|[ image by Peter Carter of Climate Emergency Institute ]|
We at Sea Research Society's Environmental Affairs Department are very concerned of the melting permafrost terrain and methane clathrate deposits of the Arctic Ocean's sea bed (which are seeding Siberia's air once again with carbon-12). This is because Arctic Ocean's methane clathrates, methane (CH4) & carbon dioxide (CO₂) deposits are thought to be the world's largest reservoir of carbon. When it comes to methane, much of that in the Arctic is a side-product of geochemical processes since the birth of our planet some 4 billion years ago and so it contains ZERO radiocarbon (14C). To these are added the various undersea and land-based deposits of ancient fossil carbon which too have zero or just minute content of carbon-14.
We see already the Arctic at a tipping point, reaching a cliff edge to zero carbon-14 presence in tundra's plants emerging over recent years.
Above should set off alarm bells to archaeologists so much so that if carbon-14 can now disappear from the observed portfolio of the carbon isotopes in the plants and animals by radiocarbon-dilution effect from both the ancient geo-carbon and also the fossil carbon sources on land and sea bed. One of the key pillars to calibrate not only radiocarbon dating, but other methods as well that have been indirectly calibrated with the help of carbon-14 as their control measurements, is being attacked by the furious Mother Nature. We stand now on an increasingly elastic and shifting sands on this question. And why just now?
The answer to this is straightforward: the man-made global warming. So, now recall that the Arctic Ocean's sea level fell between some 120-130 metres from its present-day water table during the Ice Ages as water accumulated within the glaciers on the land - and that depressurisation (in addition to warming) is actually the primary route to destroy methane clathrates as it disintegrates at lower water pressures. The broad rule is therefore that the less water in ocean, the more methane clathrate (methane ice) begins to disintegrate.
Methane clathrates (methane ice deposits) as the world's biggest carbon reservoir would have inevitably oozed out copious amounts of carbon-12 into air during the lowering of the Ice Age era ocean water table. At the same time, the ice-filled and cold world oceans were mopping away gases from the air far more intensively than they do today leaving little atmospheric carbon-14 behind in this process. The atmospheric carbon is very rich in radiocarbon if compared to carbon in water courses and oceans - let alone in the ancient soils. This is because carbon-14 forms in atmosphere from nitrogen due to cosmic radiation. As cold liquids hold more gases than warmer liquids, it is not much of hocus pocus for radiocarbon to disappear from the air into these ice-filled and cold oceans teeming with much more marine life than today.
Today there are over 27,000 recorded methane craters discovered on the Arctic Ocean's sea bed and many have diameter of 1 km or wider. The largest methane crater found so far is 750 km² in its area and has the lost from its deposit thickness over 300 metres (and all of that is pure carbon-12 that was originally within methane ice, of course).
Ethnoclimatology Motion UNGA 101292 which the United Nations Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar authorised for tabling on the floor of the UN General Assembly - as the closing plea of the opening proceedings of the first UN Year of Indigenous Peoples - stipulated a faster case history for the Ice Ages period where global warming was initially driven by methane releases from the seabed while carbon dioxide emerged later as the respondent to the warming by high altitude methane. This then tipped the trajectory of the world's constantly cooling climate at the Last Glacial Maximum towards global warming (methane molecule-to-molecule to carbon dioxide molecule is 256 times more powerful in trapping sun's heat). This system tipping point reversed the cooling of the Ice Ages from the earlier snowball-earth runaway global cooling trajectory (which resulted from the continuously advancing snow lines of the Ice Ages that were heading towards the Equator).
The last time methane came to "save the earth" from runaway freezing (snowball earth), but at our current situation we have triggered its instability by the unforeseen levels of carbon dioxide now at 420 ppm that forms a very-difficult-to-get-rid-of background climatic forcing. This issue of carbon-12 from the frozen polar regions, called cryosphere, is not just for the archaeological community and about the timing of our historic events in the distant past to be understood more accurately, but it is a real existential threat today for our society. This time methane is not coming to us from the ground as our saviour like it was during the Ice Ages, but it is now our foremost enemy after our man-made releases of carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide released today lingers in air for 1000 years or even more, although bouncing back-and-forth with surface layers in the oceans, but it is only very gradually disappearing from the air by chemical weathering by the olivine group rocks or soils containing olivine group minerals. Also, very deeply penetrated plant roots lock carbon gradually away as well as the sea plankton if it falls onto the deep ocean bed. It is a grave misconception to think that the plant life is a great natural filter than can sort our mess out. The plants are rather geared to take carbon in as carbon dioxide to only form their leaves, let the autumn come and those same leaves are due to fall onto the ground and turn back into carbon dioxide. Flowers and trees are not any sort of Santa Claus to do that job for us.
As carbon's locking away is not at all immediate as shown above but as it can take thousand years or more to do so, so the same principle applied to the huge releases of Palaeolithic methane (which as lighter-than-air gas resides mainly in the upper troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere). As most of methane has been seen in recent years accumulating at fastest rate at the highest altitudes in the atmosphere - far above the surface - it cannot be very well represented in the ice cores. It simply is neither trapped in the snow crystals very much - and consequently - nor seen in the ice cores (that are basically just taken out of the pack of compacted fallen snow) - as most of methane resides well above the cloud level.
This explains why the global warming - which ended the Ice Ages - appears in the ice cores already centuries to thousands of years before the rising concentrations of carbon dioxide is seen in air trapped in the bubbles of the ice cores. Methane oxidizes best to carbon dioxide in warm and moist air, but during the xeric climate conditions of the ice ages and also amplified by the xeric heights in dry stratosphere, methane oxidised back then far slower than it does today. Thus, the huge heating effect of methane melted the ice sheets of the Ice Ages back into the world ocean and as soon as the sea levels rose, methane clathrates got re-pressurised - while the slip-sliding and collapsing ice sheets and ice shelves produced ice bergs and more sea ice to cool both the oceans and the climate. The supply of new methane from ocean beds soon was cut off and in due course also the permafrost releases also began to diminish as climate began to cool due to growing shortage of methane in air. By Holocene Thermal Maximum or Optimum any further global warming had stopped as by then there was little high altitude methane left in upper troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere. As a consequence of this new tipping point, the atmospheric temperature rise ceased and settled for the Holocene equilibrium and then dropped slightly for the next few thousands of years.
The above explains, for example, the radiocarbon-outliers of the earliest Egyptian carbon samples being typically more carbon-14 aged than their actual age. Quite ridiculously, the recent discovery of wood material in relation to the Great Pyramid of Giza, which was built by Pharaoh Khufu was radiocarbon-dated to 34th century BCE. This is more than eight (8) full centuries before the historically-known date when the Great Pyramid of Giza was built.
In fact, the timing of 34 centuries before Common Era is a date that occurred long before even the Egyptian state even existed! Yet, these readings were apparently checked very carefully and cross-checked again. The explanation flirted - which we at SRS are strenuously disputing - is that the Egyptians would have stored the wood for over eight centuries before the put that wood in use to build the Khufu pyramid. This is outrageous stupidity as it is very clear that huge bulk quantities of wood would have been required and which could never have been stored for such a long time before its final use. There simpy weren't even manpower and storage facilities in the 34th century BCE Egypt. Even if the wood would have been first used in the construction of the Sakkara Pyramid, the first pyramid, and then recycled to the Great Pyramid of Giza for re-use, it still would not be sufficiently aged enough to explain the carbon-14 readings obtained as 34th century BCE.
The best (or - better to say - only) explanation to the above is the effect of lingering carbon dioxide in the air remaining centuries to over thousands of years after the Palaeolithic releases of geological and fossil carbon from the Arctic permafrost soils and seabed.
Our whole economy (along history-keeping too) stands and falls if the Arctic methane and carbon dioxide emissions of carbon-12 continue this way unabated as today. The world needs cooling urgently and far less CO₂ perhaps 350 ppm or less. Of course, there is also the separate environmental issue of Siberia's forest fires this year and last (2020 and 2021) with a forest of the size of France said to have been burnt.
Above are serious issues where historic dating of carbon is a minor issue but where the dangers from global warming to human society must remain our supreme concern.
A particularly suspicious case to us is the Japanese Palaeolithic as the island sits east of the vast Eurasian landmass and is exposed to winds from north-west that come via Siberia. In particular the Pandora's Box of permafrost carbon-12 is suspect culprit in these comments:
"Ground stone and polished tools: The Japanese Palaeolithic is unique in that it incorporates one of the earliest known sets of ground stone and polished stone tools in the world .. The tools, which have been dated to around 30,000 BC, are a technology associated in the rest of the world with the beginning of the Neolithic around 10,000 BC. It is not known why such tools were created so early in Japan. Because of this originality, the Japanese Palaeolithic period in Japan does not exactly match the traditional definition of Palaeolithic based on stone technology (chipped stone tools). Japanese Palaeolithic tool implements thus display Mesolithic and Neolithic traits as early as 30,000 BC." (Wikipedia, Japanese Palaeolithic)
The effect of carbon-12 seeding in air - as the westerly winds roll gradually over the terrain of Siberia and Arctic to pick up old carbon on its way to east - is seen to be the greatest in the north-east corner of Siberia (i.e. northern Yakutia) where the plants currently appear sucking in major permafrost inputs of ancient carbon. This would suggest that the northern China would be also quite prone to similar permafrost-based carbon-12 seeding. Then, when one accounts for the blocking effects of the Karakoram and the Himalayan mountain ranges in south and the very limited ability for the air to rise in the thin-air area over the vast Tibetan high plateau, the air is mostly guided towards South-East China that also ought see fairly elevated levels of carbon-12. This creates in my mind a question mark over the Chinese archaeological claim that they created the world's first clay pottery some 10,000-15,000 years before others - the people of the Middle East - let alone, the 'laggards' of Europe.
So, is this then another radiocarbon illusion created by the Mother Earth?
"A 2012 publication in the Science journal, announced that the earliest pottery yet known anywhere in the world was found at Xianren Cave site dated by radiocarbon to between 20,000 and 19,000 years before present, at the end of the Last Glacial Period. The carbon 14 dating was established by carefully dating surrounding sediments. Many of the pottery fragments had scorch marks, suggesting that the pottery was used for cooking. These early pottery containers were made well before the invention of agriculture (dated to 10,000 to 8,000 BC), by mobile foragers who hunted and gathered their food during the Late Glacial Maximum." (Wikipedia, Xianren Cave)
There are other issues than a lack of such old pottery findings in addition to the suggested radiocarbon-dilution effect that archeologists must consider. One reason for not finding pottery, or encountering less of it, would be the mobility and the lack of accumulation of domestic waste in heaps, "tells", as in the Middle East because the people were likely highly nomadic. It might be more practical to use wooden vessels, leather skins and avoid pots by other means like roasting meat over the open fire rather than carrying the relatively bulky clay pots (at least for anything other than for use as a cooking vessel for vegetables, seeds, roots, or herbs). Animals and fish could be roosted on rocks or over the fire as and so the need might be just for an occasional cooking pot. When to the potential mobility is added temporary camping in places away from the rivers and the streams, it is easy to miss out vast majority of pottery left behind on the huge grassland steppes of Central Asia and China.
On the other hand, the idea of clay pots could have spread far faster as useful and easy-to-copy practice to bake clay, and the large c-14 dates might be almost entirely carbon artefacts.
At British Museum's conference Anthropology, Weather, and Climate Change we presented a poster Looking at the Forward Running Clocks' - Carbon Cycles and Time from Pleistocene to Present outlining some prime candidates that we suspected as fallen for the Arctic geo-carbon and fossil carbon seeding effects (a link attached at the end).
The carbon "seeding effects" are not only localised and regional radiocarbon anomalies. There are important anomalies also outside the time scales of these seasonal and regional weather patterns - on a global climate scale. As an indicator of this, there is the already stated anomalous global warming that is seen occurring centuries-to-millennia before the rise of carbon dioxide in air trapped within the ice cores before it is enriched with carbon dioxide. This anomaly (an exceedingly toted argument by the climate change denialists) can be associated with the above said methane leaks from methane clathrates (geo-carbon and fossil carbon) from ocean bed, and methane from permafrost (fossil carbon) at very high altitudes - where the were warming the air well before carbon dioxide arrived to the scene. This carbon sourcing would have seeded also the entire overall global air mass to at least some extent with this extra carbon-12 - though somewhat less than the northern anomalies to create also a somewhat skewed background comparisons level (less "aged" than the higher permafrost emissions seen nearer their Arctic sources) but also radiocarbon-diluted.
In all this, remember, it only takes a doubling of carbon-12 in the air to add one half-life (5,730 years) to the measured radiocarbon age. If you reduce it to a quarter, that is already in the range of over 10,000 years - and it is in these ranges or even more than that - these gigantic Arctic carbon stores painted our ancient biological bodies with extra carbon-12.
We have devised some unique experiments that can fully differentiate any carbon from the above Arctic sources from the naturally occurring portfolio of the carbon isotopes.
I just got the latest methane blobs reported 02:30 am today. These images are far from good although they do not create such a television theatre or environmental porn like the forest fires, floods and hurricanes do. Yesterday's readings are "our canary in a coal mine" to show how badly methane and carbon dioxide are now streaming out from the Arctic permafrost soils and seabeds. Our past trust has been to be over-relying on plain or slightly tinkered readings how to interpret radiocarbon. This will be gone as this is how carbon-12 now enters our biological materials from Northern Asia with its culprit caught red handed.
The revised radiocarbon-oriented vocabulary on the Arctic carbon-12 emissions are: Ice Ages' Last Glacial Maximum (= Sea-Level Drop Maximum) until Holocene Thermal Maximum/Optimum (= Permafrost Melting Maximum). The past ancient methane "blobs" were in a vastly larger scales than those seen here today. As I said above, carbon dioxide concentrations could not get over 180 ppm during the Ice Ages due to the cold and iceberg and sea ice filled oceans dissolving gases from atmosphere far faster than today whilst the carbon-12 taps of lowered seabeds and then melting permafrost remained highly venting. This suppressed atmospheric carbon-14 manifestation for a very long time. Situation on graphics on Tuesday, 3 August 2021; received Wednesday, 4th August 2021 at 02:30 GMT.
Our research of ethnoclimatological records show consistent records in Sumer, India, East Asia, and Mesoamerica that the ethnic time-keeping is consistently pointing towards faster causative, duration and termination history for the Ice Ages and as per UNGA 101292. This is also at the core of my 2023 moon expedition bid to raise alarm on above dangers from the Moon to get the First Nations of Americas ethnohistorical climate recollections taken more seriously and to establish Ethnoclimatology as a new branch of science akin to Ethnobotany.
By Veli Albert Kallio, FRGS | Vice-President, Sea Research Society | Ethnoclimatologist
• United Nations General Assembly Motion 101292 for UNFCCC's Talanoa Dialogue
• 'Looking At The Forward Running Clocks' - Carbon Cycles and Time From Pleistocene to Present
Former Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, London, Professor Sir Ghillean Prance, FRS, is fully behind me on my moon flight bid to raise alarm bells on above problem. I hope a positive outcome by the end of this month to be included in the moon flight crew.
• Moon Flight Crew Interview of Veli Albert Kallio (Step 3) for SpaceX 2023 Lunar Mission