Letter to the Editor
A warming cycle?
The Ohio River is one of America's mighty rivers. The river is 981 miles (1,579 km) long and carries the largest volume of water of any tributary of the Mississippi River. In spots the river is almost a mile wide. In the days leading up to the Civil War, it was a physical boundary that separated the free states (e.g. Indiana, Ohio, Illinois) from the slave states (e.g. Kentucky, West Virginia).
Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in Cincinnati, Ohio from 1832 to 1850. In 1851, she wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin". Her life in Ohio was intertwined in this book.
In "Uncle Tom's Cabin", Eliza was a young light skinned mulatto slave living in an estate in Kentucky. She had a son, little Harry. One night she overheard a conversation between her master and his wife. Her only son had been sold and the papers were signed and delivered. Before noon the next day a brutal trader (Mr. Haley) would pick him up and steal him away. She went back to her cabin, took her son in her arms and fled. This was a dangerous proposition. If caught, she would most likely be put to death, as an example.
"The frosty ground creaked beneath her feet, and she trembled at the sound; every quaking leaf and fluttering shadow sent the blood backward to her heart, and quickened her footsteps. She wondered within herself at the strength that seemed to be come upon her; for she felt the weight of her boy as if it had been a feather, and every flutter of fear seemed to increase the supernatural power that bore her on, while from her pale lips burst forth, in frequent ejaculations, the prayer to a Friend above - 'Lord, help! Lord, save me!"
She arrived at the shores of the mighty Ohio river an hour before sunset. "It was now early spring, and the river was swollen and turbulent; great cakes of floating ice were swinging heavily to and fro in the turbid waters. Owing to the peculiar form of the shore on the Kentucky side, the land bending far out into the water, the ice had been lodged and detained in great quantities, and the narrow channel which swept round the bend was full of ice, piled one cake over another, thus forming a temporary barrier to the descending ice, which lodged, and formed a great, undulating raft, filling up the whole river, and extending almost to the Ohio shore."
Eliza stood in shock. Her planned escape was by ferry-boat. But the ice dashed those dreams apart. "The boats has stopped running." She temporarily took shelter in a little tavern. Later as the dusk of twilight set in, she was discovered. "Her room opened by the side door to the river. She caught her child, and sprang down the steps towards it. The (slave) trader caught a full glimpse of her, just as she was disappearing down the bank; and throwing himself from his horse, and calling loudly on Sam and Andy (plantation slaves), he was after her like a hound after a deer. In that dizzy moment her feet to her scarce seemed to touch the ground, and a moment brought her to the water's edge. Right on behind they came and, nerved with strength such as God gives only to the desperate, with one wild cry and flying leap, she vaulted sheer over the turbid current by the shore, on to the raft of ice beyond. It was a desperate leap - impossible to anything but madness and despair."
"The huge green fragment of ice on which she alighted pitched and creaked as her weight came on it, but she staid there not a moment. With wild cries and desperate energy she leaped to another and still another cake; - stumbling - leaping - slipping- springing upwards again! Her shoes are gone - her stockings cut from her feet - while blood marked every step; but she saw nothing, felt nothing, till dimly, as in a dream, she saw the Ohio side, and a man helping her up the bank." This was how Eliza carrying her son snatched freedom from utter disaster.
We are transitioning into Solar Cycle (SC) 24 and the sun has become fairly quiet. During most of the last century (SC 16-23) the sun has been in a "Grand Maxima". As a result the Earth has experience warming. But with SC 24 the sun is again changing states. From the peak year 1998, the lower Troposphere temperatures globally have already fallen around 1/2 degree Celsius. This is despite the fact that during that same time period, atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen 5% from 367 ppm to 386 ppm. Several solar scientist are predicting the sun will slide into a "Dalton Minimum" event in SC 25, about a decade from now. If that happens, the Earth will experience some bitterly cold winters for several decades. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was written shortly after the "Dalton Minimum" (1790-1830) came to a close. At the time the book was written, the earth had become a little warmer. If the sun again goes quiet and fall into another "Dalton Minimum", then we will once again see the mighty Ohio River freeze solid in the winter.
James A. Marusek