Skip to comments.African Ice Core Analysis Reveals Catastrophic Droughts, Shrinking Ice Fields, Civilization Shifts
Posted on 10/18/2002 7:41:36 AM PDT by blam
African Ice Core Analysis Reveals Catastrophic Droughts, Shrinking Ice Fields, Civilization Shifts
COLUMBUS, Ohio A detailed analysis of six cores retrieved from the rapidly shrinking ice fields atop Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro shows that those tropical glaciers began to form about 11,700 years ago. The cores also yielded remarkable evidence of three catastrophic droughts that plagued the tropics 8,300, 5,200 and 4,000 years ago.
Lastly, the analysis also supports Ohio State University researchers' prediction that these unique bodies of ice will disappear in the next two decades, the victims of global warming. These findings were published today in the journal Science.
Lonnie Thompson, professor of geological sciences at Ohio State and leader of an expedition in 2000 to retrieve these cores, called Kilimanjaro's ice fields "stagnant" and said they are "wasting away."
Thompson and his colleagues retrieved six cores from the mountain two years ago after his team spent more than a month camped at a drill site above 19,300 feet. After a logistical nightmare requiring the hiring of 92 porters and obtaining 25 official permits, the team returned 215 meters (705 feet) of frozen ice core to the freezers at the university's Byrd Polar Research Center.
One key to dating the core came with the finding of a chemical marker in the ice -- a spike of the isotope chlorine-36, a radioactive remnant of nuclear bomb testing in 1951-52. The same spike appears in cores the team had retrieved from both South America and China, and this allows them to calibrate the historic records trapped in the ice.
Clues from the cores suggest a much different, far wetter landscape near Kilimanjaro 9,500 years ago than exists there today. Thompson said that at that time, Lake Chad, now the fourth-largest body of water on the African continent with an area of about 17,000 square kilometers today, covered some 350,000 square kilometers an area larger than the Caspian Sea.
The analysis of the core showed a 500-year period beginning around 8,300 years ago when methane levels preserved in polar ice cores dropped dramatically. "We believe that this represents a time when the lakes of Africa were drying up," Thompson said, adding that the methane levels would register the extent of the wetlands thriving in the tropics.
The cores showed an abrupt depletion in oxygen-18 isotopes that researchers believe signals a second drought event occurring around 5,200 years ago. This cool, dry event coincides with the period when anthropologists believe people in the region began to come together to form cities and social structures. Prior to this, the population of mainly hunters and gatherers had been more scattered.
The third marker is a visible dust layer in the ice cores dating back to about 4,000 years ago. Thompson believes this marks a severe 300-year drought which struck the region. Historical records show that a massive drought rocked the Egyptian empire at the time and threatened the rule of the Pharaohs. Until this time, Thompson said, people had been able to survive in areas that are now just barren Sahara Desert.
Last year Thompson initially predicted in a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science that Kilimanjaro's ice fields would vanish within 15 years. More recent evidence is reinforcing this prediction.
By using global positioning from satellites, aerial maps and an array of stakes placed on the ice cap, the researchers were able to confirm that the volume of the glacier is shrinking as well.
"We found that the summit of the ice fields has lowered by at least 17 meters (nearly 56 feet) since 1962," Thompson said. ""That's an average loss of about a half-meter in height each year."
They were also able to show that the margin of the Northern ice field had retreated more than 2 meters since 2000. "That's more than 2 meter's worth of ice lost from a wall 50 meters (164 feet) high - that's an enormous amount of ice."
Automated weather stations on the summit of Kilimanjaro and on the lowlands nearby now provide scientists with the ability to monitor local conditions in the region. Thompson says that with another major El Nino event expected soon, "what happens on the mountain will be very interesting to watch."
"Whatever happened to cause these dramatic climate changes in the past, could certainly occur again," he said. "But today, 70 percent of the world's population lives in the tropics. They would be dramatically affected by events of this magnitude. We have to find out what causes them to happen."
Along with Thompson, other members of the research team include Ellen Mosley Thompson, professor of geography, Victor Zagorodnov, Henry Brecher, Mary Davis, Keith Henderson, Ping-Nan Lin, Tracy Mashiotta, Vladamir Mikhalenko, Douglas Hardy and Jurg Beer.
The project was supported in part by a grant from the Earth System History Program of the National Science Foundation.
Editor's Note: The original news release can be found at http://www.osu.edu/researchnews/archive/kilicores.htm
Works for me.
I think most of us do. Won't you consider this:
The second one should be 3,200 BC. Interesting story. I'm glad the ~2000BC event showed up again.
Interesting that Lake Victoria ceased to be, then came back, and all so recently.Evolution in Your FaceLake Victoria, Africa's largest lake, is home to more than 300 species of cichlids. These fish, which are popular in aquariums, are deep-bodied and have one nostril, rather than the usual two, on each side of the head. Seismic profiles and cores of the lake taken by a team headed by Thomas C. Johnson of the University of Minnesota, reveal that the lake dried up completely about 12,400 years ago. This means that the rate of speciation of cichlid fishes has been extremely rapid: something on average of one new species every 40 years!
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The ice bagan to form about 11,700 years ago is what the opening of the article says.
I guess they didn't have the ice before that. Interesting.
Wonder why 11400 years ago?
Which drought was the one which sent the Jews into Eygpt in the time of Joseph.
BS. The shrinking ice is the result of deforestation. The winds blowing up the slopes pick up less moisture .
When you say that you believe in Noah's flood, I'm just curious if you believe in all that other stuff. Like, storing a pair of every living species on the face of the Earth, along with a years supply of food on a 100,000 square foot boat. Do the calculations yourself. It doesn't add up.
And, of course, there is the issue of how the animals got back to the various continents on which they lived even though there were no land bridges to the Far East. Quite a lot to swallow!
4000 BC would be an approximation of the time of Joseph.
Moses was in the time of the Thutmose Pharaoh's (ca 1400 BC) + Joseph was about 400 years before that. That gets us back about 3800 years ago. Curious,isn't it?
It wouldn't be 4000 BC but 4000 years ago. Eygpt was not a high culture in 4000 BC and the Great Pyramid is allegedly about 4000 yrs old.
I submit that it is not only unlikely the lake dried up "completely" but that adequate pools survived to allow the continuation of enought species to repopulate the lake once the dry spell was past.
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