Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lake Vostok and the deep liquid lakes on Antarctica

Lying underneath 4,200 meters of Antarctic ice, beneath a point where the coldest temperature ever recorded on earth was taken (−128° F in 1983), are the cold, dark waters of Lake Vostok, the largest of the unfrozen lakes of Antarctica. The ice above it is over 2.6 miles thick, but below that icy cap, the waters continue another 3,000 feet down (almost twice as deep as Lake Tahoe, and that's not counting the ice on top). It makes me cold just thinking about it.

Lake Vostok is a "subglacial lake," and it may amaze some readers to learn that there are over 150 such unfrozen lakes beneath the ice and snow of Antarctica. In fact, the existence of these lakes was not confirmed until the 1990s, although their presence had been postulated as early as the late 1800s. Data evidence for these lakes did not become available until the 1970s.

A scientific paper describing some of the features of Lake Vostok, as well as two more-recently discovered subglacial lakes nearby (known as "Lake 90° East" and "Lake Sovetskaya"), can be downloaded for free in pdf form here. That paper, entitled "Tectonically controlled subglacial lakes on the flanks of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains, East Antarctica" and written by scientists Robin E. Bell, Michael Studinger, Mark A. Fahnestock, and Christopher A. Shuman, was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in January, 2006.

The paper's authors admit that the "size, depth and origin" of these two newer lakes "have not been investigated," but they are certain that lakes of these elongate shape and great depth must have a tectonic origin, rather than resulting from glacial scouring or meteorite impacts (page 1). In fact, the scientists assert that "These deep elongate basins probably pre-date Antarctic glaciation and likely contained surface lakes prior to becoming encased in ice" (page 3). They estimate that they have been encased in ice for somewhere between ten and thirty-five million years.

No real evidence is put forward for this estimated age, or even for the assertion that they were probably lakes that somehow became trapped in ice, although it is only to be expected that scientists who accept the tectonic theory would believe that tectonics somehow formed the deep basins in which these mysterious lakes now rest. The details of how liquid lakes could form in Antarctica, which is so cold that no month averages above freezing, and which receives so little precipitation (only two inches per year in the interior), are left unexplained. Some scientists have postulated that the pressure of so much ice might melt water at the bottom, but this begs the question of why huge subglacial lakes are not then found all over Antarctica, as well as in warmer climates that also contain glaciers.

In fact, the problem of so much ice and snow on Antarctica poses a king-sized problem for conventional tectonic theorists, let alone the massive system of lakes entombed beneath that ice. These enormous lakes (Lake Vostok is estimated in the above referenced paper to contain 5,400 cubic kilometers, which is larger than Lake Michigan) form yet another data point which should cause scientists to question the foundations of the tectonic theory (many others are listed in this previous blog post, and since the publication of that post, several others have been discussed, including the origin of water-carved features on Mars, the origin of comets, and the origin of asteroids).

Just as is the case with the rest of those data points, it appears that the hydroplate theory of Walt Brown offers a more satisfactory answer than the conventional tectonic theory for the origin of Antarctica's subglacial lakes. In the 8th edition of his book, Dr. Brown discusses the Antarctic lakes in some detail, on page 347 and following. He argues that the events surrounding a cataclysmic global flood would account for all of the evidence we find on Antarctica and the lakes that have been discovered there:
  • How could a lake form on Antarctica?
  • After all these years, why would even one Antarctic lake still be unfrozen?
The flood provides an obvious answer to the first question. When the flood waters drained into the newly formed ocean basins, every continental basin, including those on Antarctica, were left full of water -- some with warm and salty water. Therefore, Antarctica had lakes immediately after the flood. [. . .] The second question is answered when one realizes that for centuries after the flood, snowfall rates would be orders of magnitude greater than today, and many postflood lakes would be salty and deep. The more a lake freezes, the greater the salt's concentration becomes in the remaining liquid, so its freezing temperature drops.
The mechanism that caused the ice age -- warmer oceans after the flood and higher, colder continents than we have today -- is explained in Dr. Brown's book, and I discussed it briefly in this interview on Red Ice Radio, as well as some of the problems conventional theories have with explaining how an Ice Age would ever start and how one would ever stop.

Dr. Brown explains that when this Ice Age began and the water left on the Antarctic continent developed even a thin layer of ice and began to be exposed to the heavy precipitation in the form of snowfall that initiated the Ice Age, a "race" would develop between the growth of ice downward into these lakes, and the insulating property of the snow building upward on top of the ice:
The winner [of this race] will determine if the lake becomes a solid block of ice or a deeply buried liquid lake. Each year, the ice will grow downward and thicken, at a steady but diminishing rate. Simultaneously, snow will build up above the lake. If the snow's thickness reaches about 2,000 feet before the downward growing ice touches the lake bottom, the lake will be insulated enough to retain its heat and not completely freeze; the slight amount of geothermal heat coming up through the floor of the lake will then prevent it from freezing solid.
Those who hold to the tectonic theory would have to explain how that race would not be won by ice instead, as it would be today in Antarctica's extremely cold climate with extremely low precipitation. The Wikipedia entry for Lake Vostok (hardly a scholarly source, admittedly) confidently asserts that "Africa separated from Antarctica around 160 million years ago, followed by the Indian subcontinent, in the early Cretaceous (about 125 million years ago). About 65 million years ago, Antarctica (then connected to Australia) still had a tropical to subtropical climate, complete with marsupial fauna and an extensive temperate rainforest."

Details for how Antarctica moved south are nonexistent in this description, as is any explanation of how these tropical or subtropical lakes would have gathered successive insulating blankets of snow after they moved down to the latitudes of present-day Antarctica where such little precipitation ever falls. Even more troublesome is the question of how, if Antarctica drifted to its present location at very slow, tectonic rates, the remnants of the "marsupial fauna and tropical rainforest" became frozen and preserved to this day, instead of rotting away over the centuries or millennia that such an Antarctic drift south must have taken.

We have already examined these problems of fossil evidence on Antarctica, where skeletons of turtles and other warm-climate animals are found, and where the wood from large trees that could never grow in the latitudes of the Antarctic is still frozen and not fossilized but can actually be thawed out and burned to this day. In that previous post and the follow-up post discussing similar fossils near the Arctic Circle on the other end of the earth we saw why such evidence is a huge problem for the conventional tectonic theory but perfectly understandable by the hydroplate theory. Rather than supporting a tectonic explanation for the Antarctic lakes, as the Wikipedia entry authors want you to believe, this evidence only points more clearly to the hydroplate explanation.

The mysterious lakes of Antarctica, deep beneath thousands of feet of glacial ice, join the long line of evidence which is extremely troublesome for the proponents of the conventional tectonic theories but which accord perfectly with the events postulated by the hydroplate theory.