“I’m Mr. White Christmas, I’m Mr. Cool. I’m Mr. Icicle, I’m Mr. 10 Below.” —Snow Miser “The Year Without Santa Claus,” 1974



With my thermometer in Boulder Junction reaching an eye-popping minus 33 last week, stepping outdoors brought to my mind the 1980 film, “The Empire Strikes Back,” which opens on the frozen ice planet Hoth. 

When it gets as cold as it got last week, the difference between 33 below zero and Hoth’s liquid nitrogen-freezing 364 below zero is just semantics. After a certain point it’s just plain cold no matter what the temperature.

If it weren’t for their foul odor, I would have welcomed one of Hoth’s taun­taun bipedal snow reptiles for warmth as I sat in my frozen crossover SUV, balky and complaining with its mechanical “rattle, rattle, thunder, clatter, boom, boom, boom” in the Arctic chill as I turned the key in its ignition.

In its defense, as a point of reference, it was 33 degrees warmer in my chest freezer and a balmy 72 degrees warmer in my refrigerator, set to a cool 39. 

Wisconsin was not alone. It was so cold last week, even Texas froze over. 

As I sat in my Escape, my teeth chattering like a handful of maracas stuck in a paint mixer, those internet ads from Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley promoting the Caribbean island nation’s 12-month “Welcome Stamp” visa program were, admittedly, looking pretty tempting, fantasies of filing stories remotely from beachside at St. Lucy dancing in my head.

Back to frosty reality, there were 35 active school closing alerts called for North Woods districts that morning, including Northland Pines, Phelps and Rhine­lander, with windchills downward of 30-40 below zero and a National Weather Service windchill warning running through at least high noon.

Not surprisingly during the protracted finger-numb­ing polar vortex blast, the controversial topic of global warming was far from my mind as I spied an online Forbes posting while jonesing on my smartphone that plans are afoot to spray vast amounts of dust into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight out of Earth’s atmosphere in an effort to cool the planet.

Holy ice age, Batman! It’s plenty cold outside my door already. It’s not like it actually needs to be a Hoth-like 364 below zero.

At the center of the story is Harvard’s sun-dimming Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx), a solar geoengineering initiative to spray aerosol calcium carbonate dust into the atmosphere to scatter sunlight and, in theory, cool the planet.

Wasn’t that one of the possible ways that the dinosaurs went extinct and the ice age began — too much light-diffusing dust in the air from a massive meteor strike?

As it was, the singular April 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia and the subsequent protracted global haze resulted in the infamous “year without a summer” in 1816, when freezing temperatures led to failed crops in near-famine conditions — lake and river ice in Pennsylvania in June and July and August frost in Virginia — all from a dip in an average global temperatures of just 0.4-0.7 degrees Celsius. 

What could possibly go wrong with geoengineering a full 1.5 degrees Celsius reduction in the average global temperatures? 

My prediction? They’ll be chipping the ice off the beachside cocktails in Barbados. The ice planet Hoth might seem warm by comparison.

Art, as they say, often imitates life. The 2013 science fiction action film “Snowpiercer” comes to mind, a theatrical cautionary tale as a failed attempt at climate engineering to stop global warming ushers in a new ice age and Earth turns into a giant snowball.  

In the storyline, it’s 2031 and the passengers on the Snowpiercer train are the only surviving living beings on Earth, endlessly circumnavigating the frozen wasteland globe for 17 years and counting thanks to CW-7, a 2014 climate engineering experiment gone awry.

While I’m not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV, perhaps some cautionary advice from actress Dena Dietrich in the Chiffon margarine commercials of the 1970s might be in order for the SCoPEx folks.

“It’s not nice to fool  Mother Nature.”