Dating Corals, Knowing the Ocean : Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Leading to adult and coral dating content owned by dating and absolute other websites that fits with the idea of those looking at the pictures. Emotional. Geochronology - Nonradiometric dating: In addition to radioactive decay, many other have been investigated for their potential usefulness in absolute dating. in a presumed annual increment is approximately , suggesting that coral. equilibrium with its radioactive parent U •5. The three lowest coral reef terraces on the island have Pa•/U •5 ages close to 80, years, , years, and.
In the atmosphere of the earth, Ar40 constitutes This is around times the amount that would be generated by radioactive decay over the age of 4. Certainly this is not produced by an influx from outer space. Thus, a large amount of Ar40 was present in the beginning. Since geochronologists assume that errors due to presence of initial Ar40 are small, their results are highly questionable. Argon diffuses from mineral to mineral with great ease.
It leaks out of rocks very readily and can move from down deep in the earth, where the pressure is large, and accumulate in an abnormally large amount in the surface where rock samples for dating are found.
They would all have excess argon due to this movement. This makes them appear older. Rocks from deeper in the crust would show this to a lesser degree. Also, since some rocks hold the Ar40 stronger than others, some rocks will have a large apparent age, others smaller ages, though they may actually be the same age.
If you were to measure Ar40 concentration as function of depth, you would no doubt find more of it near the surface than at deeper points because it migrates more easily from deep in the earth than it does from the earth into the atmosphere. It is easy to see how the huge ages are being obtained by the KAr40 radiometric clock, since surface and near-surface samples will contain argon due to this diffusion effect.
Some geochronologists believe that a possible cause of excess argon is that argon diffuses into mineral progressively with time. Significant quantities of argon may be introduced into a mineral even at pressures as low as one bar.
If such [excessive] ages as mentioned above are obtained for pillow lavas, how are those from deep-sea drilling out in the Atlantic where sea-floor spreading is supposed to be occurring? Potassium is found to be very mobile under leaching conditions.
Ground-water and erosional water movements could produce this effect naturally. Rocks in areas having a complex geological history have many large discordances. In a single rock there may be mutually contaminating, potassium- bearing minerals. There is some difficulty in determining the decay constants for the KAr40 system. Geochronologists use the branching ratio as a semi-emperical, adjustable constant which they manipulate instead of using an accurate half-life for K A number of recent lava flows within the past few hundred years yield potassium-argon ages in the hundreds of thousands of years range.
This indicates that some excess argon is present. Where is it coming from? And how do we know that it could not be a much larger quantity in other cases?
If more excess argon were present, then we could get much older ages. It is true that an age difference in the hundreds of thousands of years is much too small to account for the observed K-Ar ages. Second, there may have been a lot more more argon in the magma in the past, and with each eruption, the amount decreased.
So there would have been a lot more excess argon in the past, leading to older ages. For rocks that are being dated, contamination with atmospheric argon is a persistent problem that is mentioned a number of times. Thus it is clear that argon enters rock easily.
It is claimed that we can know if a rock has added argon by its spectrum when heated; different temperatures yield different fractions of argon. It is claimed that the argon that enters from the atmosphere or other rocks, is less tightly bound to the crystal lattice, and will leave the rock at a lower temperature. But how do we know what happens over thousands of years?
It could be that this argon which is initially loosely bound if it is so initially gradually becomes more tightly bound by random thermal vibrations, until it becomes undetectable by the spectrum technique. The fact that rock is often under high pressure might influence this process, as well.
Back to top Thus there are a number of sources of error. We now consider whether they can explain the observed dates. In general, the dates that are obtained by radiometric methods are in the hundreds of millions of years range. That is, we can get both parent and daughter elements from the magma inherited into minerals that crystallize out of lava, making these minerals look old. Since the magma has old radiometric dates, depending on how much the clock gets reset, the crust can end up with a variety of younger dates just by partially inheriting the dates of the magma.
Thus any method based on simple parent to daughter ratios such as Rb-Sr dating is bound to be unreliable, since there would have to be a lot of the daughter product in the magma already.
Even the initial ratios of parent and daughter elements in the earth do not necessarily indicate an age as old as 4. Radioactive decay would be faster in the bodies of stars, which is where scientists assume the heavy elements formed.
Imagine a uranium nucleus forming by the fusion of smaller nucleii. At the moment of formation, as two nucleii collide, the uranium nucleus will be somewhat unstable, and thus very likely to decay into its daughter element. The same applies to all nucleii, implying that one could get the appearance of age quickly. Of course, the thermonuclear reactions in the star would also speed up radioactive decay. But isochrons might be able to account for pre-existing daughter elements.
Furthermore, some elements in the earth are too abundant to be explained by radioactive decay in 4. Some are too scarce such as helium.
Back to top In general, potassium-argon dates appear to be older the deeper one goes in the crust of the earth. We now consider possible explanations for this. There are at least a couple of mechanisms to account for this. In volcano eruptions, a considerable amount of gas is released with the lava. This gas undoubtedly contains a significant amount of argon Volcanos typically have magma chambers under them, from which the eruptions occur.
It seems reasonable that gas would collect at the top of these chambers, causing artificially high K-Ar radiometric ages there. In addition, with each successive eruption, some gas would escape, reducing the pressure of the gas and reducing the apparent K-Ar radiometric age.
Thus the decreasing K-Ar ages would represent the passage of time, but not necessarily related to their absolute radiometric ages. As a result, lava found in deeper layers, having erupted earlier, would generally appear much older and lava found in higher layers, having erupted later, would appear much younger.
This could account for the observed distribution of potassium-argon dates, even if the great sedimantary layers were laid down very recently. In addition, lava emerging later will tend to be hotter, coming from deeper in the earth and through channels that have already been warmed up.
This lava will take longer to cool down, giving more opportunity for enclosed argon to escape and leading to younger radiometric ages. A discussion of these mechanisms may be found at the Geoscience Research Institute site. Another factor is that rocks absorb argon from the air. It is true that this can be accounted for by the fact that argon in the air has Ar36 and Ar40, whereas only Ar40 is produced by K-Ar decay.
But for rocks deep in the earth, the mixture of argon in their environment is probably much higher in Ar40, since only Ar40 is produced by radioactive decay. As these rocks absorb argon, their radiometric ages would increase. This would probably have a larger effect lower down, where the pressure of argon would be higher. Or it could be that such a distribution of argon pressures in the rocks occurred at some time in the past. This would also make deeper rocks tend to have older radiometric ages.
Recent lava flows often yield K-Ar ages of aboutyears. This shous that they contain some excess argon, and not all of it is escaping. If they contained a hundred times more excess argon, their K-Ar ages would be a hundred times greater, I suppose. And faster cooling could increase the ages by further large factors. I also read of a case where a rock was K-Ar dated at 50 million years, and still susceptible to absorbing argon from the air.
This shows that one might get radiometric ages of at least 50 million years in this way by absorbing Ar40 deep in the earth without much Ar36 or Ar38 present. If the pressure of Ar40 were greater, one could obtain even greater ages. Yet another mechanism that can lead to decreasing K-Ar ages with time is the following, in a flood model: One can assume that at the beginning of the flood, many volcanoes erupted and the waters became enriched in Ar Then any lava under water would appear older because its enclosed Ar40 would have more trouble escaping.
As time passed, this Ar40 would gradually pass into the atmosphere, reducing this effect and making rocks appear younger. In addition, this would cause a gradient of Ar40 concentrations in the air, with higher concentrations near the ground. This also could make flows on the land appear older than they are, since their Ar40 would also have a harder time escaping. Back to top Let us consider the question of how much different dating methods agree on the geologic column, and how many measurements are anomalous, since these points are often mentioned as evidences of the reliability of radiometric dating.
It takes a long time to penetrate the confusion and find out what is the hard evidence in this area. In the first place, I am not primarily concerned with dating meteorites, or precambrian rocks. What I am more interested in is the fossil-bearing geologic column of Cambrian and later age. Now, several factors need to be considered when evaluating how often methods give expected ages on the geologic column.
First, many igneous formations span many periods, and so have little constraint on what period they could belong to. The same applies to intrusions. In addition, some kinds of rocks are not considered as suitable for radiometric dating, so these are typically not considered. Furthermore, it is at least possible that anomalies are under-reported in the literature. Finally, the overwhelming majority of measurements on the fossil bearing geologic column are all done using one method, the K-Ar method.
And let me recall that both potassium and argon are water soluble, and argon is mobile in rock. Thus the agreement found between many dates does not necessarily reflect an agreement between different methods, but rather the agreement of the K-Ar method with itself. For example, if 80 percent of the measurements were done using K-Ar dating, and the other 20 percent gave random results, we still might be able to say that most of the measurements on a given strata agree with one another reasonably well.
So to me it seems quite conceivable that there is no correlation at all between the results of different methods on the geologic column, and that they have a purely random relationship to each other.
Let us consider again the claim that radiometric dates for a given geologic period agree with each other. I would like to know what is the exact or approximate information content of this assertion, and whether it could be or has been tested statistically.
Now, we can take a random rock from Gi. We will have to restrict ourselves to places where Gi is exposed, to avoid having to dig deep within the earth. Then we can average them to get an average age for this rock. We can also compute how much they differ from one another. Now we have to be careful about lava flows -- which geologic period do they belong to? What about rocks that are thought not to have their clock reset, or to have undergone later heating episodes?
The measurements should be done in a double-blind manner to insure lack of unconscious bias. For each geologic period and each dating method, we will get a distribution of values. We will also get a distribution of averaged values for samples in each period. Now, some claim is being made about these distributions.
It is undoubtedly being claimed that the mean values ascend as one goes up the geologic column. It is also being claimed that the standard deviations are not too large. It is also being claimed that the different methods have distributions that are similar to one another on a given geologic period. The only correlation I know about that has been studied is between K-Ar and Rb-Sr dating on precambrian rock.
And even for this one, the results were not very good. As far as I know, no study has been done to determine how different methods correlate on the geologic column excluding precambrian rock. The reason for my request is that a correlation is not implied by the fact that there are only 10 percent anomalies, or whatever.
I showed that the fact that the great majority of dates come from one method K-Ar and the fact that many igneous bodies have very wide biostratigraphic limits, where many dates are acceptable, makes the percentage of anomalies irrelevant to the question I am asking. And since this agreement is the strongest argument for the reliability of radiometric dating, such an assumption of agreement appears to be without support so far. The question of whether different methods correlate on the geologic column is not an easy one to answer for additional reasons.
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Since the bulk of K-Ar dates are generally accepted as correct, one may say that certain minerals are reliable if they tend to give similar dates, and unreliable otherwise.
We can also say that certain formations tend to give reliable dates and others do not, depending on whether the dates agree with K-Ar dates. Thus we can get an apparent correlation of different methods without much of a real correlation in nature.
Coffin mentions that fission tracks can survive transport through lava, for example. It may also be that lava is produced by melting the bottom of continents and successively different layers are melted with time, or there could be a tendency for lighter isotopes to come to the top of magma chambers, making the lava there appear older. But anyway, I think it is important really to know what patterns appear in the data to try to understand if there is a correlation and what could be causing it.
Not knowing if anomalies are always published makes this harder. It is often mentioned that different methods agree on the K-T boundary, dated at about 65 million years ago. This is when the dinosaurs are assumed to have become extinct. This agreement of different methods is taken as evidence for a correlation between methods on the geologic column.
One study found some correlated dates from bentonite that are used to estimate the date of the K-T boundary. I looked up some information on bentonite. It is composed of little glass beads that come from volcanic ash.
This is formed when lava is sticky and bubbles of gas in it explode. So these small particles of lava cool very fast. The rapid cooling might mean that any enclosed argon is retained, but if not, the fact that this cooling occurs near the volcano, with a lot of argon coming out, should guarantee that these beads would have excess argon.
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As the gas bubble explodes, its enclosed argon will be rushing outward along with these tiny bubbles as they cool. This will cause them to retain argon and appear too old.
In addition, the rapid cooling and the process of formation means that these beads would have Rb, Sr, U, and Pb concentrations the same as the lava they came from, since there is no chance for crystals to form with such rapid cooling. So to assume that the K-Ar dates, Rb-Sr dates, and U-Pb dates all reflect the age of the lava, one would have to assume that this lava had no Sr, no Pb, and that all the argon escaped when the beads formed.
So to me it seems to be certain that these ages must be in error. Furthermore, the question arises whether bentonite always gives correlated ages, and whether these ages always agree with the accepted ages for their geologic period.
I believe that bentonite occurs in a number of formations of different geologic periods, so this could be checked. If bentonite does not always give correlate and correct ages, this calls into question its use for dating the K-T boundary. Back to top Note that if there are small pockets in crystals where both parent and daughter product can accumulate from the lava, then one can inherit correlated ages from the lava into minerals. Thus even the existence of correlations is not conclusive evidence that a date is correct.
Back to top If a date does not agree with the expected age of its geologic period, and no plausible explanation can be found, then the date is called anomalous. But if we really understand what is going on, then we should be able to detect discrepant dates as they are being measured, and not just due to their divergence from other dates.
Geologists often say that the percentage of anomalies is low. But there are quite a number of rather outstanding anomalies in radiometric dating that creationists have collected. These anomalies are reported in the scientific literature. For example, one isochron yielded a date of 10 billion years.
A Rb-Sr isochron yielded a date of 34 billion years. K-Ar dates of 7 to 15 billion years have been recorded. Samples with flat plateaus which should mean no added argon can give wrong dates.
Samples giving no evidence of being disturbed can give wrong dates. Samples that give evidence of being disturbed can give correct dates. The number of dates that disagree with the expected ages is not insignificant. Many dates give values near the accepted ones. But even these often differ from one another by 10 or 20 percent.
And quite a few other dates are often much, much farther off. Whatever is making some of these dates inaccurate could be making all of them inaccurate. The fact that different methods often give different dates is noted by geologists.
Here are some quotes from http: Age estimates on a given geological stratum by different radiometric methods are often quite different sometimes by hundreds of millions of years. One example is the rocks from the Kaupelehu Flow, Hualalai Volcano in Hawaii which was known to have erupted in These rocks were dated by a variety of different methods.
Of 12 dates reported the youngest was million years and the oldest was 2. The dates average 1. Geologists explain the Kaupelehu date by the lava being cooled rapidly in deep ocean water and not being able to get rid of its enclosed argon.
Instead, the uncertainty grows as more and more data is accumulated This does not include dates from minerals that are thought to yield bad dates, or from igneous bodies with wide biostrategraphic ranges, where many dates are acceptable.
He states that the number of dates within range are less than the number of anomalies, except for the Cenozoic and Cretaceous.
Here are a couple of more quotes about anomalies: The carbon age of the buried trees is only years, but some of the overlying volcanic material has a ,year potassium-argon age.
Still another evidence for problems with radiometric dating was given in a recent talk I attended by a man who had been an evolutionist and taken a course in radiometric dating. Many sedimentary uranium ores are not.
On another point, if we can detect minerals that were not molten with the lava, as has been claimed, then this is one more reason why there should be no anomalies, and radiometric dating should be a completely solved problem. But that does not appear to be the case, at least especially on the geologic column. Picking out a few cases where radiometric dates appear to be well-behaved reminds me of evolutionary biologists focusing on a few cases where there may be transitional sequences.
It does not answer the overall question. Gerling et al called attention to some chlorites yielding K-Ar dates of 7 to 15 b. It had been noted that some minerals which yield such dates as beryl, cordierite, etc. They also pointed out that for the anomalies to be accounted for by excess argon, unreasonably high partial pressures of Ar during crystallization would have to be required. They concluded by suggesting some unknown nuclear process which no longer operates to have generated the Ar.
Here is another quote from Woodmorappe about isochrons, since some people think that mixing scenarios or other age-altering scenarios are unlikely: If this condition does not hold, invalid ages and intercepts are obtained. Models yield isochron ages that are too high, too low, or in the future, sometimes by orders of magnitude.
This suggests that what is occuring is some kind of a mixing phenomenon, and not an isochron reflecting a true age. The following quote is from http: We have analyzed several devitrified glasses of known age, and all have yielded ages that are too young. Some gave virtually zero ages, although the geologic evidence suggested that devitrification took place shortly after the formation of a deposit.
Back to top One of the main arguments in favor of radiometric dating is that so many dates agree with each other, that is, with the date expected for their geologic period. If a rock dates too old, one can say that the clock did not get reset. If it dates too young, one can invoke a later heating event. Neither date would necessarily be seen as anomalous. If lava intrudes upon geologic period X, then any date for the lava of X or later will not be seen as anomalous.
And even if the date is one or two geologic periods earlier, it may well be close enough to be accepted as non-spurious. If one does not know the geologic period of a rock by other means, then of course one is likely to date it to find out, and then of course the date agrees with the geologic period and this will not be seen as anomalous.
So it is difficult to know what would be a reasonable test for whether radiometric dating is reliable or not. The percentage of published dates that are considered as anomalous has little bearing on the question. Back to top The issue about igneous bodies may need additional clarification.
If a lava flow lies above geologic period A and below B, then allowable ages are anything at least as large as A and no larger than B.
This is called the biostratigraphic limit of the flow. For example, a flow lying on precambrian rock with nothing on top would have no limits on its dates. And such flows often have a large internal scatter of dates, but these dates are not considered as anomalies because of the unrestricted biostratigraphic limit. Other flows with wide biostratigraphic limits have weak restrictions on allowable dates. This is one reason why just reporting the percentage of anomalies has little meaning.
Thus these ages, though they generally have a considerable scatter, are not considered as anomalies. He cites another reference that most igneous bodies have wide biostrategraphic limits. Thus just by chance, many dates will be considered within the acceptable ranges. Again, the percentage of anomalies means nothing for the reliability of radiometric dating. Now, igneous bodies can be of two types, extrusive and intrusive. Extrusive bodies are lava that is deposited on the surface.
These cool quickly and have small crystals and form basalt. Intrusive bodies are deposited in the spaces between other rocks. These cool more slowly and have larger crystals, often forming granite. Both of these tend on the average to have wide biostrategraphic limits, meaning that a large spread of ages will be regarded as non-anomalous.
And if we recall that most radiometric dating is done of igneous bodies, one sees that the percentage of anomalies is meaningless. Thus we really need some evidence that the different methods agree with each other. This of course means that the result is no longer anomalous, because the geologic period has been modified to fit the date. Finally, the fact that the great majority of dates are from one method means that the general but not universal agreement of K-Ar dating with itself is sufficient to explain the small percentange of anomalies if it is small.
Back to top Now, the point about agreement is that whatever figure is given about how often ages agree with the expected age, is consistent with the fact that there is no agreement at all between K-Ar and other methods, since so many measurements are done using K-Ar dating.
And one of the strongest arguments for the validity of radiometric dating is that the methods agree. So when one combines all of the above figures, the statement that there are only 10 percent anomalies or 5 percent or whatever, does not have any meaning any more. This statement is made so often as evidence for the reliability of radiometric dating, that the simple evidence that it has no meaning, is astounding to me.
The precambrian rock is less interesting because it could have a radiometric age older than life, but this is less likely for the rest of the geologic column. By the way, Ar-Ar dating and K-Ar dating are essentially the same method, so between the two of them we obtain a large fraction of the dates being used. Some information from an article by Robert H. History of the Radioisotope based Geologic Time Scale Before the discovery of radioactivity in the late nineteenth century, a geological time scale had been developed on the basis of estimates for the rates of geological processes such as erosion and sedimentation, with the assumption that these rates had always been essentially uniform.
On the basis of being unacceptably old, many geologists of the time rejected these early twentieth century determinations of rock age from the ratio of daughter to radioactive parent large. Byincreased confidence in radioisotope dating techniques and the demands of evolution theory for vast amounts of time led to the establishment of an expanded geological time scale.
The construction of this time scale was based on about radioisotope ages that were selected because of their agreement with the presumed fossil and geological sequences found in the rocks. Igneous rocks are particularly suited to K-Ar dating. The crucial determiners are therefore volcanic extrusive igneous rocks that are interbedded with sediments, and intrusive igneous rocks that penetrate sediments.
This verifies what I said about almost all of the dates used to define correct ages for geologic periods being K-Ar dates. Also, the uncertainty in the branching ratio of potassium decay might mean that there is a fudge factor in K-Ar ages of up to a third, and that the occasional agreements between K-Ar ages and other ages are open to question.
So the point is that there is now no reason to believe that radiometric dating is valid on the geologic column. Back to top Another issue is that sometimes the geologic periods of rocks are revised to agree with the ages computed. This also makes data about percentages of anomalies less meaningful.
It sometimes seems that reasons can always be found for bad dates, especially on the geologic column. If a rock gives a too old date, one says there is excess argon. If it gives a too young date, one says that it was heated recently, or cannot hold its argon. How do we know that maybe all the rocks have excess argon? The following quote is from the article by Robert H.
What is a Radioisotope Age? The relationship of a radioisotope age with real-time must be based on an interpretation. Back to top Concerning the need for a double blind test, it would seem that there are many places where human judgment could influence the distribution of measured radiometric dates.
It could increase the percentage of anomalies, if they were regarded as more interesting. It could decrease them, if they were regarded as flukes. Human judgment could determine whether points were collinear enough to form an isochron. It could determine whether a point can justifiably be tossed out and the remaining points used as an isochron. It could determine whether one should accept simple parent-to-daughter K-Ar ratios or whether some treatment needs to be applied first to get better ages.
It could influence whether a spectrum is considered as flat, whether a rock is considered to have undergone leaching or heating, whether a rock is porous or not, or whether a sample has been disturbed in some way. Since one of the main reasons for accepting radiometric dates at least I keep hearing it is that they agree with each other, I think that geologists have an obligation to show that they do agree, specifically on the geologic column.
Since we do not know whether or how much human judgment is influencing radiometric dating, a double blind study is most reasonable. And it should not be restricted to just one or two well-behaved places, but should be as comprehensive as possible.
Back to top The following information was sent to me by e-mail: Is this a warranted assumption? Has every radioactive nuclide proceeded on a rigid course of decay at a constant rate? This has been challenged by studies involving Carbon C At the temperature or pressure, collisions with stray cosmic rays or the emanations of other atoms may cause changes other than those of normal disintegration.
It seems very possible that spontaneous disintegration of radioactive elements are related to the action of cosmic rays and the rate of disintegration varying from century to century according to the intensity of the rays. Most geochronologists maintain that pleochroic haloes give evidence that decay constants have not changed. Crystals of biotite, for example, and other minerals in igneous or metamorphic rocks commonly enclose minute specks of minerals containing uranium or thorium.
The a- alpha particles emitted at high velocity by the disintegrating nuclides interact, because of their charge, with electrons of surrounding atoms which slow them down until they finally come to rest in the host material at a distance from their source that depends on their initial kinetic energy and the density and composition of the host.
Where they finally stop to produce lattice distortions and defects there generally occurs discoloring or darkening. Each of the 8 a-particles emitted during the disintegration of U to Pb produces a dark ring in biotite. Each ring has its own characteristic radius in a given mineral in this case biotite. This radius measures the kinetic energy, hence the probability of emission of the corresponding a-particle and also the half-life of the parent nuclide according to the Geiger-Nuttall law.
The Geiger-Nuttall law is an empirical relation between half-life of the a-emitter and the range in air of the emitted a-particles. If the radii of these haloes from the same nuclide vary, this would imply that the decay rates have varied and would invalidate these series as being actual clocks. Are the radii in the rocks constant in size or are there variable sizes? Most of the early studies of pleochroic haloes were made by Joly and Henderson.
Joly concluded that the decay rates have varied on the basis of his finding a variation of the radii for rocks of alleged geological ages. This rather damaging result was explained away saying that enough evidence of correct radii for defferent geologic periods and sufficient variation in the same period have been obtained that one is forced to look for a different explanation of such variations as were observed by Joly.
Measurements were later made in an excellent collection of samples with haloes. It was found that the extent of the haloes around the inclusions varies over a wide range, even with the same nuclear material in the same matrix, but all sizes fall into definite groups.
The measurements are, in microns, 5,7,10,17,20,23,27, and More recent studies have been made by Robert V. Gentry also finds a variation in the haloes leading him to conclude that the decay constants have not been constant in time. Gentry points out an argument for an instantaneous creation of the earth. He noted form his studies of haloes: For the Po half-life of 3 minutes only a matter of minutes could elapse between the formation of the Po and subsequent crystallization of the mica; otherwise the Po would have decayed, and no ring would be visible.
The occurrence of these halo types is quite widespread, one or more types having been observed in the micas from Canada Pre-CambrianSweden, and Japan. So, then, careful scientists have measured variations in halo radii and their measurements indicate a variation in decay rates.
The radioactive series then would have no value as time clocks. The following quotation also suggests a cause for a change in the decay rate: During the ice age, long-lived trees grew in different areas than they do now. There are many indicators, some to be mentioned below, that show exactly how the climate changed at the end of the last ice age. It is difficult to find continuous tree ring records through this period of rapid climate change.
Dendrochronology will probably eventually find reliable tree records that bridge this time period, but in the meantime, the carbon ages have been calibrated farther back in time by other means. Calibration of carbon back to almost 50, years ago has been done in several ways. One way is to find yearly layers that are produced over longer periods of time than tree rings.
In some lakes or bays where underwater sedimentation occurs at a relatively rapid rate, the sediments have seasonal patterns, so each year produces a distinct layer. Such sediment layers are called "varves", and are described in more detail below. Varve layers can be counted just like tree rings.
If layers contain dead plant material, they can be used to calibrate the carbon ages. Another way to calibrate carbon farther back in time is to find recently-formed carbonate deposits and cross-calibrate the carbon in them with another short-lived radioactive isotope.
Where do we find recently-formed carbonate deposits? If you have ever taken a tour of a cave and seen water dripping from stalactites on the ceiling to stalagmites on the floor of the cave, you have seen carbonate deposits being formed.
Since most cave formations have formed relatively recently, formations such as stalactites and stalagmites have been quite useful in cross-calibrating the carbon record. If one predicts a carbon age assuming that the ratio of carbon to carbon in the air has stayed constant, there is a slight error because this ratio has changed slightly.
Figure 9 shows that the carbon fraction in the air has decreased over the last 40, years by about a factor of two. This is attributed to a strengthening of the Earth's magnetic field during this time. A stronger magnetic field shields the upper atmosphere better from charged cosmic rays, resulting in less carbon production now than in the past.
Changes in the Earth's magnetic field are well documented. Complete reversals of the north and south magnetic poles have occurred many times over geologic history. A small amount of data beyond 40, years not shown in Fig. What change does this have on uncalibrated carbon ages? The bottom panel of Figure 9 shows the amount Figure 9. Ratio of atmospheric carbon to carbon, relative to the present-day value top panel.
The bottom panel shows the offset in uncalibrated ages caused by this change in atmospheric composition. Tree-ring data are from Stuiver et al. The offset is generally less than years over the last 10, years, but grows to about 6, years at 40, years before present. Uncalibrated radiocarbon ages underestimate the actual ages. Note that a factor of two difference in the atmospheric carbon ratio, as shown in the top panel of Figure 9, does not translate to a factor of two offset in the age.
Rather, the offset is equal to one half-life, or 5, years for carbon The initial portion of the calibration curve in Figure 9 has been widely available and well accepted for some time, so reported radiocarbon dates for ages up to 11, years generally give the calibrated ages unless otherwise stated.
The calibration curve over the portions extending to 40, years is relatively recent, but should become widely adopted as well.
These methods may work on young samples, for example, if there is a relatively high concentration of the parent isotope in the sample. In that case, sufficient daughter isotope amounts are produced in a relatively short time.
As an example, an article in Science magazine vol. There are other ways to date some geologically young samples. Besides the cosmogenic radionuclides discussed above, there is one other class of short-lived radionuclides on Earth. These are ones produced by decay of the long-lived radionuclides given in the upper part of Table 1. As mentioned in the Uranium-Lead section, uranium does not decay immediately to a stable isotope, but decays through a number of shorter-lived radioisotopes until it ends up as lead.
While the uranium-lead system can measure intervals in the millions of years generally without problems from the intermediate isotopes, those intermediate isotopes with the longest half-lives span long enough time intervals for dating events less than several hundred thousand years ago. Note that these intervals are well under a tenth of a percent of the half-lives of the long-lived parent uranium and thorium isotopes discussed earlier.
Two of the most frequently-used of these "uranium-series" systems are uranium and thorium These are listed as the last two entries in Table 1, and are illustrated in Figure A schematic representation of the uranium decay chain, showing the longest-lived nuclides. Half-lives are given in each box. Solid arrows represent direct decay, while dashed arrows indicate that there are one or more intermediate decays, with the longest intervening half-life given below the arrow.
Like carbon, the shorter-lived uranium-series isotopes are constantly being replenished, in this case, by decaying uranium supplied to the Earth during its original creation. Following the example of carbon, you may guess that one way to use these isotopes for dating is to remove them from their source of replenishment.
This starts the dating clock. In carbon this happens when a living thing like a tree dies and no longer takes in carbonladen CO2. For the shorter-lived uranium-series radionuclides, there needs to be a physical removal from uranium. The chemistry of uranium and thorium are such that they are in fact easily removed from each other. Uranium tends to stay dissolved in water, but thorium is insoluble in water. So a number of applications of the thorium method are based on this chemical partition between uranium and thorium.
Sediments at the bottom of the ocean have very little uranium relative to the thorium. Because of this, the uranium, and its contribution to the thorium abundance, can in many cases be ignored in sediments. Thorium then behaves similarly to the long-lived parent isotopes we discussed earlier. It acts like a simple parent-daughter system, and it can be used to date sediments.
On the other hand, calcium carbonates produced biologically such as in corals, shells, teeth, and bones take in small amounts of uranium, but essentially no thorium because of its much lower concentrations in the water. This allows the dating of these materials by their lack of thorium. A brand-new coral reef will have essentially no thorium As it ages, some of its uranium decays to thorium While the thorium itself is radioactive, this can be corrected for. Comparison of uranium ages with ages obtained by counting annual growth bands of corals proves that the technique is page.
The method has also been used to date stalactites and stalagmites from caves, already mentioned in connection with long-term calibration of the radiocarbon method. In fact, tens of thousands of uranium-series dates have been performed on cave formations around the world. Previously, dating of anthropology sites had to rely on dating of geologic layers above and below the artifacts.
But with improvements in this method, it is becoming possible to date the human and animal remains themselves. Work to date shows that dating of tooth enamel can be quite reliable. However, dating of bones can be more problematic, as bones are more susceptible to contamination by the surrounding soils.
As with all dating, the agreement of two or more methods is highly recommended for confirmation of a measurement. If the samples are beyond the range of radiocarbon e. Non-Radiometric Dating Methods for the PastYears We will digress briefly from radiometric dating to talk about other dating techniques. It is important to understand that a very large number of accurate dates covering the pastyears has been obtained from many other methods besides radiometric dating.
We have already mentioned dendrochronology tree ring dating above. Dendrochronology is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of non-radiometric dating methods. Here we will look briefly at some other non-radiometric dating techniques. One of the best ways to measure farther back in time than tree rings is by using the seasonal variations in polar ice from Greenland and Antarctica. There are a number of differences between snow layers made in winter and those made in spring, summer, and fall.
These seasonal layers can be counted just like tree rings. The seasonal differences consist of a visual differences caused by increased bubbles and larger crystal size from summer ice compared to winter ice, b dust layers deposited each summer, c nitric acid concentrations, measured by electrical conductivity of the ice, d chemistry of contaminants in the ice, and e seasonal variations in the relative amounts of heavy hydrogen deuterium and heavy oxygen oxygen in the ice.
These isotope ratios are sensitive to the temperature at the time they fell as snow from the clouds. The heavy isotope is lower in abundance during the colder winter snows than it is in snow falling in spring and summer. So the yearly layers of ice can be tracked by each of these five different indicators, similar to growth rings on trees.
The different types of layers are summarized in Table III. Page 17 Ice cores are obtained by drilling very deep holes in the ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica with specialized drilling rigs. As the rigs drill down, the drill bits cut around a portion of the ice, capturing a long undisturbed "core" in the process.
These cores are carefully brought back to the surface in sections, where they are catalogued, and taken to research laboratories under refrigeration. A very large amount of work has been done on several deep ice cores up to 9, feet in depth. Several hundred thousand measurements are sometimes made for a single technique on a single ice core. A continuous count of layers exists back as far asyears. In addition to yearly layering, individual strong events such as large-scale volcanic eruptions can be observed and correlated between ice cores.
A number of historical eruptions as far back as Vesuvius nearly 2, years ago serve as benchmarks with which to determine the accuracy of the yearly layers as far down as around meters. As one goes further down in the ice core, the ice becomes more compacted than near the surface, and individual yearly layers are slightly more difficult to observe.
For this reason, there is some uncertainty as one goes back towardsyears. Recently, absolute ages have been determined to 75, years for at least one location using cosmogenic radionuclides chlorine and beryllium G. These agree with the ice flow models and the yearly layer counts. Note that there is no indication anywhere that these ice caps were ever covered by a large body of water, as some people with young-Earth views would expect.
Polar ice core layers, counting back yearly layers, consist of the following: Visual Layers Summer ice has more bubbles and larger crystal sizes Observed to 60, years ago Dust Layers Measured by laser light scattering; most dust is deposited during spring and summer Observed toyears ago Layering of Elec-trical Conductivity Nitric acid from the stratosphere is deposited in the springtime, and causes a yearly layer in electrical conductivity measurement Observed through 60, years ago Contaminant Chemistry Layers Soot from summer forest fires, chemistry of dust, occasional volcanic ash Observed through 2, years; some older eruptions noted Hydrogen and Oxygen Isotope Layering Indicates temperature of precipitation.
Heavy isotopes oxygen and deuterium are depleted more in winter. Yearly layers observed through 1, years; Trends observed much farther back in time Varves.