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Extraterrestrial impact kills megafauna?

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Andre
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Oct20-07, 10:30 AM
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I'm still working on the last glacial transition. The other week I drafted this comment:

Some remarks on
"Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling"

by R. B. Firestone et al. 2007


Introduction

Firestone et al. 2007 link evidence of an unidentified extraterrestrial event (ETE) to the onset of the Younger Dryas cooling which may have contributed to the megafauna extinction. We do not contest the evidence or occurrence of this extraterrestrial event, but the proposed consequences meet a considerable challenge when confronted with other evidence. We intend to demonstrate that the timing for the onset of the Younger Dryas is at odds with the bulk of the evidence. Furthermore, comparison of isotope records of multiple proxies show the same characteristics for the termination of the Dansgaard Oeschger events as well as the Bølling-Allerød events, suggesting that no foreign cause is required to explain the termination of the latter. Finally, on a global scale, the extinction of the megafauna happened rather gradually between 18,000 and 4,000 years ago in North America, but many endemic species did not die out from the event.

The dating gap of the onset of the Younger Dryas exceeds the error margin

Based on two series of carbon dates which mark the end of the Clovis stratum, Firestone et al. establish the dating of the ETE at 12.9 +/- 0.1 ka Cal BP. This date is cross-checked with the onset of the Younger Dryas in the Greenland GISP-2 ice core marked by a sharp drop of water isotopes.

These carbon date series, averaging 10,890 14C years and 10,940 14C years BP, would calibrate to 12.87 and 12.88 ka Cal BP using the INTCAL04 calibration table (Reimer et al., 2004) while the article mentions 12.92 and 12.93 ka Cal BP, which is likely based on the previous INTCAL98 calibration table (Stuiver et al., 1998).

We compare the isotope records of the major Greenland ice cores for the period of the onset of the Younger Dryas marked by a sudden drop in d18O isotope values of about 4-5 mil.

Insert fig1 here

Caption:
d18O records of the main Greenland ice cores during the onset of the Younger Dryas. Vertical lines show approximately the neutral average isotope value to denote the onset of the Younger Dryas. Datasets are obtained from NOAA (Grootes, P.M., and M. Stuiver. 1997, Johnson et al., 1997, NGRIP members 2004) Note that the “present” base for NGRIP is 2000AD, this was converted back to the standard “present” of 1950AD. Also double isotope values per date have been averaged for smoothing.

NGRIP and GRIP both suggest that the Bølling Allerød to Younger Dryas transition is between 12,700 and 12,650 calendar years BP. This conflicts with the GISPII chronology which suggests around 12,850 years ago for the beginning of the Younger Dryas. Although the difference is small, there is still the larger part of the last Allerød spike in between. Hence, the date of 12,900 years ago of Firestone et al., 2007 is off by a sufficient margin to miss that spike. Therefore, it would be advisable to crosscheck this boundary with other, independent, high resolution chronologies.

The most accurate dating may be found by counting lake varves and correlating these to several well-dated tephra layers (Zolitschka et al., 2000). The records of the Meerfelder maar (Lücke and Brauer, 2004), Lake Gosciaz, (Goslar et al., 1995), the Ammersee (von Grafenstein et al., 1995) closely follow the GRIP ice core chronology. Hence, high resolution records independently reproduce an onset of the isotope Younger Dryas at around 12,675 +/- 25 varve years BP, (see http://www.gfz-potsdam.de/pb3/pg33/p...aar/index.html ) which is more than two sigma outside the error range of the date of the ETE which seems too large to links these two events.


The nature of the onset of the Younger Dryas appears to be identical to the termination of Dansgaard Oeschger events.

The Bølling Allerød events and Dansgaard Oeschger events show up in multiple isotope proxies of the ice cores and ocean drilling project (ODP) cores. The most compelling comparison can be made using deuterium excess of the GISP ice core (Masson-Delmotte et al., 2005). Deuterium excess is a very sensitive proxy and the similarity between the Dansgaard Oeschger events and the Bølling Allerød is striking. Hence, the chance is remote that an ETE triggered other events that resulted in exactly the same deuterium excess fingerprint at the termination of the multiple Dansgaard Oeschger events. Instead, this matching fingerprint strongly suggests that all of these events share the same as-yet-unknown cause or causes for its onset and termination, found in irregular millennial scale cycle changes in moisture source. A good candidate may be changing flows of the Thermohaline Current.

The extent of megafaunal extinction exceed single location and single date

The global megafauna extinction during the Late Pleistocene appears to have accelerated significantly in Alaska around 15 ka Cal BP (Guthrie 2003) with the disappearance of horses, and may have terminated around 4,000 Cal BP with the definite extinction of the woolly mammoth on Wrangel Island (Vartanyan et al., 1995). Channel Islands (Agenbroad, 1998), and Pribilof islands (Crossen, 2005). Furthermore, the extinctions also deviated from species to species. Ground sloths (Steadman et al 2005) disappeared in the Americas asynchronously, spanning the Younger Dryas. Meanwhile, Straight-tusked elephants and woolly mammoths disappeared in Europe, clearly before the onset of the Younger Dryas (Stuart 2005). In contrast, American mastodons (Miller 1987, Polaco et al., 2001 ) and the Irish Elk (Stuart et al., 2004) survived on the Eurasian continent until well into the Holocene. Also, modern species like the American bison, elk and deer survived the ETE, which suggest that the impact on the species may have been limited, and given the extent of the extinction, its contribution to the mass extinction event may be overrated.

Conclusions.

It is clear that the evidence of Firestone et al., 2007 suggest unusual occurrences in the terminal phase of the Allerod event. It may very well explain the sudden disappearance of the Clovis but the assumed link with the Younger Dryas and the megafauna extinction may be too ambitious. The ETE precedes the actual onset of the isotope Younger Dryas considering the bulk of the high resolution evidence. Furthermore, the records of multiple proxies, especially the deuterium excess of the GRIP ice core strongly suggest identical causes for the onset and termination of all Dansgaard Oeschger events as well as the Bolling Allerod events. However, there is only one ETE. Finally, on a global scale, the extinction of the megafauna happened rather gradually before and after the ETE, while some local megafauna species appear to have survived it. Therefore linking the ETE to the Younger Dryas and the megafauna extinction appears to be unsupportable.


References

Agenbroad, L. 1998. Pygmy (Dwarf) Mammoths of the Channel Islands of California. Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, SD, Inc.

Crossen K.J. 2005 GSA Meeting Salt Lake City Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 37, No. 7, p. 463 (http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2005AM/fin...ract_97313.htm )

Firestone R.B. et al 2007; PNAS 104/ no 41 pp 16016-16021

Goslar et al. 1995. Nature, 377: 414-417.

Grafenstein U von, et al, 1995 Science 284, 1654-1657.

Grootes, P.M., and M. Stuiver. 1997. Journal of Geophysical Research 102:26455-26470

Guthrie, R.D 2003 Nature 426, 169-171 (13 Nov)

Johnsen, S.J et al 1997. Journal of Geophysical Research 102:26397-26410.

Lücke, A. Brauer A., 2004. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Volume 211, Issues 1- 2, 19 August.

Masson-Delmotte et al 2005. Science 1 July 2005: Vol. 309. no. 5731, pp. 118 - 121

Miller W.E. 1987 Journal of Paleontology, Vol. 61, No. 1, pp. 168-183

North Greenland Ice Core Project members. 2004 Data Contribution Series # 2004-059. NOAA/NGDC Paleoclimatology Program, Boulder CO, USA.

Reimer P, et al 2004. Radiocarbon (Volume 46, nr 3).

Polaco et al 2001, proceedings first international congress of the World of Elephants 2001 Rome pp 237 - 242

Steadman DW et al 2005; PNAS August 16, vol. 102 no. 33 11763–11768

Stuart, A.J., 2005. Quaternary International, Volumes 126-128, 2005, Pages 171-177

Stuart A.J et al 2004 Nature 431, 684-689, 7 October

Stuiver M, et al 1998. Radiocarbon 40(3):1041–83.

Vartanyan, S.L., et al 1995. Radiocarbon 37: pp.1-6.

Zolitschka, B., et al 2000 Geology, 28/9, 783-786.
Any questions?
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Andre
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Sep11-10, 01:54 AM
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(necropost) Meanwhile it looks like the comet lost its sparkle.

...In sedimentary deposits dating to the beginning of the YD, impact proponents have reported finding carbon spherules containing tiny nano-scale diamonds, which they thought to be created by shock metamorphism or chemical vapor deposition when the impactor struck...

In the August 30 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of scientists led by Tyrone Daulton, PhD, a research scientist in the physics department at Washington University in St. Louis, reported that they could find no diamonds in YD boundary layer material....

...Instead, graphene- and graphene/graphane-oxide aggregates were found in all the specimens examined (including carbon spherules dated from before the YD to the present). Importantly, the researchers demonstrated that previous YD studies misidentified graphene/graphane-oxides as hexagonal diamond and likely misidentified graphene as cubic diamond...
Andre
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Jun3-11, 02:37 AM
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Another necropost (but the previous posts have not lost any significance).

While the impact idea waned, several scholars pursue an extraterrestrial event of another kind, solar activity.

Paul A. LaViolette (2011) Evidence for a Solar Flare Cause of the Pleistocene Mass Extinction, February 18, 2011. Radiocarbon, vol. 53, No. 2 (June 1, 2011): 303 - 323

Abstract

The hypothesis is presented that an abrupt rise in atmospheric radiocarbon concentration evident in the Cariaco Basin varve record at 12,837±10 cal yrs BP contemporaneous with the Rancholabrean termination, may have been produced by a supersized solar proton event (SPE) having a fluence of ~1.3 X 10^11 protons/cm2. A SPE of this magnitude would have been large enough to deliver a lethal radiation dose of at least 3 - 6 Sv to the Earth's surface, and hence could have been a principal cause of the final termination of the Pleistocene megafauna and several genera of smaller mammals and birds. ....cont'
I also recommend reading The mysterious onset of the Younger Dryas of an author who is well known to some of us

There are however other devellopments on which I will report later that give some substantiation to Richard Muller's favorite quote of Josh Billings:

The trouble with people is not that they don't know, but that they know so much that ain't so.

Andre
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Jun3-11, 12:42 PM
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Extraterrestrial impact kills megafauna?

Notice that Laviolette (2011) builds his case around a 14C carbon spike in the atmospheric CO2 around 12900 years ago that correlates with the onset of the Younger Dryas.

Notice the dating problems mentioned in the OP:

Quote Quote by Andre
The dating gap of the onset of the Younger Dryas exceeds the error margin

Based on two series of carbon dates which mark the end of the Clovis stratum, Firestone et al. establish the dating of the ETE at 12.9 +/- 0.1 ka Cal BP. This date is cross-checked with the onset of the Younger Dryas in the Greenland GISP-2 ice core marked by a sharp drop of water isotopes.

These carbon date series, averaging 10,890 14C years and 10,940 14C years BP, would calibrate to 12.87 and 12.88 ka Cal BP using the INTCAL04 calibration table (Reimer et al., 2004) while the article mentions 12.92 and 12.93 ka Cal BP, which is likely based on the previous INTCAL98 calibration table (Stuiver et al., 1998)...

...The most accurate dating may be found by counting lake varves and correlating these to several well-dated tephra layers (Zolitschka et al., 2000). The records of the Meerfelder maar (Lücke and Brauer, 2004), Lake Gosciaz, (Goslar et al., 1995), the Ammersee (von Grafenstein et al., 1995) closely follow the GRIP ice core chronology. Hence, high resolution records independently reproduce an onset of the isotope Younger Dryas at around 12,675 +/- 25 varve years BP, (see http://www.gfz-potsdam.de/pb3/pg33/p...aar/index.html ) which is more than two sigma outside the error range of the date of the ETE which seems too large to links these two events.
Finally notice also that Fiedel (2011) in the previous post recognises this dating problem and mentions for calibration purposes a new calibration table INTCAL09.

Would a comparison of the calibration tables INTCAL04 and INTCAL09 shed some light on these issues?

I wondered that too and the result was ...erm, remarkable. I think that is worth a seperate thread.

Oh if anyone wants to have the cited papers for scrutiny, please pm me.
Andre
#5
Jun4-11, 03:44 AM
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After some consultation, it may be better to keep the narration in this thread, but I need to elaborate on carbon dating techniques and calibration to demostrate how and why things went wrong here with the extrateresstrial hypothesis, the 14C spike and the dating of the lower (older) Younger Dryas boundary.

Now you could read the wiki about carbon dating which is excellent or take it to the detailed level with Reimer et al 2009. But let me elaborate about that in the next post.
Andre
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Jun4-11, 06:17 AM
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Okay so a quick overview of carbon dating then, which is based on the amount of nuclear unstable carbon-14 with a half value time around 6000 years.

Carbon-14 is produced due to interaction of cosmic rays in the atmosphere in which neutrons interact with 14Nitrogen atoms as follows:



The 14C oxidizes and mingles with the atmospheric CO2 entering the carbon cycle. As the 14C decays again with time, the ratio of 14C to normal 12C decreases and this says something about the age of the mechanism. If the starting ratio was constant, dating would have been rather simple

However since these processes are highly variable we do not know the initial 14C/12C ratio. So we would need to calibrate the dating with something that can both be carbon dated and dated otherwise.

Far out the best calibration is done with things that due have some annual accumulation; tree rings, annually layered deposits in deep lakes (varves), speleothems and coral.

Of these tree rings are the most accurate as the 14C changing processes are the simplest, the wood is made directly from atmospheric CO2 and can obviously be carbon dated directly. The problem however is that good treering assemblies go only back as far as about 12,500 years

Annual lake varves can also be counted very accurately, the problem is that it does not contain a lot of carbon datable macro fossils.

annual Speleothem- and Coral rings can also both be counted and carbon dated (carbonates), however there is also a problem here as the carbon is not directly coming from the atmosphere.

That's where the biological fertilizer comes in contact with the rotating vanes of a machine that produces a high speed low pressure airflow.

More later
Studiot
#7
Jun4-11, 08:08 AM
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I am reading and taking all this in - honest

So thanks for posting.

Andre
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Jun4-11, 09:39 AM
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Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate that greatly. I'm just trying to illustrate where certain parts of earth science stands now and how important it is to try and think of everything that can affect the 'whodunit'-reconstruction.

Anyway, to get back to the problems with coral or any marine carbon dating, it's the mixture of carbon sources. For air sources we dont mind a few weeks or even years between the formation of the 14C in the higher atmosphere and the time it got fixed by photosynthesis, entering the biologic part of the carbon cycle. But for the sea/ocean is different. Some carbon did indeed enter the water recently but it is mixed with dissolved carbonates that have been in the water for a long time, like dissolved limestone etc, and hence depleted from 14C, decreasing it's ratio. This is called the "basin effect".

Now if you have overlapping calibration series of land and marine data, you can calibrate the basin effect (calibrate the calibration) and it is found in some instances that the basin effect is rather constant and amounts for a few hundred years carbon dating.

But if you find a couple of instances where this is true, is it also always true?
Dotini
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Jun4-11, 09:46 AM
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Fascinating investigation of a good mystery, Andre. I've been interested in this for a long time, ever since I marveled at the saber-tooth tigers of the La Brea tar pit museum, so I appreciate your posts very much.

If there was a super-CME which wiped out megafauna in the Americas, how might it be that the megafauna of Africa were spared?

Respectfully,
Steve
Evo
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Jun4-11, 10:18 AM
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I also recommend reading The mysterious onset of the Younger Dryas of an author who is well known to some of us
Quote Quote by Andre View Post
Finally notice also that Fiedel (2011) in the previous post recognises this dating problem and mentions for calibration purposes a new calibration table INTCAL09.
Is there anything you would like me to ask Stuart?
Andre
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Jun4-11, 10:25 AM
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Quote Quote by Evo View Post
Is there anything you would like me to ask Stuart?
Maybe advise him to take note of this thread. There is an issue coming up with his paper. Maybe, we could have a good discussion.
Andre
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Jun4-11, 12:34 PM
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Quote Quote by Dotini View Post
If there was a super-CME which wiped out megafauna in the Americas, how might it be that the megafauna of Africa were spared?

Respectfully,
Steve
Excellent question Steve, One could probably to electromagnetic cosmic influence to be redirected towards the poles like the aurora borealis and aurora australis, but I don't think there is a reason for such audacities.

Anyway, to continue, as I said earlier

Quote Quote by Andre View Post
... Would a comparison of the calibration tables INTCAL04 and INTCAL09 shed some light on these issues?

I wondered that too and the result was ...erm, remarkable.....
So having some carbon dating calibration back ground now, it's maybe time for the wow.

data sets: Intcal09, Intcal04.

Been busted once for making my own graphs, but nobody else does it, so I take that risk:



Ideally, both graphs should overlap with only tiny abbarations, but the difference in our time frame of interest is huge, notice that the calibration of ~10,900 14C years, the approximate boundary of the Younger Dryas, (yellow line) used to calibrate roughly to something like 12,870 calendar years BP with Intcal04, but it calibrates now, with Intcal09, to something like 12720 Calendar years.

That is major and far fetching, but why is that so?
Andre
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Jun4-11, 03:20 PM
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Oh, before we concentrate on the why, remember that Laviolette (2011) mentions a radio carbon spike in this time frame:

The hypothesis is presented that an abrupt rise in atmospheric radiocarbon concentration evident in the Cariaco Basin varve record at 12,837±10 cal yrs BP contemporaneous with the Rancholabrean termination, may have been produced by a supersized solar proton event.
We see in the intcal data sets linked to in the previous post that there is also a column "Delta 14C permil". That looks like the ratio of radiocarbon. So we can plot that too for both Intcal tables:



Sure enough Intcal04 shows a significant radiocarbon spike corresponding with the mentioned Caracio Basin varve record, but look what happened with Intcal09. It's gone, only a little spike remains, hardly outstanding against other local spikes, but some 250 years later.

That is even more far fetching.
Andre
#14
Jun5-11, 02:42 AM
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So for the why question, we need to scrutinize the original publication Reimer et al 2009. (I see that I mutilated the earlier link in my previous post yesterday and it doesnt work, but nobody noticed What is that guys? Don't you care reading the science behind all this? )

Anyway considering this discrepancy we just discovered, Reimer et al write:

(p1116) OTHER NEW DEVELOPMENTS

There is growing evidence that the western subtropical Atlantic reservoir age was much less than the modern ~420-yr offset during the early Younger Dryas (~12,550–12,900 cal BP)(Kromer et al. 2004; Muscheler et al. 2008; Singarayer et al. 2008)....

...While we could, in theory, calculate a time-dependent reservoir correction for the marine data, it was decided instead to exclude the western subtropical Atlantic marine data for the early Younger Dryas period ~12,550–12,900 cal BP...

(p1117)
Foraminifera from the Cariaco Basin varved sediments (Hughen et al. 2004a) were used as in
IntCal04 with the exception of measurements from 12,552–12,944 cal BP, which are likely to be affected by marine surface reservoir age changes associated with the onset of the Younger Dryas as previously discussed.
But the result of that decision is far fetching
lisab
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Jun5-11, 08:25 AM
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Quote Quote by Andre View Post
Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate that greatly. I'm just trying to illustrate where certain parts of earth science stands now and how important it is to try and think of everything that can affect the 'whodunit'-reconstruction.

Anyway, to get back to the problems with coral or any marine carbon dating, it's the mixture of carbon sources. For air sources we dont mind a few weeks or even years between the formation of the 14C in the higher atmosphere and the time it got fixed by photosynthesis, entering the biologic part of the carbon cycle. But for the sea/ocean is different. Some carbon did indeed enter the water recently but it is mixed with dissolved carbonates that have been in the water for a long time, like dissolved limestone etc, and hence depleted from 14C, decreasing it's ratio. This is called the "basin effect".

Now if you have overlapping calibration series of land and marine data, you can calibrate the basin effect (calibrate the calibration) and it is found in some instances that the basin effect is rather constant and amounts for a few hundred years carbon dating.

But if you find a couple of instances where this is true, is it also always true?
I'm a noob on this topic, but that 'basin effect'...I'm not getting a lot of info on that term. I tried looking up 'lake effect' but that's a meteorological term about snow formation.
Andre
#16
Jun5-11, 12:48 PM
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Right Lisa, good catch, my bad. Mea culpa. I meant to say 'reservoir effect', the same mentioned as 'reservoir age' in Reimer et al:

There is growing evidence that the western subtropical Atlantic reservoir age was much less than the modern ~420-yr offset during the early Younger Dryas ....
So there is the whole problem, changes in the ocean flows, whcih were disrupting the expectation that the reservoir effect caused a more of less constant age different. But this assumption produced a spurious 14C spike that sent future researchers on a tangent in an attempt to explain that. Hence LaViolette 2011 loses it's principle cause, no more big radiocarbon spike at the onset of the Younger Dryas.

“The great tragedy of Science: the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact”.

Thomas Huxley
Obviously we can also say something more about the timing of the mysterious onset of the Younger Dryas now next.
Andre
#17
Jun6-11, 05:20 AM
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Anyway, that decision in Reimer et al (2011) keeps bugging me:

...While we could, in theory, calculate a time-dependent reservoir correction for the marine data, it was decided instead to exclude the western subtropical Atlantic marine data for the early Younger Dryas period ~12,550–12,900 cal BP...
If a scientist 'could, in theory,' solve a problem, he will, I would think. Moveover it would be pretty important to know the reservoir age devellopment. So why not here?

It gets more intruging if you look at the graphs of the original Hughen et al 2000 in science, particurly the line up with the Younger Dryas in the GISP2 icecore, also showing the -now- spurious 14C spike.



This has always looked like a pretty solid base to establish the onset of te Younger Dryas at 12,900 Cal years BP. But now these data between "12,552–12,944 cal BP' are essentially voided by that decision.
Andre
#18
Jun6-11, 03:20 PM
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I promissed issues wth Fiedel (2011):

Quote Quote by Andre View Post
...
I also recommend reading The mysterious onset of the Younger Dryas of an author who is well known to some of us ....
I observe that his analysis is accurate most of the time, except however.., and maybe I may quote the following:

..In Meerfelder Maar, a German crater lake, the wind strength changed abruptly and permanently during the winter of 12,679 cal BP, marking the local onset of the Younger Dryas (Brauer et al., 2008). This date is based on counted varves that are explicitly tied to the GRIP chronology, which has now been superseded by NGRIP; accordingly, it should be corrected to ca. 12,850 cal BP..
I dont understand the boldface (mine). The orginal dating of the periglacial oscilations is publiced in Brauer et al (2001) Lateglacial varve chronology and biostratigraphy of lakes Holzmaar and Meerfelder Maar, Germany Boreas 30 pp 83 - 88. There is no mentioning of any ice core in that publication, just the correlating of the varve stratigraphy without external calibrations and it finds for the Younger Dryas 11 590–12680 varve years BP in the Meerfelder maar and for the Holzmaar, 11600–12 606 varve years, independently of any other dating. The difference is discussed.

----

Fiedel then mentions multiple research results, including the 14C spike problems, all suggesting that the onset of the Younger Dryas -in Europe- was around 12,700, but nevertheless he concludes:

Are the disparities among ice and lake sediment cores a matter of 1) counting mistakes, whether caused by human error, instrument problems, or erratic deposition; or 2) reliance on different aspects of the environment, atmosphere, and chemistry to define the events of interest? I suspect that the GISP2 and Cariaco counts eventually will prove most accurate and the YD onset date was about 12,830 -12,980 cal BP.
Unfortunately, with the deletion of exactly those Cariaco data in INTCAL09, much of the substantiation for that assessment has disappeared.


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