The YD impact theory by a comet - is gone with the wind

17 May 2011

At ... it seems that Allen West, one of the co-authors of The Cycle of Cosmic Catstrophe and various articles on the YD impact hypothesis, is not a qualified geologist. It seems most of the initial field work behind the comet came from Allen West - and not by Richard Firestone or Warwick-Smith, and the suspicion is that he falsified the record. The theory involved a comet crashing into the northern ice sheet and inducing so much debris in the upper atmosphere that it brought on a 1000 year cold period - the Younger Dryas event. The idea of a comet hit was disputed from day one - and little evidence has emerged of such an impact event. However, in the middle of all the hype Bill Napier decided to publish a paper in which he saw the chance to bring on board a Younger Dryas impact (but from a comet train rather than a comet as such) presumably with the idea of revitalising the Clube and Napier hypothesis. As it stands this may prove to be a bad move as Napier may get caught up in the big draught that is up and running - and his paper may also be gone in the wind. Critics are wading in from all sides and it presents uniformitarians with a unique chance to spoil the catastrophist cause (see also where George Howard repeats most of the McCane blog post). Catastrophism in all shapes and forms will be damaged - and nothing quite like this has occurred before. West has presented uniformitarians with ammunition. The problem is that it was primarily West that discovered the nano-diamonds in the black mat layer - at 25 separate archaeological sites in the US. He used a magnet to retrieve iron flecks and scooped up the carbon spherules which were analysed in a laboratory. Scientists opposed to the comet theory have been unable to verify the existence of the nano-diamonds in Younger Dryas boundary contexts - which has caused apprehension among those interested in the theory. Firestone, West, and Kennet have tended to dig their heels in - claiming there was bias by uniformitarians against the comet impact hypothesis. This is what also rankles with their detractors. Now, we have had three or so papers published where other scientists have been unable to verify the existence of nano-diamonds (see earlier posts) and a leading archaeologist, Vance Holliday, has derided the idea there was a drastic collapse in the human population at the time. Now, it seems Mark Boslough, well known to catastrophists for his work on impact dynamics, asked West to send him a carbon spherule for examination. He sent the package, unopened, to a C14 laboratory where one of the spherules was tested - and came up as just 200 years old, way more recent than the Younger Dryas, 12,900 years ago. Obviously, the sample was contaminated - but equally it could have been planted by West - and this is the suspicion. Therefore all research done by West is now inadmissable - and catastrophism in general has been set back. Archaeologist Vance Holliday also has a beef - this time with Kennet, a palaeo-climate specialist that became caught up in the YD impact storyline, heavily supporting Firestone et al. He did a joint study with Kennet that was pulled before publication by the latter as it didn't support the impact theory - which Holliday says is a peculiar way to conduct scientific research. Which it is. Hence, the reputation of Kennet has been blemished - catastrophically, you might say. The problem is that not only is Allen West self taught and has no formal qualifications but the comet impact theory never addressed why the Younger Dryas came to an abrupt end after over 1000 years of cold weather, and warmed as suddenly as it had cooled. Indeed, the comet impact theory, being a one-off event quite unlike the Clube and Napier theory of repeated encounters between earth and comet debris, could not explain why there were nine other similar cooling events between 70,000 and 10,000 years ago.