneath ancient cities such as Ur and Nineveh archaeologists have found fused silica--usually found only at Ground Zero of nuclear blast sites. Even for those who believe this possibility, the lack of documentation in the book is frustrating.

Concerning our present circumstances, their evidence is extremely speculative but still compelling. Perhaps they don't necessarily make the case that we're about to have a superstorm within our lifetimes. But their relentless presentation does make readers aware that something odd seems to be going on with our weather, putting teeth into our occasional question, "Hasn't the weather been a little strange lately?"

Woven into the factual elements of the book is a fictional narrative describing blow by blow what could happen to us if such a superstorm did ever happen to the modern world. Both in fact and fiction, Bell and Strieber could be completely wrong. Or they could be completely on target. Either way, and regardless of how you feel about this writing duo being the source of such information, our own world's weather remains a great mystery to us, and needs to be studied--with all of the potential implications. Even (and especially) if we refuse to hear them.

(Note: In an interesting juxtaposition, a website titled Schlock Atmospheric Science, which chronicles bad science in climatology, not only includes this book but also its harshest critic, Patrick Michaels of the supposedly environmentally friendly Western Fuels Association.)

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This page modified 27-Jul-2000 11:21:22.