Holes in the Ice Age Story

Holes in the Ice Age Story
Anyone familiar with the Ice Age Story has probably seen a rather scary depiction of the Last Glacial Maximum where Greenland in covered by a huge permanent [black ink] ice sheet.
Maximum glaciation of the northern hemisphere

What is not so widely promoted is a subtle change in language whereby the certainty regarding the permanent ice sheet over Greenland has been downgraded to a lowly perhaps.

Quaternary glaciation also known as the Pleistocene glaciation or the current ice age, refers to a series of glacial events separated by interglacial events during the Quaternary period from 2.58 Ma (million years ago) to present.

During this period, permanent ice sheets were established in Antarctica and perhaps Greenland, and fluctuating ice sheets occurred elsewhere (for example, the Laurentide ice sheet).


This perhaps is probably best illustrated by the 57,000 square kilometre tract of northern Greenland called Peary Land which “was not covered by glaciers during the most recent ice age.”

Peary Land is not part of any municipality, but is part of the Northeast Greenland National Park.

The size of the region is about 375 km east-west and 200 km north-south, with an estimated area of 57 000 km².

It is only a bit more than 700 km south of the North Pole.

The area is mountainous, with elevations to 1 950 m in the heavily glaciated Roosevelt Range and to comparable heights in the little-explored H.H. Benedict Range.

It is free of Greenland’s inland ice cap.

Being mostly north of the 82°N parallel, it contains the most northerly ice-free region of the world, mostly in Southern Peary Land (such as Melville Land just north of the Independence Fjord).

Precipitation levels are so low (only about 25 to 200 mm per year, all as snow) that it is called a polar desert.

It was not covered by glaciers during the most recent ice age.

Peary Land - North Greenland


However, this perhaps is not limited to Peary Land because during the Last Glacial Maximum “only southern Greenland (south of lat. 69°-72°N) saw a major expansion of the ice sheet” according to a paper from 1996.

Ice margin reconstructions of the Greenland ice sheet during LGM (c. 21-16 ka) and 10 ka are based on published onshore field evidence supplemented with recent studies on the East
Greenland shelf and results of current field work in the Scoresby Sund area.

Additional evidence comes from the pattern of Holocene uplift and the frequency istribution of more than 1000 14C-dates.

During LGM, only southern Greenland (south of lat. 69°-72°N) saw a major expansion of the ice sheet with thick cover over the present coastline and onto the shelf.

In the north, outlet glaciers filled fjord basins, including the Nares Strait between Canada and Greenland, and piedmont glaciers descended from coastal mountains onto the coastline, but the glaciers did not cover the shelf.

The Greenland ice sheet – a model for its culmination and decay during and after the last glacial maximum – Svend Funder and Louise Hansen
Bulletin of the Geological Society of Denmark – Vol. 42 – 1996

Click to access bull42-02-137-152.pdf

Topographic map of Greenland bedrock

Overall, the description of the Last Glacial Maximum in Greenland doesn’t match the grandeur of the illustrations that are generally used to depict the Last Glacial Maximum.

West Greenland
In summary, the LGM West Greenland ice margin south of lat. 72°N was lobate and followed the inner shelf but with outlets through transverse channels. The ice sheet over the coast and shelf was thin, especially in the north, and high coastal mountains were free of ice.

North Greenland
In summary, the North Greenland shelves saw only restricted glaciation during the LGM. The ice margins were located at fjord mouths and on the inner shelf where calving was restricted by low temperatures and permanent sea ice. An exception to this is the Nares Strait between Canada and Greenland which was occupied by the Smith Sound ice stream which calved into Baffin Bay.

East Greenland
Therefore, the East Greenland coast displays two distinctly different types of glacier behaviour during LGM: In the southern parts, the Inland Ice expanded onto the wide shelf and reached the outer shelf break; but from Scoresby Sund and northwards glaciation was restricted to outlet glaciers which filled the fjord troughs but left the adjacent uplands free of ice cover and had their snouts on the inner shelf

Greenland - Major ice free areas

Model of LGM (green) and 10 ka (red) ice margins in Greenland.
Brown areas are major ice free areas and numbers are altitudes of ice surface during LGM. Numbers in italic are minimum 14C-ages of initial break up of the ice margin.

The Greenland ice sheet – a model for its culmination and decay during and after the last glacial maximum
Svend Funder and Louise Hansen
Bulletin of the Geological Society of Denmark – Vol. 42 – 1996

Click to access bull42-02-137-152.pdf

Basically, the ice free areas in the Interglacial and Last Glacial Maximum [from the 1996 paper] are very similar.

Greenland - Comparision

Therefore, based upon this evidence, the Last Ice Age could more accurately be described as a Sea Ice Era that engulfed the coast of Greenland.

Strangely enough, descriptions of the Little Ice Age [“conventionally defined as a period extending from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries”] indicate that it could also be described as a Sea Ice Era because the “Sea ice surrounding Iceland extended for miles in every direction”.

Europe and North America
The Little Ice Age brought colder winters to parts of Europe and North America.
Farms and villages in the Swiss Alps were destroyed by encroaching glaciers during the mid-seventeenth century.

Canals and rivers in Great Britain and the Netherlands were frequently frozen deeply enough to support ice skating and winter festivals.
The first River Thames frost fair was in 1607 and the last in 1814; changes to the bridges and the addition of an embankment affected the river flow and depth, hence diminishing the possibility of freezes.

Freezing of the Golden Horn and the southern section of the Bosphorus took place in 1622. In 1658, a Swedish army marched across the Great Belt to Denmark to attack Copenhagen. The winter of 1794-1795 was particularly harsh, when the French invasion army under Pichegru could march on the frozen rivers of the Netherlands, while the Dutch fleet was fixed in the ice in Den Helder harbour.
In the winter of 1780, New York Harbor froze, allowing people to walk from Manhattan to Staten Island.

Sea ice surrounding Iceland extended for miles in every direction, closing harbors to shipping.

The population of Iceland fell by half, but this was perhaps caused by fluorosis after the eruption of the volcano Laki in 1783. Iceland also suffered failures of cereal crops, and people moved away from a grain-based diet. The Norse colonies in Greenland starved and vanished (by the early fifteenth century), as crops failed and livestock could not be maintained through increasingly harsh winters, though Jared Diamond noted they had exceeded the agricultural carrying capacity before then. In North America, American Aborigines formed leagues in response to food shortages. In Lisbon, Portugal, snowstorms were much more frequent than today. Heavy snowfalls in the winters of 1665, 1744 and 1886 were reported.

Hubert Lamb said that in many years, “snowfall was much heavier than recorded before or since, and the snow lay on the ground for many months longer than it does today.”

Many springs and summers were cold and wet, but with great variability between years and groups of years. Crop practices throughout Europe had to be altered to adapt to the shortened, less reliable growing season, and there were many years of dearth and famine (such as the Great Famine of 1315–1317, although this may have been before the LIA proper).

According to Elizabeth Ewan and Janay Nugent, “Famines in France 1693–94, Norway 1695–96 and Sweden 1696–97 claimed roughly 10% of the population of each country.
In Estonia and Finland in 1696–97, losses have been estimated at a fifth and a third of the national populations, respectively.” Viticulture disappeared from some northern regions.
Violent storms caused serious flooding and loss of life. Some of these resulted in permanent loss of large areas of land from the Danish, German and Dutch coasts.

The extent of mountain glaciers had been mapped by the late nineteenth century.
In both the north and the south temperate zones, snowlines (the boundaries separating zones of net accumulation from those of net ablation) were about 100 m lower than they were in 1975. In Glacier National Park, the last episode of glacier advance came in the late 18th and early nineteenth centuries. In Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, large temperature excursions were possibly related to changes in the strength of North Atlantic thermohaline circulation. In North America, the early European explorers and settlers reported exceptionally severe winters.

For example, according to Lamb, Samuel Champlain reported bearing ice along the shores of Lake Superior in June 1608; both Europeans and indigenous peoples suffered excess mortality in Maine during the winter of 1607-1608; and extreme frost was reported in the Jamestown, Virginia settlement at the same time.


Observation in the Europe, North America and Greenland also indicate that the Little Ice Age was also associated with glacial advance.

Greenland - Little Ice Age Limit

Photograph of MLS moraines at Bjørnbo Gletscher, where the side valley intersects Schuchert Dal. Bjørnbo Gletscher merged with a large valley glacier in Schuchert Dal during the MLS. View is to the west, and former ice flow in Schuchert Dal (foreground) was right to left. Historical (LIA) limits are shown by gray, unweathered rock. The marine deposits (w70e130 m elevation in the photograph) lie within areas formerly covered by MLS ice (as represented by the moraines). Mountains in the background rise to more than 2000 m elevation.

Relative Sea-level Changes, Schuchert Dal, East Greenland
B.L. Hall, C. Baroni, G.H. Denton
Quaternary Science Reviews – Volume 29, Issues 25–26, December 2010, Pages 3370–3378

Click to access halletal2010qsr.pdf

Therefore, it appears that the Ice Age Story and the Little Ice Age describe very similar events that could by typified as a Sea Ice Era where the northern reaches of Baffin Bay are choked with sea ice.

Baffin Bay (Inuktitut: Saknirutiak Imanga, French: Baie de Baffin), located between Baffin Island and the southwest coast of Greenland, is a marginal sea of the North Atlantic Ocean.

It is connected to the Atlantic via Davis Strait and the Labrador Sea.
A narrower Nares Strait connects Baffin Bay with the Arctic Ocean.


Greenland 1849

Furthermore, given the [geologically] recent land subsidence in the south of Greenland it is very possible that the noted loss of ice in southern Greenland is primarily associated with land subsidence and sea invasion.

According to Kuijpers et al. (1999) “various indications show that after mid-Holocene times the initial glacio isostatic rebound of Greenland was followed by increased subsidence”.

It seems that the younger part of the sea-level curve from the Sisimiut area may be explained in this way, resulting in a relative sea-level rise up towards present time.

It has long been known that part of the Norse settlements in Southwest Greenland were submerged by the rising sea.

Also in the Disko area north of Sisimiut similar situations have been recorded for some Inuit sites (Rasch and Jensen 1997)

Nipisat – a Saqqaq Culture Site in Sisimiut, Central West Greenland – 2004
Anne Birgitte Gotfredsen, Tinna Møbjerg, Ella Hoch and Kaj Strand Petersen
Meddelelser om Grønland – Man and Society 31


This explains why the mainstream is just spinning its wheels and burning the budget trying to account for a mythical Ice Age Story.

No completely satisfactory theory has been proposed to account for Earth’s history of glaciation.

The cause of glaciation may be related to several simultaneously occurring factors, such as astronomical cycles, atmospheric composition, plate tectonics, and ocean currents.


Gallery | This entry was posted in Catastrophism, Earth, Glaciology, Greenland. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Holes in the Ice Age Story

  1. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on CraigM350 and commented:
    An excellent thought provoking read as always Tim. Thanks

  2. William Thompson says:

    I have not been part of this blog but would like to introduce a concept, not my own, about at least one great glacial period being caused by extraterrestrial ice [maybe mixed with solid nitrogen].
    I think Patten’s Ice Dump theory [and maybe including Allan’s frozen nitrogen dump theory] are valid contestants. For example the ice dump [Patten (1966)] would have extraterrestrial ice coming in at the North and South Geomagnetic poles forming huge piles that spread out like sugar on a table if you pour some into one spot. It was near instantaneous, i.e. Frozen fauna like mammoths etc. The ice particles would become charged and follow the magnetic lines of force down to the areas near the geomagnetic poles. The ice is postulated to have come from an icy body such as one of the moons of Saturn or other body.

    Allan, Derek S. (2005) “An Unexplained Arctic Catastrophe – Part II: Some Unanswered Questions,” Chronology and Catastrophism Review 2005, pp. 3-7. [See Allan (2005) Arctic Catastrophe II Notes.docx]
    Patten, Donald W. (1966A) The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch: A Study in Scientific History, (Pacific Meridian Publishing Co. 13540 39th Av. NE, Seattle, WA 98125), [Online: html – http://www.creationism.org/patten/ A pdf version at http://www.scribd.com/doc/15782993/The-Biblical-Flood-and-the-Ice-Epoch – scribd.com]

    Patten, Donald W. (1966B) “Glaciogenesis: The Cause of the Ice Epoch,” Chapter VI, pp. 101-136 in Patten (1966A) The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch.

  3. Pingback: Geomorphology – Bending the Truth | MalagaBay

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