YD impact; increasingly looks unlikely - or does it?

14 Apr 2010

Starting on a positive note but with no idea if he is describing reality or not, we may begin with http://craterhunter.wordpress.com April 10th and a post with the title (see right hand menu on web page) 'The North East impact zone and the destruction of the Laurentide ice sheet' ... a post that discusses the effect of a YD airburst (as opposed to an actual impact in which the author differs from below, the repostes of Paul Heinrich and Steve Dutch) and which actually gets into the meat of the geology (rather than other peoples papers on geology). He quotes the work of Peter Schultz at Brown University who made some impact experiments at NASAs Vertical Gun Range in order to simulate hyper velocity oblique angle strikes on ice. Whether it was the ice or an ice-free landscape he found there were certain similarities involved, the melting and moving of thousands of cubic miles of the upper surface. Afterwards, the melt solidified - into sheet ignimlorites and metamorphic facies (not a happy terminology). In the NE the ice flashed to steam (he seems very sure of himself) and warm water and quickly ran off into rivers and the ocean. He then goes on to describe what he thinks happened at the edge of the ice sheet - using satellite images of the geology. The region he picks on is the Red Lakes of Minnesota and claims the heat source burnt all the way through the ice to partially melt the stone below - and rivers of flowing stone can be seen in his images - which he likens to spilled paint. The region is now as level as a parking lot with poor drainage (not peculiar in that sense) and peat has actually filled in what depressions there may have been. Hence, he is saying that the level nature of the region is false and that underlying that flat featureless landscape there are holes and bumps - like anywhere else. The post represents a worthwhile read - but is his interpretation of the geology true. One has the feeling he is interpreting it from a preconceived angle.

At http://cosmictusk.com we have a post by Steve Dutch, a geologist (not sure for how long) who has decided to challenge the Firestone and West el at version of the imposition of the Younger Dryas (a comet impact). Unfortunately, Dutch in this particular post chooses to attack via isotopes (which is the speciality of Firestone), and can be said to come a cropper. For example, he says 'everyone who wants to ignore radiometric dating (creationists, Velikovskians etc) postulate magical particle fluxes capable of rearranging isotopic ratios. The problem is that any imaginable particle flow would create a host of other isotopes that are just not there ...'. Firestone, in his reply begins, 'Steve, get your facts right. The isotopic evidence is there. C14 in the environment doubled 45,000 years ago and remained high until now ...' etc. At the time of the YD impact event there was a sudden significant increase in global C14. This is well established and too rapid to be due to changes in the earth's magnetic field (sometimes blamed). Quite revealing.

In the next post he is taken to task by Paul Heinrich who is clearly antagonistic to the idea of a YD impact - and I'm not suggesting the Firestone and West et al scenario is to be preferred. Heinrich focusses on the Great Lakes and claims they were not impact depressions - which I think is perhaps a misconception of what Firestone and West et al had in mind. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note the geology of the Great Lakes. Heinrich says the basins (the depressions in which the lakes are able to hold water) were formed by 'preferential' erosion of weaker strata. The precursors to the lakes were periglacial river valleys that were carved out - depressed and widened - over the last couple of million of years via a series of Ice Age glaciers. One can visualise glaciers having the power to cut into softer rock and gouge out holes - even large holes, so there is nothing unlikely in such a scenario. The only question is why did they fill with so much water?

Glaciers are capable of excavating large amounts of material and this can be seen, according to Heinrich, conforming to geological theory, in the tills of Wisconsin and Illinois - good farming country. There is a wide body of published evidence and data on this - and in actual cores taken from the lakes. These show they are glacial in origin and therefore precede the Younger Dryas event. Heinrich then goes on to compare the YD impact hypothesis with the Zysman and Wallace paper in www.arXiv.org archive (posted on In the News a few days ago). This is tantamount to calling Firestone a 'whacko' - in the circle opposed to cosmic interruptions in the history of the earth. Some seven geological papers are then cited as 'proof' of what Heinrich says but mainly concern the origin of the Great Lakes which as far as Firestone is concerned is not disputed. Heinrich also says that during 100 years of research in the Great Lakes region nobody has found anything remotely resembling impact injecta in the local Qaternary sediments or any evidence of shock metamorphism in the local bedrock (but see earlier report from the 'crater hunter' - the veracity of which is open to question). Heinrich, basically, has collated a body of evidence in order to refute an actual impact event - but this is not necessarily what happened (see Bill Napier article somewhat earlier). In that context his venom may have been misdirected. Firestone and West et al have proposed a cosmic element for the YD cooling event - but the actual details are not carved in stone (unlike the conventional consensus model). Now, it may well be that no actual impact occurred and the criticism of Heinrich and Dutch may have been in vain. Firestone is of course keen to include the Carolina Bays into the hypothesis (which is a favoured subject of George Howard too) and here they face the full brunt of the conventional brick wall. However, evidence is a strange thing. If you aren't looking for an extraterrestrial signature you won't find one and for most of the last 100 years the idea of an impact was 'out of the question' and even if evidence was found it would never have found it's way into geological literature. Anything that goes against the grain of consensus science simply does not get an airing in full public view - and modern climate science is just the latest example of the process. What is on display here is evidence of how difficult it will be for the Firestone and West el al team and their theory to grow legs - resistance will be constant and will continue over a long period of time. It remains to be seen if i) they can keep their ideas  running, and ii) will it fizzle out like the Clube and Napier hypothesis. However, we must also acknowledge that even in geology attitudes can be seen to have changed. Dutch, for instance, actually quotes from a genuine impact site in central Wisconsin. In the 1950s Velikovsky was rejected out of hand - his ideas were narrowed down to a few well rehearsed rebuttals that are constantly regurgitated without looking at the source material. Firestone is in danger of being sidelined by the same process - which might be a pity. The problem faced by all neo-catastrophists is not one of logic over emotional attachment to what has been learnt at the knee of a respected tutor but the fact that catastrophism is inextricably bound up with Creationism. It's very difficult to carve out an independant channel that is neither orthodox or religious orientated. One often finds Velikovsky bracketed with Creationists - and one can see why as he foresaw a drastic shortening of the history of the earth. This is a totally unneccessary observation, or theory, as geology clearly shows the earth is extremely old - in comparison with Biblical numbers.