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Leroy’s Mischief

1 November 2012

Leroy Ellenberger's latest piece of rhetoric in his fued with Thunderbolts personnel, sent to multiple email addressees (he collects them like discarded tram or train tickets), includes some interesting, and perhaps important, points of argument. Points that impact on uniformitarianism. Sean Mewhinney's article, 'Ice Cores and Common Sense' (which is often quoted by Leroy) was published by Marvin Luckerman and can be found on the Catastrophism CD (see the SIS Book Service). SIS members that already have the CD only need to open the index – those without the CD can freely access the article simply by putting the author and title into their search engines. It has been cached by Bob Kobres. However, in the latest email 'blast' Leroy refers to an additional piece of the Mewhinney article, an addendum. It was written specifically as a riposte to criticism – but Leroy adds an interesting name to the brew, Robert Bass (see The Sun and the Climate Part Two, posted on Oct 29th).

In 1997 Bass is reputed to have said that varves in Green River shale deposits in Colorado and Wyoming implied the rhythm of the Earth did not display any evidence of the Earth having a position in the solar system differing from that of today, or it's motions around the Sun. Varves in shale in the Newark Basin in New Jersey support this point of view – Mewhinney quoted a paper by Krumenaker (1995). All this might seem old hat and grey news, Leroy fighting yesterday's battles – or with a bee in his bonnet that can't escape into fresh air. Yet, we might also note that deep sea sediment cores have been used in support of a 100,000 year cycle (hereafter 100ky). In turn this is used in support of the Milankovitch model, a major consensus piece of science. It is one of those core lines of evidence readily syphoned off for public consumption. Central to the theory is radiometric dating methodology, and the interpretation of cores and layering (from sediments or rocks). A fly in the ointment might be the Rhodes Fairbridge hypothesis, in that he thought the Sun moves around a barycentre at the heart of the solar system, and this motion takes between 90ky and 100ky. Andre Leon Berger, a Belgian astronomer, claimed the 21ky cycle of precession, as adapted to the Milankovitch model, is actually derived from two cycles, one of 19ky (involving planetary effects of Mars) and one of 23ky (involving Venus and Jupiter). This was quoted, somewhat oddly, by Mewhinney, but then he was keen to demonstrate the Earth could not have had a different orbit in the solar system – and most people would agree with that. Be that as it may Berger went on to claim a 413ky cycle of eccentricity – also involving planetary influences from Jupiter, another cycle or near cycle that pops up in Pleistocene Ice Age dating theory. Do such cycles have an origin in solar system dynamics? If so, why are they used as props for glaciation events? Berger also wrote about cycles of millions of years – enough to set the head swimming. That begs the question, to what extent are such cycles derived from computer fed data rather than observations?

This is where Mewhinney gets down to basics – the geology. Leroy assures us that 200 million years ago, in the Triassic, the Newark Basin was part of a large lake, one of a chain of lakes situated in a deep Rift Valley along the seam of what eventually split apart, in the Jurassic, to form the Atlantic Ocean. These events are hypothetically dated by uniformitarian parameters, the almost infinitesimal movement of the plates. However, the Triassic began and was brought to an end by major extinction events – and catastrophes of some magnitude. Intuition might indicate some connection with the rifting – but you'd have some trouble finding a suitable reference. According to Mewhinney, and I have no reason to doubt it, geologists have determined the Newark Basin was subject to monsoon rains in the Triassic. This indicates that either the climate has changed or the continents have moved – or more controversially, the Earth itself has moved. The Triassic period in Britain, and NW Europe was at this time joined to NE America, displays evidence of a semi tropical climate. Jurassic geology is rich in corals – and they thrive in warm seas. A semi tropical climate is also suggested by the variety of fossils that are found, favouring a warm water environment, and it is thought that in the Jurassic a large part of southern Britain was submerged by a shallow sea, with a habitat similar to modern day Florida Keys. The Triassic is the geological period preceding the Jurassic which suggests some kind of detachment from North America seems to have coincided with the transition. There is a lot of literature on this and it isn't worth while repeating in a small post, only to note that monsoon rains in such a climate is almost obligatory. In the 1990s a group of geologists extracted a core from what had been the bed of the Newark Basin lake, which is reputed to go back 25 million years, deep into Triassic climate history. The cores displayed evidence, it is said, of a 21ky year cycle of precession, as well as a 100ky and 400+ky cycles. According to Mewhinney, in Leroy's transcript, they showed conclusive evidence that the planets of the solar system had been in their present positions for the time span between then and now.

I've been on a field trip to a quarry where the leading geologist pointed at some undulations in a layer derived from mud and silt and claimed they were evidence of the Milankovitch 100ky cycle – but were they? It is conceivable he was pointing at a deposit laid down fairly quickly and the undulating layers could have been due to water action – although the nature of the undulations seems to rule out turbulent water action. This is where geology is at it's most fascinating point – did the layering process take place on a uniformitarian timescale? The consensus is that it did – so why argue? The consensus ignores catastrophism. A core extracted from, or through, a shale deposit, formed as it was by mud and silt that was compressed and heated, appears to likewise ignore the possibility of catastrophism. Therefore we might legitimately wonder if the dates produced are as reliable as they are supposed to be. Is Leroy's choice of evidence as firm as he thinks? It's a moot point. Astronomers have had to adjust their factology as a result of space exploration and it seems that Curiosity Rover may lead to some geological soul searching too. Consensus opinion is … opinion. That opinion may crumble somewhat as neo-catastrophism has already been nibbling around the edges. The classic debate surrounds the K/T boundary event, the asteroid strike that brought the Cretaceous to an ending. This hypothesis would be much more secure if some of the sedimentary layers at the K/T boundary were deemed to have been laid down rapidly rather than over inordinately long periods of time. The result has been that geologists have dated the volcanism of the Deccan Traps many years apart from the conjectured asteroid strike. The geology is skew-whiff. As a result of this the anti-asteroid lobby is able to fight it's corner surprisingly well, relying almost exclusively on uniformitarian arguments. Central to this is the dating applied to the sedimentary layers surrounding the anomaly identified as having a cosmic origin. Leroy can't have his cake and eat it. He is keen to publicise the Clube and Napier hypothesis, on which he should be commended, but for other reasons he is content to accept consensus arguments in an unquestioning manner.

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