Abandoned Greenland Ice Base Calls CO2 Concerns Into Question

Drilling at Camp Century in 1961. Photograph: David Atwood/U.S. Army-ERDC-CRREL/AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives   Wired.com had another story with a climate change hook on July 20 called, “An Abandoned […]
Published on July 31, 2023

Drilling at Camp Century in 1961. Photograph: David Atwood/U.S. Army-ERDC-CRREL/AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives


Wired.com had another story with a climate change hook on July 20 called, “An Abandoned Arctic Military Base Just Spilled a Scientific Secret.” It began “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.”

From 1959 to 1966, Project Iceworm in Greenland was meant to establish military bases in caverns carved out of glacial ice, with Camp Century being the trial run. The plan was to locate as many as 600 intercontinental ballistic missiles in under-ice caverns, invisible to the Soviets, and within striking range of the USSR.

However, the project never did work out and it was terminated in 1966.

The climate angle comes out of what was discovered in remarkable ice core the military drilled through the glacier.

The Wired article said that researchers drilled a 4,550-foot-deep core through the ice sheet, and when they hit earth, they drilled another 12 feet, bringing up a plug of frozen sand, dirty ice, cobbles, and mud.

It continued, “Nobody cared much about the sediment, though, until 2018, when it was rediscovered 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 wrote, “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.”

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.”

The article continued, “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 today, and yet the northernmost portions of Greenland (the most likely to freeze) was tundra? Greenland did not have the better part of a mile of ice covering it when CO2 was well below the supposedly crucial threshold of 350 parts per million?

Indeed, the article goes on to say, “That melting [of all the Greenland ice] 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 claim: carbon dioxide levels were much lower, sea levels were much higher, and the Greenland ice sheet was much smaller.

This new evidence makes reasonable people 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 a low CO2 level?

Surely something here doesn’t jive. And yet the world is in a tizzy over rising carbon dioxide levels.

Maybe someone should go back to Greenland, and drill a few more core samples to test this theory before we destroy our economy and our lives.

Perhaps the science of climate change 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. First published here.

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