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Moss, and Ice

24 March 2014

Shrinking glaciers around the world have revealed plants that once thrived before the ice advanced. This in turn led to a spate of learned papers informing us that modern warming had exposed plants that grew hundreds, and sometimes thousands, even many thousands of years previously, many of them mosses and lichen. In turn, the plants very existence has been used to fan the flames of CAGW – it must be warmer now than it has been for such a long time, beware, we are all going to boil in the rising temperatures. This is a peculiar kind of doomsaying  as it carefully omits to point out it must have been warmer in the past otherwise those plants would not have been growing where a glacier developed. It doesn't matter if it is a Little Ice Age glacier in the Alps that has withdrawn to reveal medieval period plants – or even evidence of human activity such as mining. It is hoisted on the petard to illustrate how warm the modern world has become. This sort of illogical mode of thought channelling is endemic in CAGW gobbledegook – and when scientists claim the ice has receded further than it has done since 40,000 years ago they add comical relief, in one aspect, as the world was supposedly firmly locked in an Ice Age at that time. In dating plant material that far back one is left to ponder if the ice may have retreated and advanced on many occasions, leaving the plants concerned intact. How can that be?

At www.geneticarchaeology.com/research/Back_to_life_after_1500_years.asp … a paper in Current Biology (19th March, 2014) notes that scientists observed moss regenerating after being frozen in permafrost for the last 1530 years. Mosses are the dominant plant over large areas of the polar regions, and on high mountains where glaciation occurs. They have developed a mechanism to survive periods of ice advance (such as the Little Ice Age) in order to reinvigorate themselves once the temperatures become more agreeable. This avoids the necessity for them to keep recolonising their core locations – suggesting ice advance and decline is a common occurrence over the passage of time. These are therefore plants that have learnt to lie dormant and this raises some interesting questions, namely, do such mosses regularly burst back into regowth … and when it is said they have been buried under ice for long periods of time may they have been uncovered on a number of occasions, responding to temporary phases of warmth, and then reburied – or reverting to a dormant state. In other words, is the discovery of such mosses emerging from shrinking glaciers proof that it has not melted and grown back again in the course of the supposed burial time?

The paper does not seem to address that possibility and the example in question comes from a frozen moss bank on the West Antarctic peninsular. The date it was covered in ice is said to be 1530 years ago – about 483AD. The date is interesting as it is just 50 years apart from the low growth tree ring event currently dated 536-41BC, when global temperatures are thought to have plunged dramatically. What is intriguing however, in what we know of the West Antarctic peninsular, might the mosses have been uncovered on a number of occasions with climate change within that generalised 1500 year period? The West Antarctic peninsular is never going to warm too greatly so it is not necessary for the moss bank to have started regrowth, to any noticeable degree. How much are scientists assuming here – and how different can reality be? If glaciers retreated in the modern world it is likely they did in the medieval period – and we know they did as the Norse were able to farm the coastal fringes of Greenland for a couple of hundred years. Did their animals eat mosses and lichen, not long emerged from under the ice? How warm does it need to get before mosses spark into life and come out of dormancy?


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