This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
A WNYC announcer introduces program.
Host Irita Van Doren introduces Dr. George Kimble, who talks about his book "Our American Weather," first published in 1943. Kimble was a one-time Royal Navy meteorologist who went on to become First Professor of Geography at McGill University in Canada and Director of the American Geographical Society. While not calling us to action, Kimble raises many of the issues we now hear about daily regarding global warming and extreme changes in the weather.
Van Doren introduces Marcia Davenport, who talks about her novel "My Brother's Keeper," and the public fascination with recluses like the hording Collyer brothers. The work was inspired by the 1947 New York Times articles detailing items taken from the Collyer's brownstone after their deaths, Davenport constructed a tale of the Holt brothers, one a failing concert pianist and the other a naval architect, and the events that prompted them to become recluses in later life.
Van Doren introduces Ernest Henry Gruening, who talks about Alaskan history and the need for statehood in the face of federal neglect and treatment like a colony. Gruening was an American journalist and Democrat who was the Governor of the Alaska Territory from 1939 until 1953, and a United States Senator from Alaska from 1959 until 1969. Gruening also touches on climate change and receding glaciers in Alaska at that time.
WNYC announcer closes program.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71252
Municipal archives id: LT6893
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
From the hotel last year your city station brings you this broadcast transcribed earlier of the third book and author luncheon of the one nine hundred fifty four fifty five series this is the eighteenth year of the luncheons which are held under the auspices of the New York Herald Tribune and the American Booksellers Association as nonprofit cultural events appearing in today's program are Ernest Henry Gronings ex governor of Alaska and Varsha Davenport novelist is the groanings new book is the state of Alaska and misstep in parts latest best seller is my brother's keeper in addition to Dr George H. T. Kimball author of our American weather will speak now to open the program here is the mistress of ceremonies for the book and author luncheons literary editor of The New York Herald Tribune I read a bend or. The other day in fact it was just three or four days after Christmas. Vera here in a box on the front page of The Herald Tribune the following item sixty degrees in New York thirty six degrees in Los Angeles. The east and west coast traded normal weather conditions yesterday in setting hot and cold records for December twenty eight New York City recorded a high of sixty point four degrees at three o five P.M. The previous high had been fifty nine in one nine hundred forty nine Los Angeles on the other hand at five twenty A.M. registered a record low for the day after thirty six. We've all been familiar with the variability of our weather and the lack for independent delivery in weather predictions. Under the circumstances one might think that to write a book on the weather would be a pretty cool Hardy thing to do. But Dr Kimball's just done so protect himself by indicating plainly that for share of violent extremism and unpredictability there is nothing like the weather in the United States. In our American weather he doesn't try to explain it to forecast it to change it or to control it he simply describes an Englishman library a university lecturer in geography and meteorology He volunteered with the outbreak of World War two for duty in the British naval meteorological service. His first assignment was to investigate the movement of the dollar and belts in the crop picks for the climbing a possible naval maneuvers by then he became a member of a group whose job was to study wind and wave conditions on the beaches of continental Europe as a result of the study the proprietor grass which gave the weather conditions for each day of the year on Omaha Beach. This report was used by Churchill at that Iran conference to help determine the date of the D.-Day landings next his official researchers turned toward the Pacific theater and he was sent around the world to get in touch with the agency having skill in forecasting beach conditions. A lieutenant commander at the end of the wall he went to McGill University in Montreal as Professor of Geography and director of the media a logical observatory there among other achievements he established an Arctic Research Center while he was there then followed the directorship of the American Geographical Society of New York lectures articles and books. And since nine hundred fifty three he has been director of a survey of crop of Africa sponsored by the twentieth century signs. In our American weather Dr Kimball describes the weather regionally statistically and seasonally month by month taking up such phenomena as we usually associate with certain months I March when a Prashad hours obvious to MITI January blizzards. We haven't had any exactly this January he explodes our justifies some of our weather myths such as those connected with Groundhog Day migratory birds coated animals not saving squirrels he talks of rainbow Dog Days spring thunder hail stones sunspots cycles in weather white Christmases and woolly bad in other words in addition to giving us much fascinating material he documents for us in the light for fashion but we have always believed that there is nothing quite like American weather anywhere else in the world. And happy to be able to introduce to you the author of our American weather allies and with a welcome and actually charged him. Madam Chairman distinguished guests ladies and gentlemen almost anybody can write a book about the weather and almost everybody does all you need is a theory some facts and an advance royalty. It's easy enough to find a theory you don't need to read the newspapers. To discover that things have never been quite the same since the Gulfstream started wondering and the Russian set off the H.-Bomb nor is there any difficulty about the facts the United States weather bureau is loaded with them and there's always the charge that you may find an obliging publisher My theory was quite simple it was merely that it's high time somebody said a good word for the American weather Happily the facts seem to bear out the theory that for the publisher when he didn't even ask me if I was a meteorologist maybe he could see I was all meteorologists gone and had a good Can you wonder why. I grant you that I am a little biased about the matter of American weather but one thing I was brought happening land where you never quite know where you are with the weather when you know you may get no summer at all the next you may get a whole week. Which would be a wonderful except for one thing that nobody stops talking about it. Throughout the whole week and then in later years I travelled widely in the tropics where you also get one kind of weather only there you don't talk about it much for fear of getting kicked out of the club but here in America you have almost every kind of weather somewhere or other I don't most every day of the year even while I talk it is snowing in the Western Sierras raining in Kansas shining in New Mexico blowing a gale in New Hampshire on the top of Mt Washington at least and. In a manner of speaking in Washington D.C.. In Juneau. The governor comes from. You won't believe it but it's forty above in Montana it's forty below in Miami of course it's eighty above before the day is out somebody is going to get lost in a fog in California or somebody else is going to get struck by lightning and hundreds are going to get frightened by it what is even more remarkable about this country I think is that you can have almost any weather experience where you are provided if provided you are there long enough that it can smell in Miami just as well as it can in the Donner Pass it can blow there as strongly as it does on Manchester it can be as dry there as it can be in Death Valley and as miserable as it can be in San Francisco but the odds on its doing all these things in Miami more than once in a lifetime are about fifty million to one against so I shouldn't if I were you change your winter vacation plans on that account Well I know that the Californians will tell you that Florida has frightful humidity is dreadful her reckons but it doesn't have them in January it also has nice warm seeds and in January all together I don't know another country in the world that has so much weather useful weather it that when it's a practically every crop under the sun and every flower shrub and tree can be grown in some part or other and every man from China to Peru come in made to feel at home in some part or other of this great country it's always possible that's some of the weather we get may not be to your personal liking but don't let us underwrite its utility on that account. When coal comes out of the north in winter it may chill your aging bone and mine but it puts new strength and health into the soil as any foreigner will tell you it also has a hand in bringing the snow without which I follow and I water engineers and our mountain resort people would be in a bad way when coal comes out of the north in summer it may spoil it may spoil your day at the beach but it will mean more efficiency in the workshop better grades in the classroom and not least more business in the bookshop for which everybody this high table should be most grateful for Seriously though I believe if we had but the wit to see it we should find that the extravagance of our weather the extremes of heat and cold of drought and deluge which we so often deplore that extravagance is the price we pay for living in one of the most privileged places on earth whether it is always going to be so privileged is another question Dame Nature was never one for going steady. Her moods transients whims is innumerable and her ways quite inscrutable in recent years it is true she has given us very different cause for complaint large parts of this country and Canada indeed the whole North Atlantic region have I'm questionably become more rather than less privileged they have undergone a modest but quite significant warming up. In the Boston region the mean winter temperatures have risen about three and a half degrees in the past hundred years in the last fifty the average annual generation of the snow cover has declined in the same city and area by about a week in Washington D.C. The number of days with freezing temperatures during the spring months of declined by about forty percent over the same general period the effects of this warming up on plant and animal life have been impressive but that's in eastern Canada there has been a pole would migration of the Northern tree limit of up to one hundred miles in some places it has been a comparable extension of the belt in which it is feasible to grow certain grain crops and thought a crop So already some farmers are growing barley in places like Iceland and sheep in Greenland where they were not raised where they have not been raised since about the time of the Vikings recently we heard of cotton being grown in Linden New Jersey and even in Southern Ontario I don't have to tell the bird watchers among you now that there has been a notice a noticeable increase in recent years in the number of Southern species wintering in this particular area if things go on in this way palm trees will soon be waving in Rockefeller Plaza and Bostonians speaking with a southern accent. As I say nobody knows how much longer the trend will really continue it may have stopped already. Some people seem to think it heads I could hardly blame any of you from thinking so today it was even colder in Quebec this morning about five below. Others point to the receding place he is in gov doing Alaska and the lack of snow in many parts of America including the New York area and come to an opposite conclusion actually we shan't know for sure what was happening to the weather in nineteen fifty five until about ten years from nine hundred fifty five A good many people it seems don't like the look of things they don't like the idea of warmer weather they don't like the idea of color you don't like drought they don't like deluge they just like tinkering they've tinkered with the earth and now they're starting to tinker with the atmosphere I grant you there is some merit in the notion of tinkering of changing what you don't like I have myself don't care for all the tricks in nature's bank any more than you do and I'm sure that the water and power companies on the resort keepers don't care for it either but I'm not at all sure that these tinkerers have either the skill or the wisdom to the left to be allowed to go ahead with their tinkering in the first place there is no guarantee that the changes induced by them will do more good than harm the country out of an April shower might cheer a cotton grower in Alabama but it could easily depress his strawberry growing neighbor who is looking for sunshine the neutralizing at source of a cold wave might well please the hotel keeper in Palm Beach but it could destroy the ice rink business in Lake Placid it seems to me you ladies and gentlemen of the world has got enough troubles on its hand already without spawning more and anyhow who would arbitrate between the competing farmers and Chambers of Commerce and could they do it fast enough to save the farm a strawberry crop or the skating rink. Heaven forbid that the government should assume the fate of Sky's estate or that Congress should start a filibuster I went of clear when to bluster but I'd still be at it in fifty nine a half for rain and half or shine as a matter of fact we've already had more than one demonstration of the troubles which arise when men do suspect their neighbors of tinkering with the weather some time ago the people of Reno Nevada decided that they would like to grease the slopes of nearby Mt Rose with snow or rather more snow than it was getting so that they could provide snappy winter sports for the rich transients who got tired of playing the slot machines while the legal mills were grinding out their papers the plan worked beautifully until the people in the neighboring godfearing state of Utah got wind of what was happening since those people depend upon the snow fade streams that flow down from the lofty Wasatch Mountains for their agriculture the farmers naturally took the greatest interest and continued to do. And continue continue to take the greatest interest in the year to year variations of the winter snow fall in those mountains noticing that the mountains didn't seem to be getting snowed up quite as quickly in this particular winter they said a man up to make a few measurements his report that there was only a paltry twenty inches a set of the usual seventy or eighty could only mean one thing that we could Nevadans of tempered with a course of nature of by the look of things when I was in Reno and I hasten to add I wasn't there on business. There were the makings of a first class legal route between the two states somebody it appears had turned up a law in the statute books making it illegal to divert water. And the lawyers of Reno experienced as they may be going to have all their work cut out proving that the snow in those diverted clouds of theirs did not contain water in the second place there is no telling what these twentieth century outcome ists can do with their inventions I don't I'm not at all sure they can forecast the effect of unleashing them upon the earth for there are so many unknown in the atmospheric equation who can tell for instance what they're talking about what will be the effect of what is being talked about in Canada only at dinner last night in Quebec somebody made the suggestion it will be a very smart idea to warm up Hudson Bay It's getting warmer around those parts but it's still mighty cold by South Canada standards to say nothing about us and this was put forward as a bright idea and it's warm up that North Region with the aid of atomically energized heating units of course the Hudson Bay is about nine times the size of New Jersey to start with but I don't think that they say that it's at a freezing over every winter as it does more or less solid the waters would remain open so that