Ice Cores: Part 3 Dust and Ashes

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2

Layered Snow Melting

I was going to move right on to the dusty stuff in the ice, but ran into some very interesting University study pages I have to point out.  Columbia opens its mathematical calculation class with an introduction we’re going to look at:

“These annual layers provide a record of the earth’s climate that reaches back as much as 200,000 years.”

What?  I thought they went back 1.4 million years!  That is one giant discrepancy.

Columbia recommended their students check out this U. of Michigan (go Wolverines!) page.  The coolest thing is a cross-section drawing showing a lake (as in unfrozen water) “the size of Lake Ontario” underneath the 4km [13,000ft+] elevation Vostok Ice Station in Antarctica.  That is awesome.  Anyone for a swim?  Oh, yes, the U. of Mich drawing states the ice goes back 420,000 years.  All right, what’s going on?

Have a look at what they say about the squashed bottom ice:

“The… age of the ice… is obtained by counting layers of ice and, when layers are no longer clearly visible, modeling the flow of merged ice layers.”

Wait a minute.  In really squashed ice, “layers are no longer clearly visible?”  I don’t remember the Natural History Museum tell us that.  What is this “modeling,” and is this going to end up being as full of assumptions as radiometric dating is?

I searched nearly an hour for a page that would explain how you figure out a model to calculate “the flow of merged ice layers.”  If any of you know what they’re talking about please leave a comment!

Snow layers

The other, better known way scientists study really deep, squashed ice from an ice field is by looking at the layers of “dust.”  Today we’re going to find out what this dust is and where it came from before settling onto Antarctica or Greenland.

The best page I found on this is a technical paper abstract.  Those are the high-falooting, jargon filled short versions of what the scientists were studying so other scientists can keep up with what they need to know in a few minutes.

Major features in Antarctica: (1)South Pole, (...

(9) Ice core drill sites (EPICA), (16) Lake Vostok (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They were studying an ice core from Antarctica using a core called EPICA Dome C.  First, they say they’ve been using X-rays to study the dusty ice.  Cool.  Then they go on to their ideas about the climate at different depths of the ice.  I’m with them for one Ice Age, but that would be near the bottom, not where they put it.

Turns out, the stuff blown onto the ice has changed a lot from time to time. A lot of the dust at certain levels has the same ingredients as dirt at the bottom of South America.

At other levels there is dust from lots of different sources.  The study authors are pretty sure some of that mixed dust came from Australia.  I also found a similar study from Greenland saying the dust up there is either local or blown in from East Asian deserts.

But this isn’t the whole story.  When a large volcano erupts with a lot of ash, the tiny particles are carried by the wind to the ice sheets.  Even in recent times, volcanic ash has been suspended in the air around the globe for many months by eruptions like Krakatoa’s in 1883. Another helpful thing is that every volcano spews out different things.  I don’t usually use PBS:NOVA because it is so biased, but they were the clearest on what’s going on:

Snow-like ashfall caused by heavy rain mixing ...

Snow-like ashfall caused by heavy rain mixing with ash columns

“Ash from a particular volcano has its own unique characteristics, much like a person’s fingerprints. These characteristics include chemical composition, and the size and shape of crystals and glass shards. They can be used to determine not only the particular volcano that produced the ash, but the particular eruption from that volcano as well.”

So a really major eruption will leave traces in the ice on all the ice sheets.  Scientists use these layers to check if they are counting at the same rate as other researchers.

BTW, this doesn’t always work.  A moving ice sheet (glacier) in Alaska didn’t have ash from an 803 AD volcanic eruption as expected, leaving scientists to try and figure out why.

What they don’t tell you is that the other records they are comparing with don’t
have dates on them either.  Once we move beyond written history, it is
all guesswork to calculate how old any of these layers are, whether they are ice sheets, ocean floor layers, or anything else.

The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. Nahum 1:3

Ice Cores and the Age of the Earth: Part 1

Photograph of a section of the GISP2 ice core ...

Photograph of a section of the GISP2 ice core from 1837 m depth with clearly visible “annual layers”.

When I was looking around for links last Saturday, I ran across a blogger who was relieved to no longer have to fit ice cores into young earth beliefs because the author had turned theistic Evolutionist.

Just so you know, I’m quite sure that many such people love Jesus and will be spending eternity next door to me in our Creator God’s house.   But the “proof” we have in ice cores is nowhere close to forcing us to fall for the long ages the Evolutionists MUST have in order to be believable.

Alright, what do we know about ice cores?  Why are they a strong suit for long ages? Can we make a good case for much shorter timescales causing them? Let’s find out:

To find out what ice cores are I found an excellent article over at NASA’s Earth Observatory site.  There’s a lot of info that I could pick apart for the assumptions they are using, but for now I’m going to focus on what an ice core does and does not tell us.

Ice Cores are samples drilled out of the deep ice in the coldest regions of earth.  These ice sheets

  • Ice core pile up in layers that seal climate information in place (presumably very cleanly)
  • vary in layer thickness, color, and particle (dust and such) additions (check out the cool pictures of different level cores)
  • are coldest in the middle.  The top is warmed by the sun and air, the bottom by the earth’s core

The Natural History Museum in London has a great introductory ice core page.  Be sure to watch the 2 minute video to see the machines they work with and what an ice core sample with air bubbles looks like!  This site tells us that,

“An ice core is like a timeline – the newest ice lies closest to the surface while ice that was formed thousands, or even millions, of years ago is deeply buried.”

Well, no one’s going to think the new ice is at the bottom or middle!  But millions of years?  That’s quite a statement.  Let’s see why they think the ice is that old:

Scientists find out the age of the ice by comparing the isotopes in each layer to existing records of the Earth’s climate.

To make sure their dating is accurate, they also look at significant features in the ice core. These include layers of dust, or small amounts of the chemical sulphuric acid, which are evidence of big volcanic eruptions. Scientists know the dates of many of these events and so they can use them to check the age of the ice core.  (emphasis original)

Alright, I want to see the “existing records” they have to compare each layer and how we know the dates for volcanic eruptions from 10,000+ years ago.  Do you think they might just be guessing about this?

Isotope is a fancy name for an atom that has fewer or more neutrons than usual, sometimes making the atom radioactive.  Carbon-14 is the favorite one for dating other things, but it only works for 50,000 uniform years.  δD and δ18O values (pronounced delta-Deuterium” and “delta-O-18 value” seem to be the favored ones for ice.

Scientists also know how quickly ice usually forms in particular regions of the world and this helps them work out when each section of an ice core was formed.

Antarctica is thought to have been covered by ice for over 30 million years. So far, scientists have drilled ice cores stretching back 800,000 years, and they are now working to extend their records back to 1.4 million years ago.

And that’s the end of their article.

I’ll get into more detail in the next posts.  But let’s look at how these scientists got to their beliefs about the ice:

  • We can see how quickly/slowly ice builds up in the present.  Therefore, we can calculate backwards in time because things have always been this way (for the most part).
  • They already decided that Antarctica has been covered with ice for “over 30 million years” so they are looking for evidence to match up with what they already “know” must be true.
  • Scientists have told the Natural History Museum that their ice cores go back 800,000 years.  Therefore, the Museum passes along these statements without any explanation or questioning.

Magnafying glass studentsAre you starting to get the idea that everything comes back to a person’s worldview?  If you’re new to this site, be sure to check out what I’m talking about on my Scientific Predictions.

Part 2 Annual Layers?

Part 3 Dust and Ashes

But these people don’t want to remember what happened long ago. The skies were there, and God made the earth from water and with water. All this happened by God’s word.  Then the world was flooded and destroyed with water.  II Peter 3:5,6 Easy-to-read Version