The true origin of ice ages



Startling New Thoughts

In approaching the fresh theory now to be advanced regarding the cause of ice ages, the reader must first abandon the idea that colder climate was a prerequisite for the advent of an ice age. Rather he must accept the thought that prior heat—tremendous, implacable, unearthly heat, far greater than the puny modicum of solar heat received by Earth—was absolutely necessary to set the stage for a glacial episode. It seems almost incredible that this conception has so long and so completely escaped comprehension. There is nothing whatever fantastic about it. It is based firmly upon scientific principles and laws of Nature. It is logical and should long since have been envisioned. But it is only when combined with the following new conception that its terrific impact becomes apparent.

The reader must next abandon the orthodox obsession that Earth’s oceans have always been as wide and deep as they are now. He must accept, instead, the verdict, disclosed by a limitless fund of evidence, that Earth’s hydrosphere has been repeatedly augmented during geological time and as recently as the Pleistocene.

The very instant these two revolutionary thoughts enter a person’s consciousness, a veritable flood of light comes pouring into his mind to illuminate a host of mysteries in Earth’s evolution which, up to that time, had remained shrouded in utter darkness. It becomes immediately apparent that they constitute the key to the true solution of glacial and many other geological phenomena. Failure to comprehend these two fundamentals has delayed solution of a host of Nature’s mysteries for more than one hundred years.

On previous pages the following conclusions were reached:

(1) that nothing short of world-wide, unearthly falls of snow or ice could possibly have created the inconceivably vast mass of ice which was contained in world-wide continental ice sheets;

(2) that in order for such tremendous downfalls to occur, the incredibly vast amount of required moisture would first have to be present in toto in space above; (3) that the intensity of solar or terrestrial heat which existed on Earth just prior to any of the ice ages, as proved by animal and vegetable fossils, was quite incapable of accomplishing such a tremendous result. Therefore, we conceived the first new concept, to wit, that only primitive heat, which existed during formative eons in Earth’s evolution, could have been the force which repelled such an astounding amount of moisture to space above.

Potent and revolutionary as that new concept is, the second new thought, that the amount of water on Earth has been increased within geological time, is perhaps the more significant and, no doubt, the more startling. Orthodox geological teaching insists that all other phases of terrestrial evolution required the lapse of eons; but as to accumulation of the hydrosphere, it rather inconsistently holds that all water descended to Earth’s surface in toto as soon as cooling of the crust permitted water to remain. Nevin (p. 292) expresses the prevalent belief and teaching when he says: “. . . the ocean is one of the oldest features on Earth. As soon as the crust cooled sufficiently, the ocean appeared. . . .” It requires but a moment’s thought to realize that had this been true, results would have been directly contrary to those which obviously have taken place.

Water Content of the Crust

Analysis of the various kinds of rock under land surfaces discloses that they contain water to the extent of from one-half to ten percent of their volume, the average being about five percent. Undoubtedly, also, interstices in the crust—pores, fissures, caves, etc.—contain in toto an enormous quantity of water. A tiny four-inch hole drilled on land at any spot in the world to an average depth of not more than 100 feet, will encounter water; whereas on the surface of land the average distance from one stream or pond to another will average probably a score of miles. It would almost seem that there is more water underground than there is above!

There can be no doubt that Earth’s waters are still being gradually absorbed into the crust, and coming ages will certainly diminish the volume of the oceans. (Will rocks continue to drink until some day Earth’s surface will be as dry as is that of the moon? Perhaps!) If but the first 25 miles in depth of Earth’s outer shell has imbibed water in the amount of only 2%% of its volume—a mere half the average for rocks near the surface—there is enough water in that shallow portion of the crust to raise the ocean level some 3,300 feet! Of course this suggested percentage may be nowhere near the truth; but surely water penetrates more deeply and accumulates to a greater percentage in rocks beneath ocean floors than it does beneath continental platforms. It does not seem fantastic to assume that absorption by chemical and physical processes combined may have occurred to the extent mentioned.

We can all agree that if and when Earth’s core was igneous, all water must necessarily have been vaporized and repelled from the core to some unknown, but great distance above. If all this vapor condensed and descended at once when heat ceased to repel it, as suggested by Nevin, it follows from the foregoing reasoning and computation that originally the oceans must have been so much deeper than they are now that very, very little or no dry land existed. Yet, quite to the contrary, every bit of evidence indicates unmistakably that throughout the whole of geologic time ocean levels have been lower and dry lands have been larger than they are now.

Water From Volcanism

So far as this writer has been able to discover, there has been only one inkling of suspicion that any increase in the amount of water on Earth could have occured since the beginning. This one suspicion is that perhaps the hydrosphere has been augmented by water emitted in volcanic eruptions. This suggestion has been advanced in an attempt to account for the fact that sea level in past times obviously was much lower than it is at present. Kuenan concludes, from computations he made, that the total increase from volcanic sources is insignificant. In any event, it seems quite impossible that enough water could have been spewed out of Earth’s bowels by volcanoes to raise sea level 10,000 or 12,000 feet. On the face of it the suggestion appears to approach the preposterous. It merely illustrates to what illogical ends blind groping for a solution can lead. In vain may one search the pages of both early and late geological literature for the slightest hint, other than the above, that the hydrosphere now differs, in gross amount, one drop from what it was at the beginning of geological time! Nevin says (p. 292): “Certainly during the past billion years . . . there has been little change in the total amount of ocean water.”