Natural Clocks, Part 1: Trees and Pollen
by Jack Hoehn, April 10, 2016: (First of a series of five articles on how we can know the age of the earth and when life was created.)
I wear a Casio wrist watch much of the time. Sometimes in the morning before I put my glasses on, I roll over to Deanne’s side of the bed to look at the Sony clock radio at her side table with large illuminated dial to check the time. Occasionally, if the power has gone out during the night and the clock radio is just blinking, I get out of bed and go look at the battery-operated clock on the wall of the kitchen that automatically updates itself based on radio signals from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Fort Collins, Colorado. Or I just open my cellphone and see what time Verizon thinks it is. If I am still confused, I can go outside and see if it is dark or light and where the sun is in the sky.
I can also have a guess at the time of the year outside by presence or absence of snow, spring flowers, ripe peaches, or fresh crisp apples on the trees. And I can guess how long I was sleeping by the grey stubble on my chin or a long straggly Rip Van Winkle beard down to my knees!
There are many ways to tell time. And if each method used gives a different unrelated time, that might be confusing. But if my Casio says 2:00, while all the rest say 12:00, and the sun is high overhead I assume something happened to the battery in my wrist watch. When several unrelated clocks agree, they give me confidence that I know the right time.
We have no mechanical clocks started at creation, and the Bible has no dates for “in the beginning” to answer the question, “How old is this earth and life on it?” But there are natural clocks that might help us. Annual growth of tree rings is one way.
Find the oldest, tallest tree, core it to the center, and count the rings. Dendrochronology can tell us how many years ago the tree started and how many annual cycles it has lived. A giant sequoia has been dated at 3,266 years before present (YBP) by using this method.
But the champion living tree is the bristlecone pine in the arid high White Mountains of California, with one living tree dated from its rings at 4,845 YBP, and another at 5,066 YBP.[i]
However, not only can you count growth rings, but since annual growth varies with rainfall and temperature there is a pattern such as: smaller, larger, larger, much larger, smaller, smaller, smaller, that can give a match between different trees, so that a living tree can be matched to a dead or fossil tree. When this pattern overlaps between two trees it can give additional chronology from multiple trees, living old trees and dead older trees if they have overlapping matching growth ring patterns.
By matching old living trees to lumber in old houses, campfire logs, or fossils, you can count back, if the outer rings of one log match the inner rings of another, several generations of trees.[ii] This technique, called cross-matching, now done using computers to scan rings, has given tree ring dates back to 11,490 YBP using European Sub-Boreal Pines and German oaks, starting with living trees, then to lumber, then to fossilized trees.[iii]
We cannot date a worldwide flood 4,000 YBP with bristlecone pine mountain trees 5,066 YBP still alive in California. And with continuous growth records of Sub-Boreal Pines and German Oak trees going back 11,490 YBP with cross matching for European trees. But this is just one kind of natural “clock.”
(Apple Tree Rings, photo by Brett Jordan[iv])
Ice Core Clocks
A worldwide flood event might have been stopped with some of the excess water removed from the land and oceans by freezing at the poles. Since then there is an annual cycle of freeze and thaw in all ice fields on earth. Not only is there annual winter/summer temperature variation, but there is seasonal variation in atmospheric dust, as any allergy sufferer can tell you. There are seasons when different pollens are present or absent in the air. These annual variations leave traces in the huge ice fields of Greenland and give us another natural chronological clock. Much like growth rings in a tree, there are seasonal rings of freeze and thaw with different layers containing seasonal pollens and dusts that can be found year after year in the compacted layers of Greenland’s glaciers.
Adventist physician and scientist Brian Bull has presented the evidence for how many years snow has fallen in Greenland in a series of classic Spectrum articles. This concise series of articles does not attempt to present the hundreds of studies done on Greenland’s ice shield, but gives a readable summary that at the most conservative shows at least 60,000 years of annual snowfalls. And in the deeper levels where the ice layers are so compressed to make counting much more difficult, the consensus would suggest 135,000 YBP.
How accurate is this natural “clock”? The first 2,600 years of the clock are confirmed by historical data on when lead mining was first started by humans. This coincides perfectly with the time when lead begins to be seen in the dust between annual ice layers. If the first 2,600 YBP layers are confirmed by historical records, there is no reason to question the next 57,400 YBP or so annual layers until they become so compressed that one has to begin estimating.
So, has snow been falling on Greenland for 135,000 years before now? Perhaps not, but it certainly has been falling for at least 60,000 years, and there is no real reason to question the likely projection for the deepest compressed layers.
How old is this earth? And how long have things been growing on it?
Tree rings can tell us trees have been growing here at least 12,000 years. Greenland ice fields tell us that plants with pollens have been produced annually for at least 60,000 and likely for 135,000 years. There are different clocks available, and when you are not sure of the time it is always wise to check multiple clocks.
(This is the first in a series of five articles on how we can know the age of the earth and the creation of life on earth. Later this week: NATURAL CLOCKS, Part 2: Ash Clocks.)
[iv] https://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/4865586976 used by Creative Commons License 2.0.
[v] https://spectrummagazine.org/article/brian-bull/2012/09/21/bringing-real-world-genesis-ice-cores-and-scripture-part-i%E2%80%94how-many-ye and further discussion: https://spectrummagazine.org/article/brian-bull/2012/10/28/ice-cores-and-flood-response-andr%C3%A9-reis
Read more: Greenland Ice Cores, Spectrum
And Further Discussion .
Comments on these articles will be opened with the last of the series.