I was fortunate to attend the YDB session in San Francisco at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. With a young family and a growing business it is tough — and selfish — to pull away to the West Coast to play scientist two weeks before Christmas. But I did. And I appreciate the patience of my family and my co-workers.
When I began this post (and this blog) I thought my first contribution would be to re-cap the entire AGU session. But it became too long for an inaugural post — and too short for the information at hand. So I will instead re-cap the session in a serial format with perhaps four or more posts covering each of the ten presentations, more or less paired pro and con, as presented in San Fransisco. One other thing before proceeding, I dislike writing tedious narrative of this type, recounting presentations, and I am no good at it. It makes for a tough first assignment for the Cosmic Tusk and I appreciate your patience with my pen.
Here now is the Part I Re-Cap, concerning the presentations by Drs. Wallace Broecker and Allen West:
It was a pleasure to see the YDB Session at AGU packed with interested young scientists and a number of old bulls — pro and con. I figure there were over 200 geeks crammed into the oral presentation at the Moscone Center West. The lucky few witnessed powerful, multi-disciplinary and independent presentations of new and old evidence supporting the YDB hypothesis, an effective refutation of the recent Surovell and the Gill papers (as far as a comet is concerned), and some decidedly lackluster presentations from important critics.
The eminent dean of abrupt climate change, Wally Broecker, was the lead speaker from the skeptic camp. Disappointingly, Dr. Broecker chose not to address the YDB hypothesis until he closed. Instead, he gave a rather ad-hoc and rambling recap of the state of YD trigger science and the many unknowns therein. The sole reference to a comet was in his closing remarks, which were accompanied by a slide where ‘Comet’ was listed as one of four proposed YD triggers — with a slash through it. The slide was black text on stark white background saying (links added for off-site fun):
But, what was the YD trigger?
3) Flood [SLASH]
4) Comet [SLASH]
Slide from Wallace Broecker, 2009 Fall AGU
His dismissal lasted less than 45 seconds and included the following statements, “I never believed it,” “The original evidence has been pared down to only the nanodiamonds,” and, “If it happened it just ‘pre-triggered’ something that would have happened by itself.”
I thought Dr. Broecker’s dismissal was a little brusque for someone of his stature and accomplishment. The evidence has certainly not been “pared down” to only nanodiamonds (as soon after was demonstrated by several researchers). Posing the event as a “pre-trigger” seemed like a “Plan B” for his own body of work in case the evidence for an ET event continues to pile up. And stating that he “never believed it” is predictable for a detective (metaphorically) who may have dedicated his career to investigating a murder, never realizing it was perhaps a visiting relative who pulled the trigger.
(Incidentally, I spoke with Wallace afterward and he was just as nice as he could be. Which was surprising given the gruff goat I’d just seen on the podium. It turns out he maintains a strong interest in the origin of the Carolina bays, even suggesting to a nearby student that he study the subject.)
George Howard and Wally Broecker
Allen West, the deductive and affable principle publishing researcher of the YDB event (along with James Kennett) followed Broecker. His presentation began with a typically matter-of-fact recitation and augmentation of the catalog of evidence worldwide for a sudden ET interaction at the Younger Dryas Boundary, including a well reasoned discussion of the nanodiamonds as marker evidence, and a critique of the Surovell and Gil papers — widely touted in 2009 as having discredited evidence for the Clovis Comet.
It was a careful, comprehensive — and devastatingly effective — presentation of old and new evidence pointing to a catastrophic ET event as the trigger for the YD. As you might expect, it was also a bit embarrassing. The contrast with Broecker was stark and telling. The perception in the room was of an old bull being gored on PowerPoint by entirely new lines of evidence which were unfamiliar to the old bull.
West agreed with Broecker that the nanodiamonds were the most important evidence. He revealed they have now been found on 3 continents at 21 sites within discreet YD stratigraphy — not above, not below. He then noted that identical diamonds are found at the KT Boundary and appropriate stratigraphy at the Tunguska site, and those diamonds are accepted as evidence formed from an impact, suggesting that the YD research is being held to a higher standard.
He then listed other researchers’ alternative explanations for the formation of the nanodiamonds, notably slow cosmic accretion and wildfires. In response, he showed TEM’s of the carbon spherules infused with nanodiamonds, and asked: If slow accretion were responsible for their presence on earth, how could they be found inside carbon spherules of a terrestrial origin? And if they are formed by wildfires, why did they not burn up as would be expected, given the combustion of diamonds at wildfire temps when oxygen is present? West proposed that only impact could produce the hex-diamonds because impact is the only natural process that produces the three necessary condition, high temps, high or low pressures and hypoxic (zero oxygen) conditions.
Perhaps most important and revealing was West’s stepwise explanation of Surovell’s failure to find the impact markers at the YD, and similar shortcomings identified by Gill.
Surovell’s sampling frequency was shown by West to be ~1000 times less sensitive to the evidence than the work of Firestone, et al and subsequent papers, and thus fatally flawed as refutation. It appears that Surovell sampled the stratigraphy within a 10-28 cm band. Whereas West’s evidence was obtained by sampling the wall in .5 to 2cm. band just below the black mat, a more discreet protocol with a higher temporal resolution. West estimated that Surovell was looking at one thousand years of dirt per sample, while the YD samples covered a fraction of that time. The YD team is looking for one dirty blanket in pile of layers by testing blanket by blanket. The Surovell team just grabbed them all up and declared them all clean. [I am all ears for a better analogy:]
West then proceeded to commend the Gill paper (ESA, August 2009) as a good faith effort also, but also reveal it as fatally flawed as regards the event. Ironically, Gill’s failure was quite the opposite of Surovell’s. Where Surovell tested 1000x more material than needed, Gill sampled 1000x too little. The YD team’s protocol would require sampling 1000 grams of sediment where you would expect to find 390 cosmic spherules. Gill, however, sampled only one gram and found nothing — as math would indicate is likely — even if West’s reports were accurate.
He continued on, as fairness would demand, to report the findings of other independent researchers whose evidence supports the YD hypothesis. West began by showing a striking photo of YD Black Mat stratigraphy — in Pennsylvania. As far as I know it was the first presentation of the black-layer in the eastern US. Within this layer, identified and investigated by Demitroff and Lecompte, nearly 10,000 spherules per kilogram are being found, the highest yet recorded at any site. (The Tusk will work to obtain a photo.) He showed TEMs of a veritable zoo of Aluminosilicate Spherules , nano and micro-tektites, and suspected impact glass found only in the layer, not above or below it, and formed at temperatures of 1500 to 1800 C. Well above temperatures reached in wildfires.
West stressed the melted glass and spherules were formed from melted terrestrial clay or shale. This is important. As West said,
“This is absolutely terrestrial geochemistry, there is no hint of ET material. So the best explanation is this is impact material. So we think this refutes ET accretion. We dont see any ET signature at all. And the temperatures required to produce this are extreme, to melt this well beyond any wildfire”
— Allen West, AGU Fall Meeting, 2009
West returned to his big blue world map and pointed to the work of Marie Agnes Courty, a French soil scientist, and probably one of the few people who have spent as much time as West looking at dirt in transmission microscopes. M. Courty presented very similar evidence as West in three far flung corners of the earth — specifically the Caspian Sea, the coast of Peru, and Atlantic Coast of France. As West recounted, her findings — as excerpted from her abstract below — were a stunning multi-continent confirmation that something quite extraordinary happened at 12,900bp:
“The three sequences display one remarkable layer of exogenous air-transported microdebris that is part of a complex time series of recurrent fine dust/wildfire events. The sharp debris-rich microfacies and its association to ashes derived from calcination of the local vegetation suggest instantaneous deposition synchronous to a high intensity wildfire. The debris assemblage comprises microtektite-like glassy spherules, partly devitrified glass shards, unmelted to partly melted sedimentary and igneous clasts, terrestrial native metals, and carbonaceous components. The later occur as grape-clustered polymers, vitrified graphitic carbon, amorphous carbon spherules with a honeycomb pattern, and green carbon fibres with recrystallized quartz and metal blebs. Evidence for high temperature formation from a heterogeneous melt with solid debris and volatile components derived from carbonaceous precursors supports an impact origin from an ejecta plume. The association of debris deposition to total firing would trace a high energy airburst with surface effects of the fireball. In contrast, microfacies and debris composition of the recurrent fine dust/wildfire events would trace a series of a low energy airburst.”
— Field-Analytical approach of land-sea records for elucidating the Younger Dryas Boundary syndrome T. Ge1; M. M. COURTY2; F. Guichard3 1. Geoarcheology, INRAP, Pessac, France. 2. Prehistory -IPHES-ICREA, CNRS-MNHN, Tarragona, Spain. 3. Paleoocenography, CNRS-CEA UVSQ, Gif-sur-Yvette, France.
I will let that speak for itself, for the time being.
West closed by noting this type of exotic terrestrial impact flash-trash has been identified by his team at nine sites (6 sites in NA, 2 Europe, 1 Syria), and at ten sites by 3rd party independents (7 sites NA, 1 site SA, 1 site Europe, 1 site Syria). For a total of nineteen sites on four continents where a synchronous discreet layer has been found showing evidence of a widely dispersed hell.
Feel like the science press at AGU didn’t give you the whole story — or worse, no story at all when there was one? So did I. That’s why I started The Tusk. There is plenty going on in this field which is either unreported or largely distorted and ill-formed when it is reported. I am going to do what I can to change that.
Stayed tuned….more presentations and posters from AGU on the way.