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Ice cores in the context of geochronology

12 July 2013

A brilliant post at http://malagabay.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/chronology-ice-cores/ … which targets consensus geochronology. Anyone even faintly having recourse to the dating of rock strata will have a bit of empathy with author – but then again, maybe not. The system goes back to the Victorian era, or a bit before that. William Smith (famous for his ding dong with someone that disagreed with him) 1769-1839, drew some of the first geological maps and began the process of making sense and order, as he saw it, out of various rock strata. Bear in mind this was at a time when even the mapping of turnpike roads across Britain was in its infancy and the Ordnance Survey was producing its first series of maps of the topography of Britain. Yet, here we have a guy that is mapping the rock strata … no wonder he is famous for a spat.

Geology has managed to amass a huge archive of stratigraphy from all over the world. This archive is collated and co-ordinated by the 'International Commission on Stratigraphy' (and no doubt they have a web site). Its job is to define the geochronological time chart – see www.stratigraphy.org/index.php/ics-chart-timescale/ and it structures global stratigraphy into a 'consensus hymn sheet' (his words) designed as a guide for mainstream geologists around the world. He adds, 'the downside to this mainstream chronology is that mainstream geologists have to align their observations with the predefined pigeon holes in the mainstream chronology …' – a sort of chicken and egg situation. Hence, if you dig around in a quarry and find that the established order of things has a new section you have just spotted and then you have to fit this into the prescribed chronology, otherwise it will not be accepted (and so on). It works much like the orthodox historical chronology. If an archaeologist finds a coin in a layer that might help him date the layer. However, if the coin find creates an anomaly and then the coin is a fake (and so it is with the geology).

The author then says, 'unfortunately, chronology is not a precise science …' and 'therefore to preserve the integrity of the mainstream hymn sheet mainstream geology uses all the dark arts …' and he lists what he thinks they are.

On the third page we get somewhat nearer to ice cores as the Ice Ages are defined on the hymn sheet which he says, 'the Antarctica isotope record section of the Global Chronostratigraphical correlation table provides a wonderful example of mainstream consensus management …' which is Wow! The Vostok Research Station is at an altitude of 3488m above sea level and the Vostok ice core goes down to a depth of 3623m – supposedly going back 420,000 years. Well, not to spoil anyone's reading but this piece purports to tear apart ice core chronology and throw those pieces to the wind. For example, why are Greenland ice cores based on a 45+ years per single metre of ice core while in Antarctica they compress 245 years into a single metre. Lots of reasons to view ice core chronology as designed for a theory rather than reality. Actually, there is a reason for this and that is that the calculations are made on the basis that there is a higher snowfall rate on Greenland than on Antarctica. The latter is very often depicted as a sort of ice desert – with limited precipitation. For the calculations to work the average rate must be a 'known' – but that is a big leap of faith. Estimates of the effects of co2 on the climate appear to over-estimated and there is no reason to think ice core scientists are any more adept at this sort of thing than climate scientists. You either accept – or ignore. From a neutral perspective we might imagine some level of over hype in order to squeeze the data to fit the uniformitarian model – but Malaga Bay is thinking in terms of gross error (which seems on reflection somewhat tawdry). 

Malaga Bay claims ice core chronology is based upon bogus computer modelling – but that is his opinion. It is true it is not possible to delineate annual layers once you reach a certain point. This was around 40,000 years ago but recent developments have pushed this back to 80,000 years ago (on Greenland)(see earlier post on In the News). It doesn't apply with Antarctic ice cores as they are so much smaller and difficult to view – apparently. Computer modelling is not just ice accumulation estimation but ice sheet flow and palaeo climate modelling and this is supposedly capable of recording temperatures and precipitation over 800,000 years. This is cloud cuckoo land, in the opinion of Malaga Bay, and ice core chronologies are therefore largely bogus (by definition) because climate history that far back is one great unknown – and subject to guesswork. The same goes for ice flow dynamics. In other words, the totally unsupported assumption of mainstream, that ice sheets have been continuously accumulating ice due to the geochronological construct – and there have been no sustained melting events. Malaga Bay says, the 'mainstream science of ice cores, and their chronologies, is hopelessly flawed and compromised junk science …' which is just a lovely way of clarifying the situation for the man in the street – but is his criticism justified. Read at your peril – but go for it as it is different.

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