The pin indicates the location of Camp Century, on one of the most northernmost pieces of land on the planet. And apparently it was tundra, not ice, 416,000 years ago, when CO2 levels where 1/3 less than what they are now. Google Earth

 

Quick quiz – what is the best Star Wars movie?

Ding ding ding! The Empire Strikes Back, of course.

What most people may not realize is that the ice planet of Hoth was almost certainly based on a very real experiment by the United States military from 1959 to 1966. Project Iceworm was meant to establish military bases in caverns carved out of glacial ice, just like you see in Empire Strikes Back. If it panned out, there was a plan to locate as many as 600 intercontinental ballistic missiles in a huge array of under-ice caverns, invisible to the Soviets and within striking range of the USSR.

Despite taking their own small nuclear reactor to provide power, Camp Century never did work out and the project ended in 1966.

Wired.com had quite an interesting story on July 20 about how an ice core was drilled through the glacier, right to the surface below. What was discovered, and Wired’s mental gymnastics about climate change, both are quite remarkable.

The article was called, “An Abandoned Arctic Military Base Just Spilled a Scientific Secret.” Its subtitle said, “During the Cold War, the US built a network of tunnels in the Greenland ice sheet. Sixty years later, the base has provided a critical clue about the climate crisis.”

CNN ran a similar story.

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The Wired article said, “Iceworm never went anywhere, and the US closed Camp Century in 1966, leaving the tunnels to collapse. But before everyone fled, researchers did manage to dig up some actual scientific dirt, drilling a 4,550-foot-deep core into the ice sheet. When they hit earth, they drilled a further 12 feet, bringing up a plug of frozen sand, dirty ice, cobbles, and mud.”

The article continued, “Nobody cared much about the sediment, though, until 2018, when it was rediscovered in cookie jars in a University of Copenhagen freezer. Now, an international team of researchers has analyzed that sediment, and made a major scientific discovery.

“In that frozen sediment are leaf fossils and little bits of bugs and twigs and mosses that tell us in the past there was a tundra ecosystem living where today there’s almost a mile of ice,” says University of Vermont geoscientist Paul Bierman, coauthor of a new paper describing the finding in the journal Science. “The ice sheet is fragile. It can disappear, and it has disappeared. Now we have a date for that.”

Wired continued, “Previously, scientists reckoned that Greenland iced over some 2.5 million years ago, and has been that way since. In 2021, Bierman and his colleagues determined that it was actually ice-free sometime in the past million years. Now, they’ve dated the tundra ecosystem captured in the Camp Century core to a mere 416,000 years ago—so northwestern Greenland couldn’t have been locked in ice then.”

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Camp Century was 150 miles inland from Thule Air Force Base. That’s quite a ways inland smack dab in the middle of the current ice sheet. Maybe there was ice in the interior, but it wasn’t at Camp Century, at one of the most northern portions of Greenland.

And here’s where the mental gymnastics take place: “Scientists also know that at that time, global temperatures were similar or slightly warmer than what they are today. However, back then, atmospheric concentrations of planet-warming carbon dioxide were about 280 parts per million, compared to today’s 422 parts per million—a number that continues to skyrocket. Because humans have so dramatically and rapidly warmed the climate, we’re exceeding the conditions that had previously led to the wide-scale melting of Greenland’s ice sheet and gave rise to the tundra ecosystem. “It’s a forewarning,” says Utah State University geoscientist Tammy Rittenour, a coauthor of the new paper. “This can happen under much lower CO2 conditions than our current state.”

Whoa, there, Nelly! You’re telling me that carbon dioxide levels were a full third less than they are at this very moment, and yet the northernmost portions of Greenland (the most likely to freeze) was tundra? It did not have most of a mile of ice covering it? Well below the supposedly crucial threshold of 350 parts per million?

Haven’t we been told if Greenland’s ice sheet ever melted, all of our current coastlines would be inundated? Wouldn’t all Florida have been under water as shallow reefs?

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Indeed, the article goes on to say, “That melting could be incredibly perilous. The new study finds that the Greenland ice melt 400,000 years ago caused at least 5 feet of sea level rise, but perhaps as much as 20 feet. “These findings raise additional concern that we could be coming perilously close to the threshold for collapse of the Greenland ice sheet and massive additional sea level rise of a meter or more,” says University of Pennsylvania climate scientist Michael Mann, who wasn’t involved in the research. Today, less than a foot of global sea level rise is already causing serious flooding and storm surge problems for coastal cities—and that’s without the potential for an additional 20 feet.”

Again, look at the mental gymnastics – carbon dioxide levels were much, much lower, sea levels were much, much higher, and ice sheets were much, much smaller.

It kind of makes you wonder if there truly is a link between carbon dioxide levels, global warming and disappearance of ice sheets? How could so much ice be gone, melted into the ocean, with such scandalously low CO2 concentrations? Surely something here doesn’t jive.

And yet the entire world is in a tizzy over carbon dioxide.

Maybe someone should go back to Hoth, sorry, Camp Century, and drill a few more cores before we destroy our way of life and economy?

Maybe the science isn’t settled, after all.

 

Brian Zinchuk is editor and owner of Pipeline Online, and occasional contributor to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He can be reached at brian.zinchuk@pipelineonline.ca.

 

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