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Sep 07, 2004
Ice Core Findings

In the summer of 2004, the North Greenland Ice Core Project cut all the way through the ice (over 10,000 feet deep) and brought up a sample of soil from the surface of Greenland (image above.) And a bit of organic matter was embedded in that first four-inch diameter sample of Greenland muck (top right image.) The organic matter might be a pine needle, a piece of bark, or possibly grass. The press release states that, "The presence of plant material under the ice indicates that the Greenland ice sheet formed relatively fast, as a slowly growing glacier would have flushed or pushed these light particles away."

This was the grand culmination of the project. The drill was successful. They cut all the way through the ice to Greenland. Time to pack up the equipment, go home, and think about what this project has done to change our ideas about the history of the Earth we live on.

The snow that falls on the Greenland Ice Cap every year preserves a record of that year's temperature. By drilling and carefully examining a core thousands of feet long, scientists have constructed a history of temperature changes over thousands of years (chart lower right.)

The chart represents the last 40,000 years of the average temperatures in Greenland. The present day is on the right-hand side of the chart. The temperatures during the last Ice Age (12,000 to 25,000 years ago) are recorded here and the temperatures of part of the last interglacial period (25,000 to 60,000 year ago.)

According to one geology text, the Ice Cores indicate that "the normal pattern of change involves numerous rapid fluctuations in temperature -- not only during glacial periods, but throughout interglacial periods as well. The stable warm climate of the present interglacial period is distinctly abnormal."

A planetary catastrophist would state this differently: "The stable warm climate of today represents the present stable solar system. It is the wild fluctuations of the past that are distinctly abnormal."

Going back just a bit farther (geologically speaking), the ice cores "run out." There is no more ice. The Antarctic ice is a bit deeper than the Greenland ice, but it, too "runs out." Before this, there is no evidence of glaciers anywhere on Earth. Standard Ice Age theory places the beginning of the Ice Ages about 2 million years ago (so far, the ice cores have drilled through 123 thousand layers in Greenland; 174 thousand layers in Antarctica.) And geology books point out that glaciation has been a rare event in Earth's history. The last episode (earlier than our very recent Ice Ages) happened before the first dinosaurs were born. Over 200 million years of Earth's prehistory passed without glaciers.

The Greenland Ice Cores emphasize what we are learning in other fields of geology: the very recent past is not a story of steady change. The Ice Cap began suddenly, perhaps engulfing a thriving temperate forest and all of its inhabitants. Its deepest layers record sudden large temperature changes, some much colder than today, others much warmer. Then, at about ten thousand layers before the present, something happens that stabilized the climate. What could that something have been?

And where would we look to learn what happened? Primitive human beings were living at that time, and those ancient peoples passed down stories of fantastic events that changed the world, of heroes battling dragons in the sky. These stories come from widely separated cultures, yet are remarkably similar. Can we find clues in these stories of old that will explain the mysteries of the Ice Cores?


David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Amy Acheson
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Mel Acheson, Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
Ev Cochrane,   Walter Radtke, C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
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