Undergraduate Geologists and Secretary Chu

A few years ago, I noticed some interesting presentations by geology undergraduates at the Keck Symposium – see 4 papers online here – describing fossils from the Miocene and Pliocene (both well after the Cretaceous) in the Arctic. Here’s a tree from the Pliocene – which is not “hundreds of millions” of years ago, but the period immediately preceding the very cold Pleistocene.

One of the paper specifically reports on Alaska temperature over the Tertiary (post-dinosaurs: the last 50 million years or so)

In Alaska (paleolatitude of 60°N) the MAT dropped from ca. 11° to 4° C between 12 and 13 Ma with concomitant changes in the vegetation (Wolfe 1997).

This is illustrated with the following graphic:

I’m sure that any geology undergrad could make an excellent reading list for an inquisitive Secretary.


75 Comments

  1. DeWitt Payne
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:14 PM | Permalink

    Late Miocene alligator fossils have been found in upper East Tennessee at the Gray fossil site so the climate was sub-tropical sometime between 4.5 and 7 Mya.

    • Soronel Haetir
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 8:33 PM | Permalink

      Re: DeWitt Payne (#2),

      Isn’t it fairly well accepted that the world was fairly warm until the Antarctic/Australia breakup?

      • DeWitt Payne
        Posted May 4, 2009 at 10:17 PM | Permalink

        Re: Soronel Haetir (#3),

        Isn’t it fairly well accepted that the world was fairly warm until the Antarctic/Australia breakup?

        Temperatures have been declining since the Eocene Optimum ~50 Mya. But the real kicker may have been the closure of the gap between North and South America about 3Mya. That coincided with a sharp drop in global temperature according to oxygen isotope ratio data from foraminifera in ocean cores.

      • johnd
        Posted May 4, 2009 at 11:41 PM | Permalink

        Re: Soronel Haetir (#3),

        Not really. There is evidence of four cold epochs during the Phanerozoic – roughly the last 600 ma. Three of these periods precede the break up, although the cool period immediately preceding the breakup appears to have lacked polar ice caps. An even colder event seems to have affected the entire planet during the Proterozoic when nearly the entire planet seems to have frozen.

  2. jae
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 8:40 PM | Permalink

    I’m sure that any geology undergrad could make an excellent reading list for an inquisitive Secretary.

    When even my horribly conservative hackles are raised, this must be getting pretty provocative. LOL.

    • curious
      Posted May 6, 2009 at 5:55 PM | Permalink

      Re: jae (#4), JAE – I agree. To my mind this is a provocative post. I think a more useful way of discussing any potential dismerits of Dr Chu’s response to Congressman Barton’s question would have been (for example) to post an open letter to Dr Chu requesting clarification and highlighting the area’s of concern with the impression his response could have made.

      [snip – Scott has made allegations on motive that are not permitted on blog policies. I’ve deleted his comment and your reference to it. ]

      • D. Patterson
        Posted May 6, 2009 at 6:06 PM | Permalink

        Re: curious (#51),

        Dr. Chu’s office still has not responded to inquiries requesting clarification of his statements in the testimony.

        Mr. Barton’s office immediately and cheerfully answered a telephone call and inquiry in regard to Mr. Waxman’s office barring the testimony of Lord Monckton alongside Al Gore in the full committee hearings.

      • curious
        Posted May 6, 2009 at 6:35 PM | Permalink

        Re: curious (#49), Yes – I thought it was a bit strong; saved the page I was so surprised!

        Not to parse words Steve, as you’ve probably gathered, I thought the posts on Dr Chu and Barton’s 6 second “storm in a tea cup” were off target. Could have been/be an opportunity to ask Dr Chu to answer the question Barton could/should have put directly in the first place. It’s no fun for anyone to be kicked around the playground and it didn’t fit with what CA seems to be about. I’ll not go on.

        Enjoyed the new post on trends and learnt something new. C

  3. bender
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 8:44 PM | Permalink

    I wonder if you could revise the OP to include the full quote from Chu, RE: “hundreds of millions” of years ago.

  4. Patrick M.
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 8:45 PM | Permalink

    I’m sure that any geology undergrad could make an excellent reading list for an inquisitive Secretary.

    Ouch!

    I think you forgot to say, “You’ve been served.”

  5. maksimovich
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 8:50 PM | Permalink

    The Pliocene paradox when external factors where essentially the same and temperatures higher.Co2 was 280-300ppm eg Pagani et al 1999.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/285/5429/876

    Federov 2006

    Science 9 June 2006:
    Vol. 312. no. 5779, pp. 1485 – 1489
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1122666

    Interesting arguments in the latter ,but none that fit,the paradox remains

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:31 PM | Permalink

      Re: maksimovich (#8),

      When viewed on the geologic timescale of the Phanerozoic about 546 million years during which multi-cellular life colonized the terrestrial landscapes, the relationship between temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have been highly unccordinated and very often counter-related. Only by selecting relatively very short periods out of the overall time period can anyone demonstrate a fleeting and very very temporary correlation.

  6. maksimovich
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 11:26 PM | Permalink

    DeWitt Payne

    Temperatures have been declining since the Eocene Optimum ~50 Mya. But the real kicker may have been the closure of the gap between North and South America about 3Mya. That coincided with a sharp drop in global temperature according to oxygen isotope ratio data from foraminifera in ocean cores.

    Federov et al

    These results suggest that high sea surface temperatures in high latitudes, more
    than low albedo, helped maintain the warm conditions of the early Pliocene, but
    what processes maintained those high surface temperatures? One possibility is a
    larger poleward transport of heat by oceanic currents during the early Pliocene.
    Presumably the closure of the Panamanian Seaway in the early Pliocene
    reorganized the oceanic circulation and in due course altered the poleward
    transport of heat. However, an open Seaway could not explain the early Pliocene
    high latitude warmth because the closure at the end of the warm period would
    have intensified the deep, thermohaline circulation in the Atlantic sector (10,11),thus transporting more, not less heat northward. It is conceivable that what mattered most was the northward transport, not of heat, but of moisture that promoted the growth of the glaciers and hence a cooling trend (12). One problem with this argument is that the timing of the closure between 4.5 and 4.0 Ma (13) was much earlier than the onset of cold high latitude conditions. Furthermore, this still leaves the warm conditions of the early Pliocene unexplained.

    The Paradox remains

  7. pete m
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 11:39 PM | Permalink

    This is a complicated story but oil and gas is a result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around and so it is the combination of where the sources of where the oil and gas are ..

    Bender – here is what Curious transcribed from the youtube clip.

  8. John
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 1:46 AM | Permalink

    Two New Dinosaurs Discovered in Antarctica

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 2:18 AM | Permalink

      Re: John (#12),

      With Google Earth, you cannot find a place in Antarctica that is 3,200 km from the South Pole. This rather makes nonsense of the quote from “Nature”. I’ve told them a million times not to exaggerate in climate science.

      A mountaineer accompanying paleontologists turned up the animal’s huge pelvis in an informal search only a few miles from the South Pole. Two thousand miles (3,200 kilometers) across the continent, and less than a week later, the scant remains of another dinosaur were found—completely by chance—on what once was the bottom of a shallow ocean.

      Re opening remarks by Students at Keck, the limited description of flora is reminiscent of present country in West Yunnan/S-W Sichuan, China. Kunming has a world famous Botanical Institute. It would be interesting to run these papers past them to see if they agree with comments like

      This information is
      essential to accurately estimate the paleoclimate
      of the Canadian Arctic and identify the role of
      the polar trees in regulating the global carbon
      cycle. With the current rate of global warming
      expected to cause worldwide temperatures to
      increase 1.4-4.3°C (4-10°C at high northern
      latitudes) by 2100, the Arctic environment could
      change significantly (Chernicoff and Whitney
      2002; Hassol 2004). Understanding the changes
      caused by past climatic warming can help to
      predict how Arctic vegetation will respond to
      future fluctuations in climate.

      Maybe it is better to understand today’s distributions and ecoclimates before going back some tens of millions of years.

      • Ross Berteig
        Posted May 7, 2009 at 12:37 AM | Permalink

        Re: Geoff Sherrington (#15), Careful reading of the linked article scared up the two relevant place names: James Ross Island and Mount Kirkpatrick. Those two happen to be fairly close to 2000 miles apart according to a quick stretch of the Google Earth ruler between their approximate locations.

        The article is wrong to describe Mt. Kirkpatrick as “only a few miles from the South Pole” as Google Earth would have it be more like 350 miles.

        On the whole, I think they got the distances right on this one. You are right that even the Northernmost tip of the peninsula is less than 1800 miles from the pole, and most of the coastline is a lot closer than that.

  9. John
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 1:48 AM | Permalink

    The above link is to the National Geographic article I mentioned in an earlier thread that talks about the Cretaceous climate in Antarctica.

  10. JamesG
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 2:51 AM | Permalink

    Does all this futile argument stem from the myth that oil and gas come from dinosaurs, when it is generally accepted that it came from plankton and algae? Cold-water plankton are well-known and cold-loving algae have been found in the Arctic. So while Chu was ignorant, Barton wasn’t really any better.

    snip – no abiotic oil speculations please

    Steve: yes, there are coldwater algae but coldwater algae are not the provenance of the North Slope oil and gas. This is discussed in the other thread. In this particular case, Barton was on home turf and Chu was ill-advised to assume that he was stupid.

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 7:28 AM | Permalink

      Re: JamesG (#16),

      May 5th, 2009 at 2:51 am
      Does all this futile argument stem from the myth that oil and gas come from dinosaurs, when it is generally accepted that it came from plankton and algae?

      It is no myth that dinosaurs did in fact contribute in very small part to the formation of oil and natural gas deposits. There were a number of species that were inhabitants of the marine environments, and their corpses contributed to the organic rich sediments which were subsequently reduced to hydrocarbons. The fact that algae and plankton did not lend themselves to making logos for Sinclair Oil and Shell oil does not change the fact that the large animal species contributed at least in small degrees to the hydrocarbons as well.

      Cold-water plankton are well-known and cold-loving algae have been found in the Arctic. So while Chu was ignorant, Barton wasn’t really any better.

      Barton asked questions, and none of his questions were wrong in any way whatsoever. What is wrong, however, is your implication that “Cold-water plankton […] and cold-loving algae” are major contributors to commercial scale depostis of oil and natural gas in comparison to tropical and sub-tropical species. When marine plant and animal life die and are deposited in the marine sediments, their carbon compounds are oxidized by bacteria and converted in large part to carbon dioxide and carbonate sedimentary rocks containing no commercial deposits of liquid hydrocarbons. In other words, their carbon compounds are consumed by the bacteria before they can become buried to any great concentration required to produce commercial deposits of oil and natural gas. Commercial deposits of the organic or biotic hydrocarbons occurred during special conditions in tropical and sub-tropical shallow sea environments, because the warmer sea temperatures sometimes created the anoxic conditions required to keep the organic matter from being oxidized and consumed by the bacteria before the organics could be buried beyond the reach of the bacteria.

      Cold polar seas during ice ages and deep oceanic basins, however, were very poor places for the formation of oil and gas deposits. The cold water of polar seas during ice ages are typically well oxygenated, so bacteria oxidize the organic matter before it can be buried and subsequently converted to liquid hydrocarbons. Likewise, the deep ocean basins tend to be relative lifeless deserts by comparison to the seas of the continental shelves, and what organic matter there is tends to once again become oxygentated by cold bottom waters which permit bacteria to oxidize most of the commercial quantities of organics before they can become buried in the sediments. Knowing that warm anoxic shallow seas were required for the formation of the Alaskan commercial oil and gas deposits, Barton offered Chu an opportunity to acknowledge the warmth of the past Alaskan climate in the high latitudes. Chu miserably failed to do so.

      But lo, here is an interesting tidbit:

      http://www.green-energy-news.com/arch/nrgs2008/20080064.html

      “Now that NASA has discovered liquid hydrocarbons – black gold – on Titan, a moon orbiting Saturn [at minus 300 degrees F], scientists may have to rethink how hydrocarbons, like oil and natural gas, came to be on planet Earth.”

      An interesting read. So much that we pretend we know about our planet working as we do from a base of massive ignorance…

      Unfortunately, you have badly misunderstood and misinterpreted what you have been reading, so the comment about massive ignorance is highly inappropriate. Yes, Titan is loaded with hydrocarbons. So what? The Earth also used to be loaded with hydrocarbons as well. What happened to them, you may ask? Many things happened to Earth’s hydrocarbons. A great part of the Earth’s early methane, ethane, and other complex compounds were destroyed by sunlight, the Earth’s environment, and pushed by the Solar wind to the outer Solar System, where they were incorporated into Jupiter, Saturn, Titan, and other gaseous and icy worlds. Much of the Earth’s carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, hydrosphere, plant life, animal life, and carbonate lithosphere were converted from Earth’s early reserves of methane, ethane, and hydrocarbons. Move Titan into a somewhat warmer orbit around the Sun and turn loose some of Earth’s microbial life, and you can watch as the life forms consume Titan’s hydrocarbons and radically change that world’s environmental chemistries as they did on the Earth. There are fundamental differences between the commercial deposits of oil and natural gas in Alaska and the abiotic hydrocarbons found on Titan and inside extraterrestrial chondrite meteorites. All life on Earth, for one example, produces a levro or left rotating chain in the organic molecule of oil. Abiotic sources of liquid hydrocarbons do not necessarily produce molecular chains rotating in only the one direction. Likewise, there are other characteristics of oil derived from living organisms which differentiate the oils from inorganic sources.

      So, no, the hydrocarbons on Titan do not require scientists to “rethink how hydrocarbons, like oil and natural gas, came to be on planet Earth.” They have long known and/or suspected Titan’s atmosphere was likely a much colder example of Earth’s early atmospheric composition. Earth being so much warmer produced very different results. Anytime you want to find where so much of the Earth’s earliest massive stores of hydrocarbons went, simply look at your nearest carbon-based lifeforms, the carbonate rocks they sit upon, and the atmospheres of Jupiter, Saturn, Titan, Uranus, and Neptune.

      • JamesG
        Posted May 5, 2009 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

        Re: D. Patterson (#20),
        Well I stand corrected. You went overboard though with the “very small part” from dinosaurs and you disagree with Pat Frank in saying that abiotic methane did exist on Earth. But can you tell me more about how this balmy Alaskan climate came about? Did the planet swing about on it’s axis or was it greenhouse gases?

        This intrigues me too:
        “Commercial deposits of the organic or biotic hydrocarbons occurred during special conditions in tropical and sub-tropical shallow sea environments, because the warmer sea temperatures sometimes created the anoxic conditions required to keep the organic matter from being oxidized and consumed by the bacteria before the organics could be buried beyond the reach of the bacteria. Cold polar seas during ice ages and deep oceanic basins, however, were very poor places for the formation of oil and gas deposits.”

        Since the North slope is not a major deposit in comparison to Venezuela or Arabia I clearly didn’t imply that “Cold-water plankton …and cold-loving algae” are major contributors to commercial scale depostis of oil and natural gas in comparison to tropical and sub-tropical species.”. However you seem to tell us that Alaska was not just warm, but actually sub-tropical. Quite a claim!

        Does it come perhaps from here?
        “Palaeoclimate: A balmy Arctic in Nature 432, 814-815 (16 December 2004)”:
        “Analyses of sediments retrieved from a drifting ice island suggest that the Arctic Ocean may have been ice free and as warm as 15 °C about 70 million years ago. Therein is a challenge for climate models. Various lines of evidence show that Earth’s climate was much warmer during the Cretaceous period than it is today. Yet that evidence — fossil plants and animals, sedimentary features and geochemical indicators — is sparse, spotty and often inexact, making the magnitude and distribution of Cretaceous temperatures highly uncertain.”

        Given these high uncertainties you seem to be hugely overconfident in your assertions and Barton, far from being on “solid ground”, as Steve puts it, is likely relying on speculative science.

        Speculation presented as fact – just what we accuse the climateers of…

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 6, 2009 at 5:31 AM | Permalink

          Re: JamesG (#27),

          May 5th, 2009 at 9:26 am
          Re: D. Patterson (#20),
          [snip – no discussion of abiotic theories]

          But can you tell me more about how this balmy Alaskan climate came about? Did the planet swing about on it’s axis or was it greenhouse gases?

          You’ve got it backwards. The cold climate is the exception to the norm, not the warm “balmy Alaskan climate.” The Earth during the past 500 million years is usually about 10C to 12C warmer than it is at the present time. It is abnormally colder at the present time of the Holocene, because we now live in an inter-glacial period of time during the Holarctic-Antarctic Ice Age. The current ice age is one of five such ice ages which have subjected the Earth on at least five occasions to climate conditions and temperatures substantially colder than the normal conditions prevailing in the absence of an ice age.

          Huronian Ice Age 2500—2100 Ma, duration ~400 million years

          Stuartian-Varangian Ice Age 950—600 Ma, duration ~50 million years

          Andean-Saharan Ice Age 450—420 Ma, duration ~30 million years

          Karoo Ice Age 360—260 Ma, duration ~100 million years

          Holarctic-Antarctic Ice Age 30 Ma -– to present so far

          In the absence of an ice age, the regions inside the Arctic Circle typically do not experience a cold climate. Since the the times in which plant and animal life first colonized the terrestrial landsapes of the continental plates, the prevailing climate in the Arctic Circle and at the North Pole has ranged from warm temperate to cool temperate. The only times a cold climate was found in those regions was during one of the ice ages. The ice ages likely occurred due to multiple causes.

          In any case, the effect life had upon the chemical evolution of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and cryosphere with the release of oxygen and sequestration of carbon in sedimentary lithosphere undoubtedly had profound influences upon the changing of the Earth’s climate.

          This intrigues me too:
          “Commercial deposits of the organic or biotic hydrocarbons occurred during special conditions in tropical and sub-tropical shallow sea environments, because the warmer sea temperatures sometimes created the anoxic conditions required to keep the organic matter from being oxidized and consumed by the bacteria before the organics could be buried beyond the reach of the bacteria. Cold polar seas during ice ages and deep oceanic basins, however, were very poor places for the formation of oil and gas deposits.”
          Since the North slope is not a major deposit in comparison to Venezuela or Arabia I clearly didn’t imply that “Cold-water plankton …and cold-loving algae” are major contributors to commercial scale depostis of oil and natural gas in comparison to tropical and sub-tropical species.”. However you seem to tell us that Alaska was not just warm, but actually sub-tropical. Quite a claim!

          The North Slope is a major commercial deposit of petroleum and natural gas, regardless of anything you have to think or say about other such commercial deposits around the world. I only made a distinction between natural biotic processes of producing petroleum and natural gas deposits in quantities sufficient to be used for commercial extraction or not. The problem with “Cold-water plankton …and cold-loving algae” is the fact that the process typically does not result in enough burial of organic matter to result in deposits which can be commercially extracted. It does not mean some minimal level of oil and gas formation cannot occur under these colder conditions. It does mean commercial deposits have not been found to exist in cold marine environments with oxygenated seas.

          Tropical, sub-tropical and arid climates existed in the area when this part of Alaska’s continental plate was in the vicinity of the Tropic of Cancer in the Silurian, Devonian, and Carboniferous; which is long before these deposits of petroleum and natural gas were formed.

          At the times and places in which the North Slope oil and natural gas deposits were formed, the climate was mostly warm temperate with variations ranging from an arid climate to a cold temperate climate. The temperatures, shallow seas, complicated coastlines creating restricted waterways, and abundant life created conditions conducive to thermal stratification and anoxia in the marine environments. These marine conditions, sedimentation rate, abundant organic matter, and anoxia created conditions suitable for the formation of commercial scale deposits of oil and natural gas in the stratigraphy of Alaska..

          Does it come perhaps from here?
          “Palaeoclimate: A balmy Arctic in Nature 432, 814-815 (16 December 2004)”:
          “Analyses of sediments retrieved from a drifting ice island suggest that the Arctic Ocean may have been ice free and as warm as 15 °C about 70 million years ago. Therein is a challenge for climate models. Various lines of evidence show that Earth’s climate was much warmer during the Cretaceous period than it is today. Yet that evidence — fossil plants and animals, sedimentary features and geochemical indicators — is sparse, spotty and often inexact, making the magnitude and distribution of Cretaceous temperatures highly uncertain.”

          No, it does not come from that source at all.

          Whoever wrote the quoted item needs an education in the subject, unless they want to ghost write for Al Gore. You cannot emplace crocodile fossils, similar fauna and flora, and also form coal in the stratigraphy of Alaska while in the middle of a cold climate like that of the current inter-glacial of an ice age. The presence of these and other markers leaves no doubt whatsoever that climate ranged from warm temperate to cool temperate at the time in which the oil and gas deposits were formed. A cold climate could not have prevailed at the times in which these deposits were formed in and near the Arctic Circle.

          Given these high uncertainties you seem to be hugely overconfident in your assertions and Barton, far from being on “solid ground”, as Steve puts it, is likely relying on speculative science.
          Speculation presented as fact – just what we accuse the climateers of…

          No speculation is involved when you have fossilized fauna and flora whose habitats exclude the existence of a cold climate in the time periods these life forms inhabited this Alaskan area of the continent. Your presumption of “high uncertainties” in the face of stratigraphic and fossil evidence, accusation of “hugely overconfident…assertions” in disregard of the stratigraphy free of cold temperature geological features, and denial of the observed evidence of cool climate and warm climate fossils such as coal and crocodiles does not rise to the level of speculation.

      • Geoff Sherrington
        Posted May 5, 2009 at 7:27 PM | Permalink

        Re: D. Patterson (#20),

        A dexterous exposition, much appreciated. But we chemists usually spell it “levo”

      • Peter
        Posted May 11, 2009 at 9:01 PM | Permalink

        Re: D. Patterson (#20), With regard to your assertion that commercial oil deposits were formed only in anoxic basins, why is it then, that many of the most productive oil fields are located in prograding deltaic sedimentary packages?

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted May 11, 2009 at 9:18 PM | Permalink

          Re: Peter (#57),
          check out the source rocks. I’ll bet that you find that source rocks even in prograding deltaic sedimentary packages come from anoxic events. I use the term “event” here rather than “basin”. However, this point is rather far afield from CHu’s bizarre attempt to attribute evidence of past warmth in the Arctic to plate tectonics.

        • bender
          Posted May 12, 2009 at 8:25 AM | Permalink

          Re: Steve McIntyre (#58),

          Chu’s bizarre attempt to attribute evidence of past warmth in the Arctic to plate tectonics

          And the Douglas firs growing in the Canadian Arctic 10000 years ago were transplanted there by aboriginals moving up from the tropics.

        • bender
          Posted May 12, 2009 at 8:32 AM | Permalink

          Re: bender (#60),
          Whoops. Off by a few orders of magnitude. Still, you get my point.

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 12, 2009 at 2:56 PM | Permalink

          Re: bender (#60),

          Have you seen the Barrow Arctic Palm Trees?

          http://www.wunderground.com/wximage/viewsingleimage.html?mode=singleimage&handle=NorthernNoni&number=265&album_id=100&thumbstart=0&gallery=

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 12, 2009 at 12:16 AM | Permalink

          Re: Peter (#57),

          Do you have in mind some reason why the high biological activity occuring in the upper waters of the fluvial freshwater from the prograded delta is not going to result in anoxic bottom waters at depths of a few hundred meters?

          Upwelling of anoxic bottom waters is reported to be the source of rich nutrients for biological activity in the upper waters along the shoreline which produced the Shublik Formation of Alaska’s North Slope. Upwelling carried organics from the bottom waters too anoxic for bacterial activity into the oxygen rich upper waters. The rich growth of biological activity in the upper waters in turn further enriched the anoxic bottom waters to continue and reinforce the enrichment of the environment with organics suitable for rapid burial in the sedimentary environment.

        • Peter
          Posted May 13, 2009 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#59), I would suggest that the source of the organic material is not local in nature but is instead transported into the delta from upstream. I would further submit that delta progradation is of an episodic, rather than gradual nature. Rapid internment of organics could occur during flood events that simultaneously emplace large amounts of sediment and associated organics to create the foreset beds of the delta. I suppose that it is possible that the delta could prograde over flat laying anoxic basinal sediments, but that seems too rare of a circumstance to explain the large numbers and wide distribution of productive deltaic formations.

          As for Chu’s statement… the guy is not a geologist and I would not expect him to have a deep and abiding understanding of either plate tectonics or petroleum geology. Perhaps he would be wiser to just admit when he doesn’t know something, especially when confronted with “gotcha” questions from ringers.

          What I don’t understand is why you all think is is such a revelation that high latitudes could have been warmer at various times in Earth’s history. Further, I would suggest that a northward flowing river system could have carried organics and debris far from their points of origin, giving the impression of warmer environments at their terminus. An analogous situation would be the Mississippi delta containing the remains of species from Minnesota.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted May 13, 2009 at 10:35 AM | Permalink

          Re: Peter (#63),

          I would suggest that a northward flowing river system could have carried organics and debris far from their points of origin, giving the impression of warmer environments at their terminus. An analogous situation would be the Mississippi delta containing the remains of species from Minnesota.

          This is not what geologists think. And, for example, it does not explain in situ Pliocene trees in the Arctic Islands, let alone the “warm” Cretaceous foraminifera in source beds throughout the Arctic. I suggest that readers unfamiliar with geology spend a little more time familiarizing themselves with geological evidence and a little less time thinking up fanciful hypotheses.

        • Peter
          Posted May 13, 2009 at 12:43 PM | Permalink

          Re: Steve McIntyre (#64), I am not suggesting the tree fossils of the Beaufort Fm are the result of the mechanism I outlined above. I am mere suggesting that it is quite likely that deltaic sediments from long N-S aligned river systems, such as the Mississippi or the Nile will result in the displacement of plant and animal remains from the environments in which they grew. Whole pines from Minnesota can wash into the Mississippi and be deposited largely intact in the delta sediments.

          I am unconvinced that the paleoenvironmental conditions Patterson described as responsible for the emplacement of organic material would be common enough to be the main means by which source rock is formed when one considers the vast commercial deposits of petroleum source rock scattered around the globe Further, he alludes to

          The rich growth of biological activity in the upper waters in turn further enriched the anoxic bottom waters to continue and reinforce the enrichment of the environment with organics suitable for rapid burial in the sedimentary environment.”

          Burial by what means? What is the source for the rapidly deposited, thick sediment required to sequester and preserve these anoxic deposits? Noah’s Flood? (j/k) I freely admit that I am not familiar with the specific sedimentary history of the North Slope oil fields. Are they drilling deltaic sequence packages? If not in a deltaic environment, how was so much sediment so rapidly accreted to the sea floor?

          I suggest that readers unfamiliar with geology spend a little more time familiarizing themselves with geological evidence and a little less time thinking up fanciful hypotheses.

          While I am not a petroleum geologist, I have studied a great deal of sedimentology (including some excellent courses in seismic interpretation), stratigraphy, and paleontology as a part of my Masters and PhD studies in paleontology. So if you would Mr Mcintyre, keep your snide remarks to yourself. I’ll bet I know considerably more geology than you.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted May 13, 2009 at 12:57 PM | Permalink

          Re: Peter (#68), there have been some pretty fanciful hypotheses presented recently on the provenance of warm Arctic fossils by people who admit to not knowing any geology; I apologize for assuming that you are in that group.

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 13, 2009 at 1:40 PM | Permalink

          Re: Peter (#68),

          Here are excerpts from a couple of sources. Parrish, Whalen, and Hulm address the upwelling and anoxic conditons. In these days I no longer have access to other technical discussions I had seen a long time ago, but they too talked about similarities between some of the Alaskan formations being generally representative of the coastal waters frequently producing the conditions necessary for anoxic burial of the organic matter responsible for many other petroleum systems [around the world]. I expect Parrish, Whalen, and Hulm are reasonably representative of those other sources to the extent of which they discuss this issue.

          The second source is just an example of how there are paleontological sources which discuss the same type of Mesozoic assembleges of shellfish elsewhere around the world as were used by Parrish, Whalen, and Hulm in the study of the Alaskan shelf environments.

          Parrish, Whalen, and Hulm. Shublik Formation Lithofacies, Environments, and Sequence stratigraphy, Arctic Alaska, U.S.A. […] INTRODUCTION Although the origin of marine organic-rich rock remains somewhat controversial (Parrish 1995; Calvert et al. 1996), some such units in the geologic record were almost certainly deposited under upwelling zones, that is, zones of high primary biologic productivity. Well-developed modern upwelling zones have a distinctive, concentric array of sediment types, consisting of a core of organic-rich sediment fringed by a zone of phosphatic sediment that, in turn, is fringed by a zone of glauconitic sediment (Bremner 1983; Glenn et al. 1994, and many others). These facies are related to high primary pro-ductivity and to the oxygen depletion that results from high organic input to the sediment. The Triassic Shublik Formation of northern Alaska has a facies array that is typical of well-developed upwelling zones (Parrish 1987).
          [….]

          Figure 9. Schematic reconstruction of the continental shelf and vertical shelf circulation perpendicular to the paleoshoreline during deposition of the Shublik Formation, showing the distribution of lithofacies (from Parrish 1987), north to right. In modern upwelling zones, the highest biologic productivity occurs just offshore from the site of upwelling (Barber 1974) and the 0.2 ml/l oxygen isopleth defines the boundary of the anoxic zone (Burnett 1980); the figure shows where these might have occurred at the time of Shublik deposition. Paleodepth at the seaward side would have depended on a number of factors, especially bottom topography (Parrish 1982).

          Conclusions. Abundance of poorly mobile epifaunal bivalves and brachiopods in deep, soft-bottom, siliciclastic-rich habitats can be explained either by decreased input of land-derived nutrients in an offshore direction or by low oxygen levels in the deepest habitats due to restricted circulation (p366).
          Adam Tomasovych. brachiopod and bivalve ecology in the late triassic (alps, austria): onshore-offshore replacements caused by variations in sediment and nutrient supply. PALAIOS, 2006, v. 21, p. 344–368. Research Report, DOI: 10.2110/palo.2005.P05-53e.

          Do these sources address some of your questions?

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 13, 2009 at 11:53 AM | Permalink

          Re: Peter (#63),

          The sources of organic matter included in the sediments varies in each instance, however, the NPR and ANWR petroleum systems demonstrate a trophic pattern common to a coastal marine system experiencing density stratification and an upwelling of rich organic nutrient loads. Freshwater flows into the coastal marine system, where it overlies the denser and colder saltwater. This increases stratification of the coastal waters. The stratification of the coastal waters reduces wave action, tidal mixing, dissolving of oxygen in the waters, and increases thermal stratification. Coastal currents result in upwelling along the tidal shelf and transport eutrophic nutrient loads in to the upper waters. The estuary also supplies eutrophic and hypertrophic nutrients to the coastal environment. The rich nutrient loads in the stratified upper waters result in intense biological activity that depletes the coastal waters of dissolved oxygen. The bottom waters become even more anoxic as the organic matter settels to the bottom and further depeltes the dissolved oxygen in theat environment. The effect worsens as the denitrification pathway becomes blocked with the loss of the organisms which cannot inhabit the anoxic bottom waters. In the specific example of the NPR and ANWR petroleum systems, the coastal water system began as a broad coastal embayment from an incised valley. This embayment went through a series of progradational and retrogradational events while the offshore upwelling produced a series of organic rich sedimentations along the coastal and deltaic shelves of the embayment and subsequent coastal plains. These types of hypoxic and anoxic conditions are common to coastal waters, which is why such conditions are not at all limited to a scenario of anoxic basinal or estuarine sediments associated with the deltas.

          What I don’t understand is why you all think is is such a revelation that high latitudes could have been warmer at various times in Earth’s history.

          It’s the “at various times” which seems to prove an obstacle with important segments of the general public and more than a few scientists uneducated in the rudiments of geology. For the fun of it, try surveying family, friends, and acquaintances to see how many of them believe the Earth since the continents were formed has usually experienced climates (1) about the same climate as present, (2) much colder than present, (3) much warmer than present, or (4) the present climate after being created only some millenia ago.

          Further, I would suggest that a northward flowing river system could have carried organics and debris far from their points of origin, giving the impression of warmer environments at their terminus. An analogous situation would be the Mississippi delta containing the remains of species from Minnesota.

          Sorry, there are far too many in situ genera and species for such an explanation to have any remote validity whatsoever. On the extreme microscopic scale, molecules of petroleum are identifiable by the genetic codes of the hydrocarbons from which they were derived. On the macroscopic end of the scale scale, we have the macroscopic fossils and their in situ derived compositions eliminating transportation before deposition. See Halobia for one example.

        • Not sure
          Posted May 13, 2009 at 12:30 PM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#65),

          On the extreme microscopic scale, molecules of petroleum are identifiable by the genetic codes of the hydrocarbons from which they were derived.

          So you’re saying that we can reconstruct the petroleum-producing process backwards from mineral alkane to biological hydrocarbon to the organism that produced it? That’s amazing! Where may I read more about this?

  11. TonyS
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 3:21 AM | Permalink

    Leaf margin analysis? Redrawn and modified graph? I’m not sure this would last long against a rigorous McIntyre treatment…

    Steve: touché :)

  12. stan
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 6:53 AM | Permalink

    Wait a minute. Everybody knows that the earth was flat until 500 years ago. ;)

    I’m always amazed by what we “know”. As Will Rogers said, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.” Which is why we’re in so much trouble now.

    The Chu-Barton exchange was all about politics, not science. Rogers — “If you ever injected truth into politics, you would have no politics.”

    Revkin isn’t going to write about this. If he does, it won’t be a straightforward account. Because the Times is about politics, not news. And Revkin doesn’t run the paper.

    • Kenneth Fritsch
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 8:26 AM | Permalink

      Re: stan (#18),

      The Chu-Barton exchange was all about politics, not science. Rogers — “If you ever injected truth into politics, you would have no politics.”

      I could not agree more. In the meantime, I find it interesting taking the measure of the defenders of Chu and his orthodoxy with some rather unconventional conjectures. It goes from Chu cannot be wrong to Chu might be wrong but Barton cannot be right.

      Of course, none of these conversations say anything about AGW, but instead more about how the conversations about AGW are framed.

  13. Alan Bates
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 7:05 AM | Permalink

    A textbook about the Cretaceous that Chu might find interesting:

    http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521831123&resISBN13=9780521538435&parent=1443&ss=res#resource

    “The Cretaceous World” – written as one of 3 texts for an Open University course (S369) on the geological record of environmental change.

    (This book is used to discuss a Hothouse world and is matched with “The Great Ice Age” to consider the icehouse world.)

  14. husten
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 7:57 AM | Permalink

    It is well established that the polar ice caps have come and gone through geologic history. For example the Cretaceous source rock at the North Slope “was deposited in water depths greater than 1,000 feet (300
    meters) in the starved basin that formed as the North Slope rifted away from its northern source
    terrain at a paleolatitude of about 80°N.” (-www.oiltracers.com/inc/doc/mastersonphd.pdf-)
    More relevant for this dicsussion in my opinion are the dated wood fragments from alpine glaciers, (Schlüchter & Jörin, 2004,-www.climateaudit.org/?p=772) .

  15. tty
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 8:09 AM | Permalink

    The real clincher about warm arctic climates is that at least during two intervals in the late Cretaceous (86-92 million years ago) and Early Tertiary (50-55 million years ago) climate on Ellesmere Island (about 80 degrees North) was warm enough for Champsosaurs and Crocodiles to live there, which means that temperatures below freezing cannot have occurred more than very briefly even in winter.

  16. D. Patterson
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 8:18 AM | Permalink

    There was a warm climate freshwater Asian turtle fossil discovered recently dating about 90 million years old.

  17. Shallow Climate
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 9:01 AM | Permalink

    Re D. Patterson (5-5-09, 7:28 a.m.): Thank you! Very interesting and informative, and, IMO, clearly and cogently expressed.

  18. Posted May 5, 2009 at 9:21 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for the post. It is not a news that at one time there was very warm on our planet. undoubtedly, there are so many facts that I have never seen before. Well, we are in some trouble now. AS I remember there were four cold epochs during the Phanerozoic. And the cool period appears to have lacked polar ice caps. An even colder event seems to have affected the entire planet during the Proterozoic when nearly the entire planet seems to have frozen. Well, there will be something that menace our planet always. We cant do a thing with it.

  19. Fred
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 9:43 AM | Permalink

    Wonder what Dr. Chu thinks of the coal deposits in Antarctica . . .

  20. bmcburney
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 12:06 PM | Permalink

    JamesG,

    I don’t think anyone doubts that the “magnitude and distribution of Cretaceous temperatures [is] highly uncertain.” However, if you will re-read the discussion above and the exchange which set this discussion in motion, you will note that neither Barton, nor anyone on the board, makes positive assertions concerning exactly how warm it might have been in Alaska during the Cretaceous period (although the existence of oil deposits in that location is evidence of much higher temperatures then we have at present).

    Rather, the discussion was sparked by Dr. Chu’s observation that continental drift was “certainly” the explanation for the existence of oil deposits in Alaska and the wild applause which followed. You do not re-habilitate Dr. Chu or his fans by observing that it is difficult to measure tempratures in the distant past. “Speculation presented as fact” is hardly a fair discription of this discussion.

    • bender
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 12:33 PM | Permalink

      Re: bmcburney (#31),
      Exactly. Chu needs certainty about past temperatures in order to say that current temperatures are certainly unprecedented. Barton need only provide some doubt about past temperatures to invalidate that proposition. Fact is there is lots of doubt about past temperature. Lots. That is why NAS expressed confidence only as far back as 1400AD. End of discussion.

  21. Murray
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 1:39 PM | Permalink

    I think this whole discussion misses the key points of today’s energy strategy, and I can’t imagine why Chu is such a big burr under Steve’s blanket. If this discussion went on at RC, Steve would probably (and rightly) be the first to criticize it. Why should Chu know much of anything about Geology, and how would such knowledge help him di his job better? He’s a physicist for heaven’s sake, and has probably been much too busy in that field to keep up with geology. I can remember my geology in first year science (pre-engineering) to some degree, and for sure we never learned anything about plate tectonics or ancient Alaskan temperatures. I wonder how much physics Steve has kept up with.
    The real problem we are facing is declining supply of petroleum world-wide, and of NG in North America, both severely aggravated by recent cut-backs in development due to low prices, resulting from dropping demand resulting from the global financial crisis. If belief in the risk of AGW motivates Chu to address the issue of energy intelligently, (reducing Carbon by reducing fossil fuel use) so much the better. His misconception is to our benefit. So far he is right on with major focus on energy efficiency and renewables. Those are the priorities we need, and that is good, regardless of what Chu believes. Let’s give him credit for being on the write track, regardless of what motivates him. Murray

    • Will J. Richardson
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 2:45 PM | Permalink

      Re: Murray (#31),

      snip – no policy

    • jae
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

      Re: Murray (#31),

      I wonder how much physics Steve has kept up with.
      The real problem we are facing is declining supply of petroleum world-wide, and of NG in North America, both severely aggravated by recent cut-backs in development due to low prices, resulting from dropping demand resulting from the global financial crisis. If belief in the risk of AGW motivates Chu to address the issue of energy intelligently, (reducing Carbon by reducing fossil fuel use) so much the better.

      LOL.

  22. tty
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 1:40 PM | Permalink

    Re 28 and 30

    Yes, certainly there is doubt about past temperatures, equally certainly there is no doubt that Arctic North America was vastly warmer in the past than it is now . Just have a look at the species found in the early Eocene (c. 55 MA old) Eureka Sound Formation: Bowfins, Pike, Alligators, Turtles, Varanid lizards, Dermoptera. And that was almost a thousand kilometers north of the North Slope. The climatic tolerance of those animals suggests that the climate was somewhat similar to the southeastern US today.
    As recently as about 2 million years ago the fossils from the Kap Köbenhavn formation on Peary land, northern Greenland (the northernmost land area on earth) shows that boreal forest was growing there.

  23. Murray
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 1:40 PM | Permalink

    Please excuse typos. For write read right.

  24. Doug
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 1:58 PM | Permalink

    Murray #31

    Why should Chu know much of anything about Geology, and how would such knowledge help him di his job better? He’s a physicist for heaven’s sake, and has probably been much too busy in that field to keep up with geology.

    He was a physicist, now his job is energy secretary. Our main source of energy is still fossil fuel…a little knowledge of Geology should be essential.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 2:52 PM | Permalink

      Re: Doug (#34),

      It’s not a matter of “keeping up”. This information has been known since long before Chu was in grade school.

      If one doesn’t know whether the Cretaceous was before or after the Carboniferous, then it’s prudent not to pontificate about geology to an engineer from Texas, regardless of his politics. You’re liable to step into something.

  25. Jack
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 4:32 PM | Permalink

    Doug #34:
    He was a physicist, now his job is energy secretary. Our main source of energy is still fossil fuel…a little knowledge of Geology should be essential.

    And how do our past energy secretaries do on this litmus test that you have decided is essential?

  26. bmcburney
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 9:09 PM | Permalink

    Jack,

    What bothers me (and, I believe, others here) about Dr. Chu’s comment isn’t so much that the Energy Secretary does not have specific information concerning the latitude of Alaska during the Cretaceous period or doesn’t know when oil deposits in Alaska originated. Obviously, nobody knows everything. He could have admitted a lack of knowledge on this specific subject without provoking any criticism at all. The problem is that he confidently dismissed Barton’s inquiry with a bold and ignorant misstatement. The implication, it seems to me, is that Dr. Chu does not feel it necessary to consider the possiblity that the Cretaceous period was significantly warmer than the present. He rejects the possiblity out of hand, and does so in a way which indicates that he is not even aware of the basic evidence.

  27. Terry Jackson
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 9:42 PM | Permalink

    One thing for certain, there are Douglas Fir cones in the upper 1,000 of sediment at Prudhoe Bay. Probably grew in the Brooks Range and were carried near the Coast by the Sag River. Pretty compelling evidence of warmer in the not so distant past.

  28. Posted May 5, 2009 at 10:23 PM | Permalink

    Dumb question but is there a possibility that any of those seeds from those cones viable?

    • Terry Jackson
      Posted May 7, 2009 at 9:40 PM | Permalink

      Re: Dennis Wingo (#43),

      Don’t know, didn’t test them, but the cone was in pristine condition, mousetails and all. Feel rather stupid now for not testing, but found it in 1974. I suspect one could find more if you are willing to stand in the mud pit looking at the screen rejects while they drill the surface hole.

      Terry

  29. Murray
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 8:46 AM | Permalink

    Re: Steve (#36) Ahh. So pontificating is his sin. Big deal. C’mon Steve, you have better things to do. Murray

    Steve: Nope. The problem is that he didn’t know what he was talking about. As I;ve said in this thread, this bothers me on two levels – 1) the lack of general knowledge of the earth’s history on the part of a scientist; 2) a scientist testifying with the guise of authority who didn’t know what he was talking about. People pontificate all the time – but if you don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re supposed to be an expert, it seldom ends up well e.g. Colin Powell and aluminum tubes.

    • Jeff Norman
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 1:17 PM | Permalink

      Re: Murray (#45),

      Re: Steve (#36) Ahh. So pontificating is his sin. Big deal. C’mon Steve, you have better things to do. Murray

      Steve: Nope. The problem is that he didn’t know what he was talking about. As I;ve said in this thread, this bothers me on two levels – 1) the lack of general knowledge of the earth’s history on the part of a scientist; 2) a scientist testifying with the guise of authority who didn’t know what he was talking about. People pontificate all the time – but if you don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re supposed to be an expert, it seldom ends up well e.g. Colin Powell and aluminum tubes.

      and 3) and Steve’s background in in geology so someone getting things wrong in his particular area is bothersome to him…

      …three there three levels that bother Steve:
      1) lack of general knowledge…
      2) guise of authority …
      3) his geological background
      4) and an almost fanatical devotion to the IPCC party line…

      … Cardinal Fang…

  30. Scott Brim
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 8:48 AM | Permalink

    snip – you are speculating on motives.

  31. Brian
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 4:19 PM | Permalink

    Again with the attacks on Chu about that ridiculous exchange? And a pathetic attack at that.

    It is sad to see CA to go down this path … and it isn’t a discussion that emerged from lively debate among commenters, but the focus of multiple posts from the author. Disappointing for sure.

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 6, 2009 at 5:42 PM | Permalink

      Re: Brian (#48),

      Brian:
      May 6th, 2009 at 4:19 pm
      Again…attacks on Chu…ridiculous exchange…pathetic attack….

      Somehow I cannot seem to find an iota of discussion about science amongst all of those ad hominems. Are we to understand you do not want anyone to discuss and critique any scientific dismerits in the testimony of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy?

  32. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted May 13, 2009 at 12:34 PM | Permalink

    What amazes me the most about this Chu testimony is the number of defenders he has and the contortions that they are willing to go through to show that he might be correct or at least not so much wrong.

    The exchange was political and even though Chu gave a political reply that was apparently wrong in the science, the consensus of the blogosphere says he won politically. Given that premise what incentive do future givers of testimony on related subjects have for getting it “right” or at less more clear?

    A more general point, I think, can be extrapolated here and that is the validity of expert testimony before the US congress on any number of subjects and who beyond those with some knowledge in the field can call it to account or even have an incentive to do so. I doubt that Dr. Chu is the exception. His defenders and their arguments are the more surprising to me.

  33. Gunnar
    Posted May 13, 2009 at 2:07 PM | Permalink

    It’s so interesting that when I (BSEE) said the same thing as Peter (PhD), you (B. Math) completely ridiculed and dismissed me and closed the thread. Why did you get mad, if my arguments were so stupid?

    Why do you continually distort what I am saying to be “the arctic was not warm”, when I’m clearly not saying that.

    Peter says something important when he says “What I don’t understand is why you all think is is such a revelation that high latitudes could have been warmer at various times in Earth’s history”.

    Exactly. It obviously was warm. Folks, no one is saying that the arctic was not warm in the past. You are knocking down a straw man.

    The issue that Peter brought up was:

    Re: D. Patterson (#20), With regard to your assertion that commercial oil deposits were formed only in anoxic basins, why is it then, that many of the most productive oil fields are located in prograding deltaic sedimentary packages?

    The point is that the organics were embedded because of a flood event, and not because the climate was warm.

    Kellar’s paper makes the assertion that the major cause of die offs is magmatic events. The Deccan Traps are a giant new oil find.

    I asked Dr Chatterjee about what causes oil formation, and he sent me a paper entitled “SHIVA STRUCTURE: A POSSIBLE KT BOUNDARY IMPACT CRATER ON THE WESTERN SHELF OF INDIA”.

    Many of the complex impact structures and events at the KT transition such as the Shiva crater, Chicxulub crater, and the Boltysh crater create the most productive hydrocarbon sites on the planet.
    -SANKAR CHATTERJEE, NECIP GUVEN, AARON YOSHINOBU, AND RICHARD DONOFRIO

    The point is that in this case, a warm climate did not cause oil formation.

    And as for Anoxic events, Chemistry Daily says:

    The mechanism by which anoxic events occur is still very poorly understood.

    Conclusion: Bartons’ second question does not follow logically from the first.

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 13, 2009 at 2:37 PM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#71),
      Respectfully, Gunnar, the problem is that you are not familiar enough with the subject matter to recognzize when you are making incongruous connections and therefore incongrousou conclusions from between otherwise valid facts. It’s sort of like addig 3 oranges to 4 turnips and expecting it all to add up to 7 servings of fruit salad. We recognize that you believe abiogenic oil is a great discovery. Unfortunately, the world’s petroleum systems have biomarkers which demonstrate they are composed of hydrocarbons which come from organic sources of carbon. Flood events are not the only or even necessarily a primary source for the organic matter which produced the major petroleum systems. Anoxic events are poorly understood because there are so many of different and overlapping origins which remain to be sorted out, and not because their actual multifold existence is doubted.

      Have some fun. Be an experimental scientist. Survey a bunch of people and see how many people believe the Earth has always or almost always had an ice cap at the North Pole.

      • Gunnar
        Posted May 13, 2009 at 2:52 PM | Permalink

        Re: D. Patterson (#72), my comments have nothing to do with abiogenic oil theory, and your reference to that seems like merely a poor attempt to discredit my argument.

        Flood events are not the only or even necessarily a primary source for the organic matter which produced the major petroleum systems.

        Exactly, which means that since oil is formed in a variety of different ways, one cannot say that “climate warmth is a necessary cause of oil”.

        Anoxic events are poorly understood because there are so many of different and overlapping origins which remain to be sorted out

        Exactly, which makes it very dubious to claim that Only Warm climate causes Anoxic events, which are the only cause of oil formation.

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 13, 2009 at 3:48 PM | Permalink

          Re: Gunnar (#73),

          The basalt floods and the impact craters off the coast of India have been used in the past to argue for abiogenic oil, which is why your mention of them in conjunction with your past arguments gave the appearance of your doing so again.

          Exactly, which makes it very dubious to claim that Only Warm climate causes Anoxic events, which are the only cause of oil formation.

          Given the fact I never said “Only Warm climate causes Anoxic events, which are the only cause of oil formation,” you are once more making an improper and unnecessary arguement. I said, “Cold polar seas during ice ages and deep oceanic basins, however, were very poor places for the formation of oil and gas deposits.” I didn’t say impossible places or only places. That is not the same as saying “only” and “never” under any circumstances. I indicated that known petroleum systems have been associated with warm climates and not cold climates, because there were no cold climates in the Northern hemisphere and required geological ages before the Neogene besides a piece of Siberia. The fact that the world’s petroleum systems have been identified as originating in warm climates by geologists ought to put you on notice there is likely to be some very good reasons why this has happened. You might want to consider reading some sources on why this is so before you attempt to infer from your readings something to the contrary. The fact that you refuse to recognize these essential differences and make totally improper inferences is why having a rational discussion with you on this topic has been infeasible. Commercial petroleum systems such as those in Alaska being discussed with Sec. Chu exist for reasons which are not necessarily attributable to every source of organic matter. Until you understand why this is so, you are not going to be equipped to discuss this topic.

  34. tty
    Posted May 13, 2009 at 3:33 PM | Permalink

    Peter

    If you are really a paleontologist you must be aware of the Mid Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Events which created a large proportion of the source rock for extant petroleum systems. Do you imply that these anoxic events were not related to the high temperatures at the time?

  35. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 13, 2009 at 4:49 PM | Permalink

    There are many interesting issues in geology, including the explanation of anoxic events. Interesting as such explanations may be (and I personally find this sort of stuff very interesting), explaining this sort of event is not material to the examination of Secretary Chu’s theory that plate tectonics moved warm fossils up to the Arctic – as opposed to the conventional geological theory that the preponderance of such fossils were formed in high latitudes during prior warm periods.

    I would like to host discussion of this sort of topic, but editorially the policy of this blog is to discourage the presentation of personal theories and to focus as much as possible on “conventional” literature. Accordingly, I have to post the same comment as on the other thread:

    Gunnar has admitted that he has no knowledge of any relevant geological literature – putting him in more or less the same position as, seemingly, Secretary Chu. I’ve asked Gunnar to provide references in geological literature for his points, but he has refused. I see little purpose in maintaining a thread for pointless discussion of theories that have no more relevance than abiogenic oil.

    Let me summarize a little. There is a vast geological literature on source rock for petroleum. Geologists believe that source rock for petroleum on earth was laid down in very warm climate conditions, including the source rocks presently found in the Arctic. Is it “logically possible” that source rocks could be laid down in cold or cool conditions? Almost anything is “logically possible” – pipelines in the Cretaceous carrying oil from Texas to Alaska are “logically possible”, but there’s no evidence for the proposition and many reasons not to believe that such a pipeline was feasible with the technology available to the dinosaurs, even if Gunnar may wish to argue that it was “logically possible” that dinosaurs had such technology.

    The overwhelming view of geologists is that source rock in the Arctic was laid down in very warm climates.

    A superficial knowledge of plate tectonics – e.g. that of Secretary Chu’s – may lead a debater to argue that the source rocks were laid down in the low latitudes and moved north through plate tectonics over hundreds of millions of years. That’s “logically possible”. However,geologists have done considerable work over the years (e.g. maps at scotese.com) reconstructing the location of the continents over time and it is pretty much universally believed by geologists that relevant Arctic source rocks were laid down at very northerly latitudes (Cretaceous and Jurassic formations in Alaska and elsewhere) or high north mid-latitudes (Triassic) during periods when there were high temperatures from pole to pole.

    It is, of course, “logically possible” that all present-day geological understanding on this matter is incorrect, just as it’s “logically possible” that the dinosaurs, anticipating Gunnar’s interest in the matter, built a pipeline to Alaska.

    Geologists believe that Arctic source rocks were laid down at high latitudes under very warm conditions. They do not believe (1) that the relevant source rocks arrived in the north through plate tectonics operating over millions of years; (2) that they were formed under cold or cool Arctic climate conditions.

    Secretary Chu’s invocation of plate tectonics in this context was absurd and betrays an unfortunate lack of geological knowledge. As I mentioned above, there were answers open to him – (1) he could have observed that past very warm climate conditions are also believed to have had very high CO2 levels and were simply one more reason for concern over present day increases in COs levels; (2) he could have observed that he was not testifying as a specialist in Alaska geology, but, even as a non-specialist, he was confident that there was no ancient pipeline taking oil form Texas to Alaska and that, if Rep Barton wished further clarification, he would have one of his staff provide him with references on the provenance of Arctic oil and gas-bearing rocks.

    It showed poor judgement for Secretary Chu to confidently contradict Barton on a topic where Chu had no personal knowledge or expertise. Most people in organizations learn prudence about venturing opinions being relied on expert opinions and it’s a bit disquieting to see such a poor performance from Secretary Chu. As I mentioned above, let’s hope that he raises his game.

    Finally, let me quote from the closing remarks of the Chairman of Chu’s session:

    time has expired.

  36. Scott Brim
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 6:06 PM | Permalink

    Re: curious (#49)

    Curious: Are you saying that Dr Chu and Congressman Barton cooked up this exchange in advance?

    Hardly ….. But this incident hasn’t yet fully concluded, as there are even yet more shoes which could drop depending upon how far the carbon-is-guilty advocates go in accusing Mr. Barton of gross scientific ignorance for implying that all of Alaska, while near its current geographic latitude, has been significantly warmer in the past than it is today, and upon how far Mr. Barton chooses to go in defending himself from the developing negative publicity.

  37. D. Patterson
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 10:47 PM | Permalink

    Re: Erik Ramberg (#53),

    Erik Ramberg:
    May 6th, 2009 at 8:31 pm
    I’m pretty confused by this thread. Can someone please explain how Chu’s statement is incorrect, at the most basic level? Wasn’t the majority of the North Slope oil laid down in the Triassic/Jurassic, as he indicated?

    First, Dr. Chu was not asked about the “the North Slope oil.” He was asked “How did the oil and gas get under Alaska [ SM – and the Arctic]?” There is a lot more oil, gas, and coal under Alaska [and the Arctic] from a variety of geological epochs than just the formations of the North Slope. More deposits are being discovered, and vast tracts of Alaska[and the Arctic] remain to be surveyed, mapped, and explored for deposits. Even within the limited area of the North Slope, the deposits come from Upper Triassic, Lower Jurassic, and Lower Cretaceous formations.

    Hasn’t continental drift moved Alaska to it’s current location, as he explained

    Chu was asked a very different question, so his response was non-responsive and misleading. Continental drift has moved every continent to its current location, which results in a deceptive half truth. The other half of the truth is that continental drift did not transport the oil and gas deposits from the warmer equatorial latitudes to the cooler high latitudes with the oil and gas deposits tagging along for the ride. The oil and gas deposits were formed while the Alaskan terranes bearing the oil and gas had already arrived and were already located in the high latitudes nearby the present day latitudes, which the general public of today erroneously associates with typically cold climates in most of the past. In reality, the past climates were almost always far warmer than at the present time, which is the reverse of the public perception upon which globally critical policy decisions are currently being made. At the times in which these oil and gas deposits were formed, there was no cold climate anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, not even at the North Pole. The climate in these high latitudes ranged from arid to warm temperate suitable for crocodiles and palm trees, to cold temperate. There were no frozen seas, no icecaps, and no tundras in the Arctic Circle. And, no, this was normal climate for the Earth. The present ice age is an abnormal climate for the Earth.

    snip – policy

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