Perhaps you have heard that the age of ice
cores have been "scientifically" determined to be around 160,000 years old. But
again when we look at the evolutionary assumptions used but not highlighted in
presentations we find that the assumptions as is so often the case determine the
age. Different assumptions based on the eyewitness account in Genesis as usual
render a young age for the ice sheets. These yield a more satisfying answer
based on post-flood conditions predicted by an internal meltdown of the earth
with warmer oceans post flood providing record snowfalls for a period of time to
quickly build up the ice sheets until equilibrium of the environment was
stabilized. Please read on as Dr Larry Vardiman presents his understanding on
the age of ice sheets.
Ice Cores and the Age of the Earth
by Larry Vardiman, Ph.D.
It is not uncommon to read that ice cores from the polar
regions contain records of climatic change from the distant past. Research teams
from the United States, the Soviet Union, Denmark, and France have bored holes
over a mile deep into the ice near the poles and removed samples for analysis in
Based on flow models, the variation of oxygen isotopes, the
concentration of carbon dioxide in trapped air bubbles, the presence of oxygen
isotopes, acid concentrations, and particulates, they believe the lowest layers
of the ice sheets were laid down over 160,000 years ago. Annual oscillations of
such quantities are often evident in the record.
Are these records in the ice legitimate? Do they cause a
problem for the recent-creation model of earth history? What are we to make of
these data? This article will show that the great ages reported for the bottom
layers of ice sheets depend on assumed models of past climate and are not the
result of direct counting of layers. An alternative model of recent glacier
formation following the Flood described in Genesis will be suggested.
World War II Airplanes Under the Ice
The Greenland Society of Atlanta has recently attempted to
excavate a 10-foot diameter shaft in the Greenland ice pack to remove two B-17
Flying Fortresses and six P-38 Lightning fighters trapped under an estimated 250
feet of ice for almost 50 years (Bloomberg, 1989). Aside from the fascination
with salvaging several vintage aircraft for parts and movie rights, the fact
that these aircraft were buried so deeply in such a short time focuses attention
on the time scales used to estimate the chronologies of ice.
If the aircraft were buried under about 250 feet of ice and
snow in about 50 years, this means the ice sheet has been accumulating at an
average rate of five feet per year. The Greenland ice sheet averages almost 4000
feet thick. If we were to assume the ice sheet has been accumulating at this
rate since its beginning, it would take less than 1000 years for it to form and
the recent-creation model might seem to be vindicated.
Greenland Ice Cores
However, life is never as simple as implied above. In making
our calculations, we did not take into account the compaction of the snow into
ice as it is weighted down by the snow above. Neither did we consider the
thinning of ice layers as the tremendous weight above forces the ice at lower
levels to squeeze out horizontally. More importantly, we did not consider the
average precipitation rate and actual depths of ice for different locations on
the Greenland ice sheet.
When these factors are taken into account, the average annual
thickness of ice at Camp Century located near the northern tip of Greenland is
believed to vary from about fourteen inches near the surface to less than two
inches near the bottom (Hammer, et al., 1978). If, for simplicity, we assume the
average annual thickness to be the mean between the annual thickness at the top
and at the bottom (about eight inches), this still gives an age of less than
6000 years for the 4000-foot-thick ice sheet to form under uniformitarian
This is in relatively good agreement with the number of
annual oscillations of O currently observed in Greenland cores. Although
occasional ambiguities occur, it is relatively easy to count annual layers
downward from the surface through considerable depths in the Greenland ice
sheet. This is possible because of the large precipitation rates in Greenland
and the preservation of the annual effects.
It is also possible with a high degree of accuracy to cross
check the counting of annual layers with occasional peaks in acidity and
particulates from the fallout of historic volcanic events. Hammer, et al. (1978)
have correlated the peaks in the mean acidity of annual layers from 553 to 1972
A.D. with historic volcanic events. About a dozen historical volcanic eruptions
are evident in the ice core from Crete in central Greenland. Several unknown
eruptions are also documented in the ice core record.
The confidence in the chronology becomes less the lower in
the ice sheet one goes, however. The amplitude of the annual oscillations slowly
decreases relative to other factors, and historic markers are fewer and farther
apart. Glaciologists estimate that uncertainties in identification of layers
will probably limit the number of countable layers to less than about 8,500
(Hammer, et al., 1978).
Antarctic Ice Cores
The claims that layers of ice were formed 160,000 years ago
or more come primarily from interpretation of ice cores in Antarctica (Jouzel,
et al., 1987; Barnola, et al., l987). The Soviet Antarctic Expeditions at Vostok
in East Antarctica recovered an ice core which was almost 7,000 feet long in a
region where the total ice thickness is about 12,000 feet (Lorius, et al., 1979;
Lorius, et al., 1985). Since the current precipitation rate is so much less than
Greenland (on the order of one inch per year) the crude calculation of age,
without corrections for compression and horizontal motion for the lowest layers
is more than 100,000 years.
However, such estimates are critically based on the
assumption that the accumulation rate has not varied greatly over the past.
Unlike the Greenland ice cores, annual oscillations of ð18O and other parameters
cannot be traced deeply into the ice sheet on Antarctica. In Greenland, the high
precipitation rates not only provide relatively thick annual layers for
analysis, but the accumulating snow quickly seals off the ice beneath and
protects the record from metamorphosis by pressure and temperature changes in
the atmosphere. In Antarctica, by the time the ice has been buried deeply enough
to no longer be influenced by the atmosphere, annual variations have been
greatly dampened by diffusion (Epstein, et al., 1965; Johnsen, et al., 1972).
The technique used to estimate the age of an ice layer deep
in the ice sheet is to measure its ð18O content and compute the atmospheric
temperature which is observed to produce such concentrations today (Jouzel and
Merlivat, 1984). Through a second-known relation between temperature and
precipitation rate, again observed in today's atmosphere, the accumulation rate
for a given layer is calculated (Lorius, et al., 1985). Once the accumulation
rate is calculated for each layer, the depth and age for each layer in the ice
is calculated by integrating the annual accumulation downward from the surface.
There are several historical markers in Antarctica which can
be used to cross check these calculations for the past few thousand years. But
historical volcanic events are not known beyond a few thousand years in the past
which provide any certainty to the calculation of age. This method would be
reasonably reliable if precipitation rates had been similar in the past.
However, some creationist models predict significant quantities of snow
immediately after the Flood (Oard, 1990). Perhaps as much as 95% of the ice near
the poles could have accumulated in the first 500 years or so after the Flood.
The Age of the Earth
From a creationist perspective, it would be extremely
valuable to thoroughly explore these ice-core data. We would not assume that the
precipitation rate has always been similar to that of today. We would expect
considerably higher precipitation rates immediately following the Flood. The
layers of ice near the bottom of the core should be thicker than expected by the
uniformitarian model and contain unusual excursions in ð18O, acidity, and
particulates from levels higher in the core. The "annual" layers deep in the
Greenland ice sheet may be related to individual storms rather than seasonal
accumulations. If these evidences are found, direct information on conditions
following the Flood would be available to us.
Nothing in the ice-core data from either Greenland or
Antarctica requires the earth to be of great age. In fact, there are good
reasons to believe that the ice cores are revealing important information about
conditions following the Flood of Genesis and the recent formation of thick ice
sheets. Reports of ice-core data containing records of climatic changes as far
back as 160,000 years in the past are dependent upon interpretations of these
data which could be seriously wrong, if the Genesis Flood occurred as described
in the Bible. Further research on ice-core data should be a high priority for
Barnola, J.M., D. Raynaud, Y.S. Korotkevich, and C. Lorius,
1987. "Vostok ice core provides 160,000-year record of atmospheric carbon
dioxide." Nature, 329:408.
Bloomberg, R., 1989. "WW II planes to be deiced." Engineering
Report, March 9.
Epstein, S., R.P. Sharp, and A.J. Gow, 1965. "Six-year record
of oxygen and hydrogen isotope variations in south pole fire." Journal of
Geophysical Research, 70:1809.
Hammer, C.U., H.B. Clausen, W. Dansgaard, N. Gundestrup, S.J.
Johnsen, and N. Reeh, 1978. "Dating of Greenland ice cores by flow models,
isotopes, volcanic debris, and continental dust." Journal of Glaciology, 20:3.
Hammer, C.U., H.B. Clausen, and W. Dansgaard, 1980.
"Greenland ice sheet evidence of post-glacial vulcanism and its climate impact."
Johnsen, S.J., W. Dansgeard, and H.B. Clausen, 1972. "Oxygen
isotope profiles through the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets." Nature,
Jouzel, J. and L. Merlivat, 1984. "Deuterium and oxygen 18 in
precipitation: modeling of the isotopic effects during snow formation." Journal
of Geophysical Research, 89:11, 749.
Jonzel, J., C. Lorius, J.R. Petit, C. Genthon, N.I. Barkov,
M. Kotlyakov, and M. Petrov, 1987. "Vostok ice core: a continuous isotope
temperature record over the last climatic cycle (160,000 years)." Nature,
Lorius, C., L. Merlivat, J. Jonzel, and M. Pourchet, 1979. "A
30,000-yr isotope climatic record from Antarctic ice." Nature, 280:644.
Lorius, C., J. Jouzel, C. Ritz, L. Merlivat, N.I. Barkov, Y.S.
Korotkevich, and V.M. Kotlyakov, 1985. "A 160,000-year climatic record from
Antarctic ice." Nature, 316:591.
Oard, M.J., 1990. "An Ice Age Caused by the Genesis Flood."
ICR Monograph, 243 pp.
* Dr. Larry Vardiman is Chairman of the ICR Physics