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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of January 29, 1999

This week, facts about... the great Arctic Freeze of 1899.

Transcript

CURWOOD: The hundredth anniversary of the Great Arctic Outbreak of 1899 is just a few weeks away. And by looking at wind patterns and sunspots, some scientists say conditions are perfect for a repeat of the chilliest cold snap ever recorded in the United States. In 1899, records show temperatures in Florida dropped 2 degrees below zero. Ice blocked the Mississippi River at New Orleans, and Washington, DC got a special Valentine's Day gift of 20 inches of snow. Weather researchers say that periods of high solar activity with strong winds from the West increase chances of what they call an arctic outbreak. And this February, they say, solar activity will be extremely high and winds from the West extremely strong. While weather forecasters have been fairly accurate in predicting artic outbreaks, politicians have been reluctant to heed warnings of bad weather. President William Henry Harrison died shortly after he was sworn in during a biting cold inauguration in 1841, and frostbite afflicted some of the 1976 swearing-in of Jay Rockefeller as Governor of West Virginia. As one onlooker put it, "We always knew it would be a cold day in Hell when a New Yorker got elected Governor of West Virginia." And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

 

 

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