Exploring abrupt climate change induced by comets and asteroids during human history

[Update] Swiss Kiss: Nanodiamonds and Iridium independently confirmed at Bern INQUA session on Younger Dryas climate crash

The titles for the talks and posters at the upcoming INQUA session, The Enigmatic Younger Dryashave been posted for some time. Typical of scientific conferences, the narrative abstract revealing the findings (or musings) of the presenter is posted later, a few weeks before the conference. The abstracts for the conference have now been published.

Here again in Switzerland, in keeping with the cognitive dissonance of the Skeptics, are supportive findings from researchers not previously published with or collaborating with the Younger Dryas boundary team. These reports are typical of others at conferences concerning the Pleistocene-Holocene transition and the Younger Dryas. Similarly supportive research appears regularly in such forums but somehow escapes the playlist of the critics.  (The Tusk is working on a comprehensive list of independent-but-seemingly-invisible studies which I will post in the next few weeks.)

But for today, lets start with separate reports from the field sites and laboratories of Marshall, et. al. and van Hoesel, et. al.:

(My apologies for not being able to appropriately “Block Quote” them at the moment, but they are verbatim).

Exceptional iridium concentrations found at the Allerød-Younger Dryas transition in sediments from Bodmin Moor in southwest England

William Marshall
Katie Head
Robert Clough
Andrew Fisher

Elevated iridium values, dated to start of the Younger Dryas cooling event, have been found in sediments deposited at a number of Late Glacial sites in North America and one in Europe. It has been proposed (e.g., Firestone et al., 2007, PNAS 104: 16016-16021) that this widespread iridium enrichment signal is the result of an explosive disintegration of a large extraterrestrial object over North America around 12,900 cal. yr BP, and it is contended that it was this event which instigated the Younger Dryas cooling. This scenario is controversial, and the ‘ET’ explanation of these geochemical signals is not universally accepted. This notwithstanding, we report here the finding of an iridium anomaly in the Allerød-Younger Dryas boundary sediments at Hawks Tor in the southwest of England.

The concentration of iridium and other elements is determined in peat monoliths using ICP-MS, operated in collision-cell mode, and ICP-OES instruments. We find an increase of over 300 % in the iridium concentration measured in the bulk sediment immediately above the Younger Dryas boundary compared with the values found below the transition. The iridium-titanium ratio is used to confirm a lag between the start of the iridium enrichment and the timing of abrupt environmental disruption at the site signalled by decreases in the organic carbon content, and changes the concentrations of potassium, iron and manganese. These geochemical changes coincide with a shift from a humified peat to a minerogenic lithology. By using a new calibration of existing 14C ages, integrated with new AMS dates and optically stimulated luminescence ages, we show that the timing of this iridium enrichment found in southwest England is in agreement with the dates proposed for the iridium enrichment signals previously found in North America and Belgium.


Nanodiamonds and the Usselo layer

Annelies van Hoesel
Wim Hoek
Freek Braadbaart
Hans van der Plicht
Martyn R. Drury

Nanodiamonds make up one of the important lines of evidence for the controversial hypothesis that an extraterrestrial impact took place at the onset of the Younger Dryas. These nanodiamonds have been found in the Allerød-Younger Dryas boundary layer or ‘black mat’ in North America, a section of the Usselo palaeosol in Belgium and in samples from the Greenland ice sheet. Nanodiamonds are known to occur in association with known impact events and within meteorites. However, the use of nanodiamonds as diagnostic evidence of an extraterrestrial impact is still debated. Concerning the Allerød-Younger Dryas boundary layer it has been suggested that the nanodiamonds accumulated over time from meteoritic rain or possibly formed during intense forest fires. In addition, it has been claimed that the nano-crystalline carbon in the North American black mat is graphene and not diamond.

We have sampled the previously investigated Usselo layer in detail at two classic locations in the Netherlands, Aalsterhut (near Geldrop) and Lutterzand. Several individual charcoal particles of the Aalsterhut Usselo layer have been AMS dated to assess the variability in age in the Usselo layer at this location. Samples are analysed for the occurrence of nanodiamonds using electron microscopy. In addition, samples from modern wildfires and controlled heating experiments will be analysed for nanodiamonds to investigate possible non-impact related origins of the nanodiamonds.

In the samples from the Usselo layer at Aalsterhut, we have found nano-crystalline carbon aggregates with selected area electron diffraction patterns similar to nanodiamond.

Pretty intriguing, huh?  And how ironic to come right on the heels of the personal trashing given Allen West in a recent blog. Kind of a back-to-the-science drum roll.

I feel for and admire Marshall and van Hoesal who reveal their work during a period of vicious personal criticism of the theory and its earlier proponents. I am sure it does not make it any easier to confirm extrordinary things in extraordinary places when the first folks to do so are being eviscerated as kooks, fools and charlatans (even if by a handful).

But science does have a distinguished history of avoiding being extinguished.  The insistence by some that we all “move along, move along” and that “there is nothing to see here” is more foolhardy in this instance than is normally the case with idea pogroms.  The Younger Dryas Boundary covers a great deal of ground — literally.  If a guy in Ontario with a video camera in his backyard can add to the debate — those who wish to sweep it all away are in trouble.

But these folks were not guys with video cameras in their backyards.  Ms. Van Hoesal is from Ultrecht University in the Netherlands, which seems to be a reliable authority on ancient dutch soils. You will remember this institution as the home of catastrophist Han Kloosterman’s erstwhile nemesis, Eduard Atze Koster, with whom Han had a run-in over the same Usselo black band studied again today by Van Hoesal and U-U. [Tusk Exclusive]

I’d love to be a tulip in the faculty lounge when those two generations compare field notes.

The Kloosterman layer

Recall as well that the same subterranean black stripe was also discovered to be diamondiferous by Tian, Claeys and Schryvers in their dissonantly titled 2010 PNAS paper, “Nanodiamonds do not provide unique evidence for Younger Dryas Impact.” Covered here in the Tusk. And previously found by Schryvers, et. al. in at least two European locations. Covered here.

Notably, the earliest Schryvers work (way back in 2006) discovered and specifically described the nanodiamonds as encrusting anomalous “Carbon Spherules.”  These are the same spherules dismissed as insect poop by Andrew Scott and reported by my man Richard Kerr of Science.

Which begs me to ask, what is more likely, that multiple, serious, dutch and german scientists have been finding nanodiamonds in bug feces over five years, failed to identify the carbon as simple crap, and mistakenly called for a “systematic, world-wide study of the materials“?  Or that smug doubters like Kerr and Scott are willing to believe anything — but the truth?

Finally, we have Mr. Marshall’s confirmation of Iridium in concentration at the Younger Dryas Boundary, but this time in Southwest England. This was more of a surprise than the previously reported nanodiamonds littering the continental low-country. For one, Iridium has never been at the top of the list of solid evidence for the Event, even for the core supporters. Apparently, it is expensive to test for and the results can swing around a lot depending on concentrations within particularly grains and such.  But replication is the most sincere form of flattery, and Marshall and his team bring another fine data point to the fore.

To be proofed and continued…

23 Responses

  1. The forces of darkness think they have the YD situation all under control, but now that you’re all here – surprise!

    Kind of reminds me of the battle of Stalingrad.

  2. Something of significance happened at Stalingrad???

    My word… LOL

    Yep… Stalingrad pretty much saved the world from someone with a moustache and an Austrian accent…

    Or “How To Lose a War In One Easy Lesson..”

  3. Hawks Tor, where the Iridium concentration is found at YDr time, is a rock outcropping in Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England. A jpg is here:
    A great example of the slow grind of science mills after the discovery of the ice age in the first half of the 19th century, by Louis Agassiz 1837 preceded by Jean de Charpentier, Ignaz Venetz 1821, Jean-Pierre Perraudin 1818 [Wikipedia].

  4. Come on guys, pick it apart. I want to hear from you on something that matters. In fact, any troublesome regulars that do not comment on point, but not at point, will banished. Start typing E.P, Chick and Dennis.

  5. Hi George –

    There’s nothing here I want to pick apart.

    I would only add that the carbon dates for recovered mammoth remains are “interesting”, and it is a shame that more mega-fauna remains recovered in North America have not been dated to determine their time of death.

  6. 6 crater fields in central New Mexico: Dennis Cox: Rich Murray 2011.07.09


    A Catastrophe of Comets

    More New Mexico Craters

    Rich Murray: I slightly adjusted the view locations.

    They sure look like impact craters…

    Ground samples may reveal evidence of blast and surface melting and coating.

    69 views are in:


    A Cox
    34.281890 -105.139342 1.755 km area el
    just S of County Road 3Ka, which comes from
    10M SW of 285
    and then W and N to 54, 60, 285 just W of Vaughn —
    22 M S of Vaughn
    75 M NNW of Roswell
    many craters .01 to 0.1 km size

    B Cox
    34.254942 -105.117973
    10 M SW of 285
    many craters

    C Cox
    34.203891 -105.058533 1.674 km area el
    9 M SW of 285
    .05 km wide 4 m deep

    D Cox
    34.191197 -105.027841 1.644 km area el
    8 M SW of 285
    .07 km size 13 m deep

    E Cox
    34.207906 -105.02134 1.606 km area el
    7 M SW of 285
    .04 km wide 3 m deep

    F Cox
    34.210453 -105.03963 1.645 km area el
    8 M SW of 285
    .05 km wide 4 m deep

  7. @E.P.:
    . . carbon dates for recovered mammoth remains . .

    Have been trying to find a reference for this, your remark above. Is it in one of the INQUA abstracts?

  8. Hi Hermann –

    In my usual manner, I “stumbled” across a reference.

    Given that, the problem would have been breaking out the data site by site, then sampling.

    While this may come as a surprise to some archaeologists, it will not come as a surprise to some paleontologists: a site did not have to be occupied at the time to demonstrate YD markers.


    I have a throbbing head, no passport, and a pocked empty of Swiss currency. Taking a quick look at the Inqua summary, I have no idea what will be presented there, and would not publicly state it if I did.

    These folks are fairly vicious, you know…

  9. Ed, how did you make it to Bern, Switzerland, as I infer you did, without your passport? Swiss aren’t they the nice people, like giving asylum to one & all? Or, are you at the INQUA “only in your dreams?”

    Best wishes from your puzzled friend. hgwb.

  10. Sorry, Hermann –

    I find it baffling why you continue to think I’m in Bern. I was trying to humorously emphasize in that post that I am not in Bern.

    Perhaps parts of it will not be net-cast sometime.

    Once again, in my view the most important paper in the session is likely to be the one on northward drainage at the end of the Pleistocene.

  11. Good morning, CL –

    On the subject of cognitive dissonance, Sarah Palin lost her virginity while drunk.

    Aside from that, a prostitution ring servicing academics was busted – clients to be revealed shortly.

    And here’s one for Dennis Cox: Obama continues budget talks with GOP leadership.

  12. Chicken,

    I have invited you over to NAFPS to discuss the “Allegewi”.

    As far your complaints about my dates go, as usual you are incoherent. What the hell are you trying to say?

    George, since Mr. Cox has left, would you please escort CL out of here?

  13. Dinos wiped out by asteroid, N Dakota (?) kid, Yale wiz grad student, discovers crucial fossil in SE Montana.

    Has his own research foundation Marmarth, ND.

    From BIOLOGY LETTERS, Royal Society, Abstract:

    Dinosaur extinction: closing the ‘3 m gap’

    Tyler R. Lyson1,2,*,
    Antoine Bercovici3,
    Stephen G. B. Chester4,
    Eric J. Sargis4,5,
    Dean Pearson6 and
    Walter G. Joyce5,7

    + Author Affiliations

    1Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
    2Marmarth Research Foundation, Marmarth, ND 58643, USA
    3State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental Geology (China University of Geosciences), Wuhan 430074, China
    4Department of Anthropology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA
    5Division of Vertebrate Paleontology, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, CT 06520, USA
    6Pioneer Trails Regional Museum, Bowman, ND 58623, USA
    7Department of Geosciences, University of Tübingen, 72074 Tübingen, Germany

    ↵*Author for correspondence ([email protected]).


    Modern debate regarding the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs was ignited by the publication of the Cretaceous–Tertiary (K–T) asteroid impact theory and has seen 30 years of dispute over the position of the stratigraphically youngest in situ dinosaur. A zone devoid of dinosaur fossils reported from the last 3 m of the Upper Cretaceous, coined the ‘3 m gap’, has helped drive controversy. Here, we report the discovery of the stratigraphically youngest in situ dinosaur specimen: a ceratopsian brow horn found in a poorly rooted, silty, mudstone floodplain deposit located no more than 13 cm below the palynologically defined boundary. The K–T boundary is identified using three criteria: (i) decrease in Cretaceous palynomorphs without subsequent recovery, (ii) the existence of a ‘fern spike’, and (iii) correlation to a nearby stratigraphic section where primary extraterrestrial impact markers are present (e.g. iridium anomaly, spherules, shocked quartz). The in situ specimen demonstrates that a gap devoid of non-avian dinosaur fossils does not exist and is inconsistent with the hypothesis that non-avian dinosaurs were extinct prior to the K–T boundary impact event.

    See also

  14. Good Afternoon, Hermann –

    The sequence is best described here:


    Where that 3 meters fits into this I don’t know yet. Perhaps it reflects the effects of earlier smaller impacts that have not been located yet.

    I would guess that fine scale gravity maps probably already show a lot of buried craters. Perhaps that data will be released by finding the craters and then publishing them, without releasing the original gravity mappings.

    In other news, I’m waiting for the Hubble shots of the fragments of 73P.

  15. No general media coveage of Bern, George. We await the reports from your correspondents.

    The northern outflow data is of particular interest.

  16. Ill see what I can find out, Ed. Thanks for the heads-up. There is a lot of very good research going on out there. Pretty conclusive stuff, or mighty difficult to explain for the skeptics. I hope some of it comes out at Bern. I look forward to hearing and sharing. Let me know if that chick re-appears.

  17. burning at 12.9 Ka, Allen West — also extinctions, Douglas Kennett, poster abstracts 2011 INQUA, Bern, Switzerland: Rich Murray 2011.07.27


    Abstract Details

    ID: 1619
    Title: Evidence for Widespread Biomass-Burning at the Younger Dryas Boundary at 12.9 ka

    Abundance peaks in charcoal, grape-cluster soot, and carbon spherules suggest that a major, cross-continental episode of biomass-burning occurred at the onset of the Younger Dryas (YD) cooling.
    These peaks appear contemporaneous with Greenland ice core spikes in ammonium, nitrate, formate, and oxalate, which also are interpreted to represent biomass-burning.
    This evidence is consistent with a cosmic impact at 12.9 ka.

    Contradicting this, the Marlon group (2009) analyzed 35 lakes cores from across North America and found no evidence for a biomass-burning episode within ±50 yrs of 12.9 ka.
    We propose that multiple 14C dating errors, along with statistical issues, may have led the Marlon group to an erroneous conclusion.
    Their lake records contain numerous cumulative dating uncertainties:

    Average chronological sample resolution was about ±180 yrs;
    The 14C dates they used had a mean error of ±132 yrs; and
    For the 14C dates closest in age to 12.9 ka, the mean interval was >1100 yrs younger or older.

    Collectively, these errors make it impossible to reach conclusions about the timing of a burning episode at 12.9 ka with a certainty of ±50 yrs.
    After reviewing Marlon’s results, we argue that there is sufficient evidence for widespread wildfires dating to the YD onset.
    In addition, we analyzed cores from 35 other lakes broadly distributed across North America and found that they also exhibit a collective charcoal peak at 12.9 ka within the limits of 14C uncertainty.
    We also detected above-background concentrations of charcoal in 23 of 25 non-lacustrine sedimentary sections that date to about 12.9 ka.
    The existence of charcoal that is widespread, but not ubiquitous, plausibly supports a major continental biomass-burning episode at 12.9 ka.
    The K-T impact layer is the only other known horizon that contains peaks in charcoal, soot, carbon spherules, and nanodiamonds, further suggesting a cosmic connection for the YDB layer.

    Session: 60 The enigmatic Younger Dryas climatic episode
    Authors: James Kennett
    Ted E. Bunch
    Allen West
    Presenter: Allen West
    Type: poster


    Abstract Details

    ID: 3116

    Title: Megafaunal Extinction at the Younger Dryas Onset in North America
    At least 35 mammal and 19 bird genera became extinct across North America near the end of the Pleistocene.
    Modern increases in stratigraphic and dating resolution suggest that this extinction occurred relatively rapidly and perhaps in two stages near 12.9 ka (11 radiocarbon kyrs).
    Within the context of a long-standing debate about its cause, Firestone et al., (2007) proposed that this extinction resulted from an extraterrestrial (ET) impact over North America at 12.9 ka.
    This hypothesis predicts that the extinction of most of these animals should have occurred abruptly at 12.9 ka.
    To test this hypothesis, we have critically examined radiocarbon ages and the extinction stratigraphy of these taxa.
    From a large data pool, we selected only radiocarbon dates with low error margins with a preference for directly dated biological materials (e.g., bone, dung, etc.) and modern chemical purification techniques.
    The stratigraphic and chronologic data are consistent with megafaunal extinction being caused by continental-scale ecosystem disruption at the onset of the Younger Dryas.

    Session: 60 The enigmatic Younger Dryas climatic episode
    Authors: Douglas Kennett
    Douglas Kennett
    Presenter: Douglas Kennett
    Type: poster

  18. Younger Dryas Onset Marked by Dramatic Environmental and Biotic Change, James Kennett talk, INQUA 2011 Bern, Switzerland: Rich Murray 2011.07.27


    [ click on Next Abstract for next talk in this session ]

    Abstract Details

    ID: 1666
    Title: Younger Dryas Onset Marked by Dramatic Environmental and Biotic Change

    The onset of the Younger Dryas (YD) episode was marked by a complex array of abrupt and potentially linked changes in the Earth’s environmental and biotic systems.
    We will broadly review YD changes in atmosphere and ocean circulation, ice sheets, North American continental hydrosphere, biosphere including extinctions, and human culture.
    The cause of the YD is controversial and currently debated, yet any causal hypothesis needs to account for these changes.
    ,Such cooling episodes with YD characteristics and timing in earlier Terminations appear more affiliated with terminal glacial episodes.
    YD onset is also outstanding because of close collective association with major, abrupt continental-scale ecological reorganization, megafaunal extinction and human adaptive shifts.
    The YD climate onset was remarkably abrupt (~one year) suggesting atmospheric climate response preceded oceanic change.
    Maximum cooling was atypically early, near the YD onset and associated with an abrupt increase in atmospheric dust.
    A major North American hydrographic reorganization, apparently associated with destabilization of ice sheet margins, was marked by abrupt switch in flow from the south to northern oceans.
    This outburst flooding may have coincided with major drainage of Lake Agassiz.
    Associated outburst floods affected widely separated areas of the Arctic.
    The ocean responded by major change in meridional overturning.
    On land, responses include widespread evidence of biomass burning;
    change in sediment deposition including a layer with exotic materials interpreted to be of cosmic impact origin;
    broad continental vegetation disruption;
    abrupt megafaunal extinction;
    and genetic bottlenecks reflecting population declines and/or animal migrations.
    The North American human record suggests abrupt disappearance of the Clovis culture;
    a human genetic bottleneck;
    and a widespread archeological gap during early YD centuries.

    Session: 60 The enigmatic Younger Dryas climatic episode
    Authors: James Kennett
    Presenter: James Kennett
    Type: oral

  19. …the Marlon group (2009) analyzed 35 lakes cores from across North America and found no evidence for a biomass-burning episode within ±50 yrs of 12.9 ka.

    Pardon my reverse skepticism, but there is no way C14 dating of multiple samples can be that precise. If they had 35 samples – unless the samples were all from within 2 inches of each other – the samples would have had variations of several hundred years. That is, unless they spuriously dumped ones that didn’t fit their dating, claiming that the samples were contaminated. If the samples were from widely separated sites, which one would expect them to be, and the TOTAL +/- range was only 50 years, this defies reality.

    For ONE C14 sample date claims a 1 sigma (SD) of +/- 50 years. (see http://www.c14dating.com/agecalc.html) 1 sigma is the standard reported sigma for a single sample, which means that 68% of the time the sample will fall within that 100 year total range. But 68% is crap for what they are claiming, and that is only for ONE sample. 68% means that nearly 1/3rd of the time the sample will fall outside the range, if I understand it correctly. If a second sample was only two year different, the combined range would rise to +/-51 years, and still only have that 68% probability of falling in that range.

    If they based their skepticism on a claim of only one or two samples, they would be mendacious. If they had 35 lake core samples the exact same nominal age, they are fudging their data.

    I don’t see any other conclusion, but if I am missing something would love to hear what my error in understanding is.

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