Reid Bryson: University of Wisconsin Climatologist and Meteorologist

University of Wisconsin climatologist and meteorologist Dr. Reid Bryson discusses the history of the earth's climate, what affects modern industrial society has had on climate, and how the climate might change as a result.

| March/April 1976

To be very blunt about it, several journalists (apparently looking for a sensational "peg" upon which to hang a story) have quoted Dr. Bryson out of context so that he appears to the casual reader to be some sort of mad scientist shouting that "the next ice age is coming to get you ."  

Nothing could be further from the truth.  

Reid Bryson is a very reasoned, calm, realistic man in his mid 50s whose credits in meteorology, climatology, and related fields fill four pages. Still, it would be unfair to try to fit Dr. Bryson into a single neat box labeled "climatologist." Reid Bryson is an environmentalist in the broadest sense and his thoughts on the planet, its human population, and that population's activities range as widely and carry all the force of such acknowledged environmental spokesmen as Barry Commoner, Paul Ehrlich, and Dave Brower.  

Bryson is a compassionate man and has a sense of humor. But he speaks with conviction and has the facts and figures to back those convictions. And he pulls no punches: Dr. Bryson uses the term "successful famine" in a way that makes you think he's given a lot of thought to what it really means — as Bill Hanley found out recently when he interviewed Bryson in his office at the University of Wisconsin.   

Dr. Bryson, a recent article in the British publication, New Scientist, referred to you as a "prophet of climatic doom." How do you view yourself and your work?  

Well, I am not a prophet of climatic doom. I think of myself as a realist. There's a reality of the earth and its atmosphere and the way they function. Certain phenomena — the shifting of rainfall patterns and the onset of ice ages — do take place, and we're beginning to know why they occur and when to expect them. I simply say that we should take these climatic changes into consideration when we think about what the future might hold.

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