Ice Cores

2 Nov 2011

Although this piece can be found at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/10/31/little-bubbles-part-1/ and therefore classifiable as climate change it also has a bearing on dating and chronology. Ice cores have been criticised out of hand by Charles Ginenthal and Emmet Sweeney for example, in SIS and related literature, as well as a raft of Creationist web sites and tracts. In particular, the story of WWII aeroplanes discovered buried under a very deep amount of snow has been used to deride the concept of ice cores. This, another guest post, is by Caleb Shaw and asks - how long does it take fluffy snow to become compace ice with little bubbles in it? The answer is thousands of years, it would seem, which means the WWII aeroplanes found near the coast are irrelevant as Greenland is subject to Atlantic gales where snow can accumulate very quickly. However, for the meat on the bones the sequel is due out on the morrow, which means this post will be subject to updates.

Unfortunately, Little Bubbles part two was not as revealing as expected - see http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/11/01/little-bubbles-part-2-firn-the-gre... as it was really all about how air is trapped in ice cores rather than ice cores themselves. In this instance, the cores begin around 60 years previously - which means that ice cores cannot be singled out before that time (so it would seem). This is in effect a piece of pointless science as one of the commenters said as it merely confirmed, more or less,  how climate scientists interpret ice cores and air bubbles. Never mind, it was a learning curve for Caleb Shaw, the poster, and his readers. One commenter, at 9.44pm (you can scroll down to that time) says ice cores are ... 'snow in layers, at least as frequently as annually and perhaps as frequently as each storm. The water content is not constant within a storm, much less year long' which made me think, does this raise a question mark concerning ice cores. Are they annual - or can they be laid down after heavy snow storms, several of which may occur in a single year?

However, as ice cores apparently correlate quite well with tree rings - as far as acid spikes are concerned, this cannot be so. Surely. Of course, it could be argued that tieing in ice cores with tree rings and in turn with C14 methodology is somewhat a circularisation of the argument. That is, unless you think about it a bit more deeply. There is a very distinct difference between the Polar winters and the Polar summers. One is dark and cold and the other has 24 hours of sunlight and at least some melting of ice. One might expect there are very clear annual boundaries that are visible in ice cores and this is in fact what scientists say is the situation.

Where ice cores might be less reliable is when computer simulation is added to the brew - as computers are fed by assumption and pre-determined cycles of time. For example, in Antarctica it is assumed old ice is being squeezed and worked out of the bottom of the ice sheet - all the time, an ongoing process. This means that in the real world, in contrast to the computer screen, there is no old ice out there to support the very long dates assigned to the origin of the Antarctic ice sheet.  So, how old is the Antarctic ice sheet - really?