Before plucking up the courage to ask the big question it’s worth reviewing a couple points about the Greenland Ice Sheet courtesy of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Firstly, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center the highest parts of the Greenland bedrock rise to 3,239 metres above sea level whilst the maximum altitude of the ice sheet is about 50 metres higher at [about] 3,290 metres.
The ice surface reaches its greatest altitude on two north-south elongated domes, or ridges.
The southern dome reaches almost 3,000 metres (10,000 ft) at latitudes 63°–65°N; the northern dome reaches about 3,290 metres (10,800 ft) at about latitude 72°N.
The crests of both domes are displaced east of the centre line of Greenland.
The unconfined ice sheet does not reach the sea along a broad front anywhere in Greenland, so that no large ice shelves occur.
The ice margin just reaches the sea, however, in a region of irregular topography in the area of Melville Bay southeast of Thule.
Large outlet glaciers, which are restricted tongues of the ice sheet, move through bordering valleys around the periphery of Greenland to calve off into the ocean, producing the numerous icebergs that sometimes occur in North Atlantic shipping lanes.
The best known of these outlet glaciers is Jakobshavn Isbræ (Greenlandic: Sermeq Kujalleq), which, at its terminus, flows at speeds of 20 to 22 metres or 66 to 72 feet per day.
On the ice sheet, temperatures are generally substantially lower than elsewhere in Greenland.
The lowest mean annual temperatures, about −31 °C (−24 °F), occur on the north-central part of the north dome, and temperatures at the crest of the south dome are about −20 °C (−4 °F).
Secondly, the bedrock of Greenland forms a natural basin with the lowest level of this basin reaching down to about 963 metres below sea level according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Overlaying the bedrock map with the profile of the thickest section of the Greenland Ice Sheet [3,000 to 3,367 metres] reveals how the main body of the ice sheet nestles in the natural inland basin of Greenland that is predominantly surrounded by coastal mountains.
Ultimately, the bedrock basin [both] contains and supports the viscous ice sheet.
These observations have important implications for Ice Age enthusiasts who envisage vast viscous ice sheets that are “3 to 4 km thick” because these ice thicknesses can only be achieved where the ice is contained within a natural basin or valley that restricts the natural flow of the ice.
During the most recent North American glaciation, during the latter part of the Wisconsin Stage (26,000 to 13,300 years ago), ice sheets extended to about 45 degrees north latitude.
These sheets were 3 to 4 km thick.
The natural Greenland basin also has very important implications for Ice Flow Models because flow becomes increasingly restricted with depth as there are fewer outlets and overflows.
The flow direction and rate changes with altitude as additional gravity fed outlets and overflows become accessible whilst flow will probably cease entirely for the ice confined in the central sump [which is below sea level].
Having covered those few points lets move on to the big question.
What came first: The Ice Age or the Glacier?
The Settled Scientists believe Greenland ice cores encapsulate the Holocene Hockey Stick with the lower layers [with lower d18O values] containing an ancient history that includes the Last Ice Age, Dansgaard–Oeschger Events and [sometimes] beyond.
The Settled Scientists also believe the upper sections of the ice cores were deposited during the current Interglacial Period which is warmer that the Last Ice Age.
Warmer is a relative term because snow and ice are still accumulating in Greenland.
In other words, the Greenland Ice Sheet is still experiencing Ice Age conditions except it now enjoys warmer snow and ice [with higher d18O values].
The main tenets of this Settled Science originated in an analysis of the Camp Century ice core that was published in 1969.
However, that 1969 analysis included some rather strange assumptions that included:
a) “unchanged thickness of the ice sheet”
b) “unchanged flow pattern back in time”.
In other words, the ice sheet didn’t grow and develop – it just materialised fully formed and has remained unchanged ever since.
A Flow Model and a Time Scale for the Ice Core from Camp Century, Greenland
W. Dansgaard and S. J. Johnsen – Journal of Glaciology – Vol 8 No 53 – 1969
These assumptions are critical to Settled Science because they enable the Settled Scientists to presume the ice core represents a uninterrupted time continuum that connects the modern era to the Last Ice Age [and beyond].
Thus, in an ironic twist of fate, Settled Scientists have developed a Post-Normal Creationist storyline that excludes Evolutionary Glaciology from Greenland.
However, if you don’t believe ice sheets suddenly materialise overnight fully formed then that opens up the possibility that the Greenland Ice Sheet grew and developed so that it could eventually smother most of the great Greenland basin in snow and ice.
Developing an Evolutionary history for the Greenland Ice Sheet is a novel experience because the mainstream Post-Normal Creationist storyline is [primarily] a bare bones chronology that provides scant detail.
Post-Normal Creationism is also short on processes whilst being long [winded] on speculation and conjecture.
The processes behind the timing and amplitude of these events (as recorded in ice cores) are still unclear.
The causes of ice ages are not fully understood for either the large-scale ice age periods or the smaller ebb and flow of glacial–interglacial periods within an ice age.
Nevertheless, let’s start the Evolutionary history with a bare bones bedrock basin that simply collects rainwater in two central lakes that have cut overflow canyons through the mountains to the sea.
Continuing the Evolutionary history [that focuses upon what happened rather than why it happened] the high mountain peaks surrounding the Greenland basin develop snow caps.
With sufficient additional snowfall the snow capped mountains form glaciers.
Ice will not flow until it has reached a thickness of 30 meters (98 ft), but after 50 meters (164 ft), small amounts of stress can result in a large amount of strain, causing the deformation to become a plastic flow rather than elastic.
At this point the glacier will begin to deform under its own weight and flow across the landscape.
The numerous Greenland mountain tops [fed with sufficient snow] then developed a network of glaciers that flowed [outwards] towards the sea and [inwards] towards the lakes in the central basin.
Depending upon the local topography the inland glaciers converging upon the lakes in the Greenland basin may have been up to 1,500 metres deep.
Taku Glacier is a tidewater glacier located in Taku Inlet in the U.S. state of Alaska, just southeast of the city of Juneau.
Recognized as the deepest and thickest glacier known in the world, the Taku Glacier is measured at 4,845 feet (1,477 m) thick.
It is about 58 kilometres (36 mi) long, and is largely within the Tongass National Forest.
Eventually, the converging glaciers ploughed into the inland wetlands and lakes.
Upper two panels:
Methane concentration vs. depth in GISP2 ice core (E. Brook, unpublished results);
Middle two panels:
Concentration of cells stained with Syto-23 vs. depth;
Lower two panels:
Concentration of methanogens determined by counting F420 autofluorescence (adapted from Tung et al., 2005).
The top two panels, from measurements of trapped methane sampled every few meters of depth (Brook, unpublished results), shows concentrations that range from ~350 to ~750 ppbv, in strong correlation with climate, with the exception of anomalously high values at three depths: 2954, 3018 and 3036 m.
It should be emphasized that the excesses at those three depths came from a microbial community that had been living in an anaerobic wetland before being frozen and incorporated into the 14-m thick silty ice at the bottom and into several layers of ice above the silty region.
Microbial life in glacial ice and implications for a cold origin of life – P. Buford Price
Physics Department, University of California, Berkeley, USA
The converging glaciers then formed ice shelves over the deeper sections of the inland lakes until they effectively iced over the lakes – trapping silty water beneath the ice.
The ice thickness then began to slowly increase being continuously fed by the mountain glaciers and winter snow.
Superficial summer melting occurred on the ice but it refroze in winter [just as observed today].
This led to the development of dirty layers of refrozen ice [containing cryoconite] above the lower layers of frozen silty lake water.
The flow of mountain glacier ice slowly diminished as the gradient leveled off between the mountains and the rising ice level in the central basin.
However, once the glacial foundations of the ice sheet have been formed the level of ice still continued to rise because it was fed by the local precipitation of snow [and the freezing of melt water and rain in the winter].
Furthermore, as the ice slowly accumulated the atmospheric lapse rate ensured any summer rain would eventually turn to sleet [and then snow] as the ice level gained altitude.
The accumulation of snow upon a glacial foundation is an intermediate stage in the growth of an ice sheet that can be best described as a Snow Lake.
Snow Lake, or Lukpe Lawo, is a high-altitude glacial basin in the Karakoram mountain range in Gilgit-Baltistan. It is not a lake.
Snow Lake is located 16,000 feet (4,877 m) above sea level, and is approximately 10 miles (16 km) wide.
The basin lies at the head of the Biafo and Hispar glaciers, which spread down from the Hispar Pass in opposite directions, forming a 61 mile (100 km) river of ice that is among the world’s longest continuous glacier systems outside of the polar regions.
In 1899, the husband-wife team of William Hunter Workman and Fanny Bullock Workman came and speculated that Snow Lake might be an ice-cap like those in the polar regions, from which glaciers flowed out in all directions, and estimated its total size at 300 square miles (116 square kilometres).
Finally, with the continued accumulation of snow the concave Snow Lake makes the final transition [with extra layers of clear ice] to a convex ice sheet [nestled in the central Greenland basin] built upon a foundation of silty lake ice and dirty glacial ice.
Evolutionary Glaciology suggests that the storyline associated with the Greenland ice cores is that of the Ice Age currently being experienced by Greenland.
Evolutionary Glaciology also suggests the concepts of the Holocene Hockey Stick, Dansgaard–Oeschger Events, the Last Ice Age and the Current Interglacial are fanciful fictions.
Hopefully, the reader can now evaluate Post-Normal Creationism and Evolutionary Glaciology so that they can answer the big question for themselves.