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Email Resulting from my Debunking the Ice Age Essay

Here is some email correspondence that adds to the content of my essay.

Correspondence with Kevin Vanhaelewijn

Kevin Vanhaelewijn is an 18-year-old Belgian. Like myself, he has an interest in understanding the world. This correspondence took place during August 2001, and I am reproducing it here with his permission. To limit the clutter, I have removed the open and close of each email since it adds nothing to the discussion, and I have replaced each instance of quoting the previous email with a bracketed summary. Spelling errors have been corrected.


  1. From: "Kevin Vanhaelewijn" <kevin.vanhaelewijn@pandora.be>
    To: "Kurt Johmann" <johmann@atlantic.net>
    Subject: Ice age again
    Date: Sun, 5 Aug 2001

    I know from your essay that you are of the view that Ice ages have never occurred. I must say I am of the same view.

    But, look at the stuff I've put next from this website:

    http://www.hartwick.edu/geology/work/VFT-so-far/glaciers/glacier1.html

    As glaciers advance the ice scours the underlying bedrock. Pieces of rock become embedded in the ice. Additionally, erosion of the surrounding terrain also adds rock to the surface of the glacier. In the photograph above rocks traveling on the glacier surface are clearly visible as linear piles of debris. These are moraines. Note that there are both lateral (along the sides of the glacier) and medial moraines (in the center). At the "toe" of the glacier where the ice melts, there will also be a terminal moraine. The upper part of the glacier is called the "zone of accumulation," where there is frequent snowfall and little melting, even in the summer. This is the "weight" that drives the glacier forward. The toe of the glacier is known as the "zone of ablation." Here the ice melts, debris is deposited, and rivers derived from glacial meltwater are formed. The glacier is always in a state of balance, or dynamic equilibrium. If there is more accumulation than ablation, the glacier will advance. If there is more ablation than accumulation, the glacier will recede. If the two are exactly balanced, then the glacier will remain stationary (but the ice still moves!) Think of it as a large conveyor belt, continually moving ice and rocks toward the toe of the glacier. The Gorner glacier is clearly receding, as the "bathtub ring" on the valley walls shows. This glacier has lost much of the ice that was previously present.

    Yosemite Valley, California
    Yosemite Valley, California. The cliff on the left is El Capitan,
    the peak in the background (center) is Half Dome,
    and on the right is Bridalveil Falls

    When a glacier has completely melted away, how can we tell that it once existed? Glaciers leave abundant clues. Among them, the presence of debris from lateral, medial or terminal moraines is a good indicator of the existence of a glacier. Glaciers also carve very distinctively-shaped valleys. While modern rivers typically occupy valleys with sloping, "V-shaped" sides, glaciers carve broad "U-shaped" valleys. This is spectacularly displayed in Yosemite National Park (above) where the vertical sides and flat floor of Yosemite Valley are clear evidence of the presence of a former glacier. In fact, Bridalveil Falls tells us exactly how much ice used to fill the valley. Modern Bridalveil Creek is all that is left of a tributary glacier to the main Yosemite Valley glacier. This former tributary entered the valley above the top of Bridalveil Falls. The ice melted away more quickly than the creek could erode through the granite bedrock, leaving behind a "hanging valley," as yet another piece of evidence of the former glacier.

    Glacial erratics
    Glacial erratics in Yosemite National Park

    Moraines are not the only debris left by retreating glaciers. Boulders can be carried many miles by advancing glacial ice. When the ice melts, rocks of "exotic" lithology may be left behind. A glacially derived rock whose composition differs from that of the underlying bedrock is known as an erratic. Some erratics can be enormous--a sign of their glacial origin. The Madison Boulder in New Hampshire is far too large to have been transported by running water!

    The Madison Boulder
    The Madison Boulder, White Mountains, New Hampshire

    I don't have an explanation. It would be helpful if you would have one.

  2. From: "Kurt Johmann" <johmann@atlantic.net>
    To: "Kevin Vanhaelewijn" <kevin.vanhaelewijn@pandora.be>
    Subject: Re: Ice age again
    Date: Tue, 7 Aug 2001

    [here I quoted the first 2/3 of his email]

    At this link:

    http://www.peakware.com/encyclopedia/peaks/elcapitan.htm

    are statistics for El Capitan. Note the elevation of 2,307 meters.

    At this link:

    http://nsidc.org/glaciers/questions/located.html

    it says:

    This is why most glaciers are found either in mountainous areas or the polar regions. However, snow line occurs at different altitudes: in Washington State the snow line is around 1600 meters (or 5,500 feet), while in Africa it is over 5100 meters, and in Antarctica it is at sea level.

    So El Capitan is high enough to support glacier growth. The reason it does not feed a glacier now is probably due to a combination of factors, including a currently insufficient rainfall level.

    As to when El Capitan last fed the glacier that dug that valley (the text does not say how close El Capitan is to that dug valley -- if not El Capitan then some other nearby mountain or mountains fed the glacier that dug that valley), I have no idea; it may have been many millions of years ago.

    [here I quoted the last 1/3 of his email]

    That is a very big rock. However, the statement that it is "far too large to have been transported by running water" is simply false.

    At this link:

    http://www.mininglife.com/Miner/general/Density.htm

    note that the density of rock is only between 2 and 3 times the density of water. I do not know the density of the Madison Boulder, but it is somewhere between 2 and 3.

    For a large impact in the Atlantic ocean, a giant wave, very high (hundreds or thousands of meters high) and moving very fast (I would guess well over 100 kilometers per hour), will, I believe, hit New Hampshire (this state touches the east coast of America) with more than enough force to tumble the Madison Boulder along.

    In effect, pushing against that boulder will be many volumes of water having 1/2 to 1/3 of the mass of that boulder. By analogy, an army of many small men can push along one large man.

    There are actual formulas to compute just how fast the water must be flowing to push this boulder along, but I do not know them, and I am probably not competent to compute them. However, if you want to pursue this, you may want to research this yourself.

  3. From: "Kevin Vanhaelewijn" <kevin.vanhaelewijn@pandora.be>
    To: "Kurt Johmann" <johmann@atlantic.net>
    Subject: Re: Ice age again
    Date: Tue, 7 Aug 2001

    I thank you for your reply. It made some things clear to me!

    Only one thing not. That the erosion produced by water is different from the one produced by moving ice. Scientists claim that all these valleys where the ice age once occurred, show erosion from moving ice and not water. Are they guessing this or do they have accurate knowledge of this?

    Can u solve this last small riddle?

  4. From: "Kurt Johmann" <johmann@atlantic.net>
    To: "Kevin Vanhaelewijn" <kevin.vanhaelewijn@pandora.be>
    Subject: Re: Ice age again
    Date: Wed, 8 Aug 2001

    [here I quoted his email]

    The statement "Scientists claim that all these valleys where the ice age once occurred, show erosion from moving ice and not water." strikes me as very suspect. It sounds like someone who is not a scientist made it up: for example, a real scientist avoids using words like "all" unless he can prove it, which is not possible in this case since there are more valleys than anyone can check.

    The statement is too vague for me to comment further. If you can point to a more specific statement about what kind of rock erosion can only be caused by ice (preferably with a visual example), and that this erosion is present in some specific low-elevation location, then I can comment.

  5. From: "Kevin Vanhaelewijn" <kevin.vanhaelewijn@pandora.be>
    To: "Kurt Johmann" <johmann@atlantic.net>
    Subject: Re: Ice age again
    Date: Wed, 8 Aug 2001

    [Here he provides the examples I asked for:]

    "Glaciers also carve very distinctively-shaped valleys. While modern rivers typically occupy valleys with sloping, "V-shaped" sides, glaciers carve broad "U-shaped" valleys. This is spectacularly displayed in Yosemite National Park (above) where the vertical sides and flat floor of Yosemite Valley are clear evidence of the presence of a former glacier. In fact, Bridalveil Falls tells us exactly how much ice used to fill the valley. Modern Bridalveil Creek is all that is left of a tributary glacier to the main Yosemite Valley glacier. This former tributary entered the valley above the top of Bridalveil Falls. The ice melted away more quickly than the creek could erode through the granite bedrock, leaving behind a "hanging valley," as yet another piece of evidence of the former glacier."

    Yosemite Valley, California
    [this is the same image as given in his first email]

    "Moraines, erratics and U-shaped valleys are common in central New York. From the Hartwick College campus we can see the U-shaped valley of Charlotte Creek, a tributary to the Susquehanna River."

    Hartwick College campus

    ***Their point being: rivers (water) => V-shaped valley. Moving ice => U-shaped***

    "As ice advances and retreats a variety of features are produced beneath the ice sheet that are aligned with the direction of ice movement. Drumlins are elongated or teardrop-shaped hills that clearly indicate the direction of glacial movement. Drumlins are composed of glacial debris and are typically asymmetrical, with a steep side facing the source of the ice and a gently-sloping side facing the "down-ice" direction. There are large numbers of drumlins north of the Oneonta area."

    erosion features

    ***So this would be caused by debris carried along by water in our point of view***

  6. From: "Kurt Johmann" <johmann@atlantic.net>
    To: "Kevin Vanhaelewijn" <kevin.vanhaelewijn@pandora.be>
    Subject: Re: Ice age again
    Date: Thu, 9 Aug 2001

    [here I quoted his first example in his email]

    Yosemite Valley has already been discussed. The image shows the mountains that could have fed a glacier in the past.

    Note that the link I gave in my first reply -- http://nsidc.org/glaciers/questions/located.html -- says that there are approximately 75 thousand square kilometers of glaciers in the United States today. So erosion by glaciers is happening today in the United States.

    [here I quoted his second example in his email]

    This example -- "U-shaped valley of Charlotte Creek, a tributary to the Susquehanna River" -- is still being eroded by flowing water, so what is the mystery?

    A stream or river can certainly produce a U-shaped erosion pattern: all that is needed is for the flow volume and rate to remain roughly constant over the time period during which the erosion is done (assuming the rock material that was eroded had the same hardness for the thickness that was eroded).

    [here I quoted his third example in his email, including:]
    >***So this would be caused by debris carried along by water in
    >our point of view***

    Yes, unless the area is at an elevation, alongside mountains that could have fed a glacier in the past.

    The image showing the rock erosion has both streaks and separate digs. It looks like this example of erosion is on a rock wall or floor. I do not know what produced this specific example. However, for an impact-produced flooding on a continental scale, loose rocks up to very large boulder size could have been dragged across and/or driven against that rock wall or floor, producing a mix of streaks and digs. Alternatively, for this example, a more gentle explanation of erosion by flowing water in a river or stream does not seem likely. Similarly, it is not clear to me how those digs could result from glacial erosion, which is also a gentle process.

    Note that I am assuming that all the digs are real erosion effects (and that they are not due to human hand, and not due to inclusions in the rock of softer material that eroded out more easily than the base rock, leaving the digs), although I see in the image what looks like a letter 'x' above the pointing finger, and a letter 'I' at which the finger is pointing, and this makes me wonder if everything in the image is due to erosion.


This URL is: http://www.johmann.net/e-mail/ice-age-email.html
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