Scientists think they have learned just how fast ice in Antartica retreated at the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago, but the numbers are not what they expected. A study of seafloor ridges published in May of 2020 in the journal Science shows an astonishing retreat rate of about 50 miles a day, roughly ten times as fast as anything observed by satellites today. For scientists arguing that melting Ice in Antarctica is the harbinger of an approaching disastrous sea rise, this could be a problem, but it is not the only one.
Professor Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) in Cambridge, UK, led an expedition last year to the Larsen region of the Antarctic Peninsula. Using autonomous underwater vehicles with high resolution mapping capability, the team studied sediments at the bottom of the western Weddell Sea. In a manner somewhat analogous to tree rings, the ridges formed by seasonal changes in regular tidal patterns, it was theorized, could provide a virtual time line to measure the ice’s rate of retreat as temperatures warmed up. (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/368/6494/1020). Unexpectedly, the study casts new doubt on one of the basic assumptions of modern science: uniformitarianism.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe, when science in the modern sense was first emerging, those who investigated rocks, landforms, and fossils—in studies that would evolve into geology and paleontology—believed Earth’s past had been shaped by sudden and violent catastrophes, chief among them: Noah’s Flood. These scientists were strongly influenced by the Bible, but as Christianity fell into disfavor among many intellectual elites, ‘catastrophism’ came to be rejected in favor of ‘uniformitarianism’, the belief that the past was shaped by the same processes we can observe today—slow climatic change, the gradual advance and retreat of glaciers, the almost imperceptible rise of mountain ranges, and the equally slow process of erosion, leveling those ranges and carving out valleys. By the late eighteenth century, the proponents of uniformitarianism, chiefly James Hutton and Charles Lyell, dominated the earth sciences. There was a brief rebellion in the early nineteenth century, led by Georges Cuvier, who, although he did not rely on any Biblical accounts, believed that there had been truly catastrophic floods and earthquakes in the past. But his rebellion failed, and uniformitarianism became a dogma, not to be questioned. (“Catastrophism Reconsidered,” William B. Stoecker, Atlantis Rising Magazine, #111, May/June, 2016)
The new Antarctic sea floor study also creates a problem for the study of climate change. Researcher Randall Carlson who has studied the Missoula Flood, and other giant floods accompanying the end of the last ice age made the point in a 1997 lecture at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. “Whether we look at it from year to year, over decades or through the centuries, we find that at whatever scale we use, the climate has been vastly changing. When you have six to seven million cubic miles of ice melt over a few thousand years, it’s reasonable to conclude that the sole driver of climate change is not carbon.” (“What Ended the Ice Age?,” Cynthia Logan, Atlantis Rising Magazine, #113, September/October, 2015).
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