Secular scientists have challenged creation scientists to explain the Ice Age. Also, they claim that there were numerous ice ages, possibly up to fifty, at intervals of 100,000 or 40,000 years over the past 2.6 million years. Bible believers need to respond to this challenge by appealing to 1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Examine everything carefully; hold fast that which is good” (NASB). As we maintain confidence in God’s word we need to carefully examine the observed data and be wary of how naturalism (‘there is no God’) has influenced its interpretations.
First we must establish whether there ever was an ice age. This is easy to do since there are hundreds of surface features in the mid and high latitudes similar to those around existing glaciers. They include terminal and lateral moraines (ridges of rock debris), scratched boulders, and scratched bedrock (figures 1 and 2). It is not possible for a moraine to be formed by liquid water.
Ice Age features are found on over 30% of the world’s land mass, indicating past coverage by ice sheets or glaciers. Today only 10% is glaciated, mainly Antarctica and Greenland. There was only one and observations indicate that it was recent. Sharp crested moraines (figure 1) and scratched bedrock indicate youth. If the rocks were old, weathering should have rounded the moraines and erased the scratches in figure 2.
The Ice Age is a major challenge to secular science
Often a challenge to creation scientists is also a challenge for secular scientists. In regard to the Ice Age, books and college professors sometimes falsely state it is easy for an Ice Age to develop: “It takes relatively little change to plunge us back into a situation where ice could start accumulating again on the fells [hills] and we are into a rapid downward spiral.”
But when we study the requirements for an ice age we find a different picture. Currently in most areas where there was once an ice sheet the winters are cold enough, but don’t have even close to enough snowfall. Springs, summers, and autumns would need to become significantly cooler than now to maintain the ice. Most challenging of all, these unusual conditions would need to last hundreds of years.
When we calculate how much spring and summer cooling would be needed, the picture becomes clearer. The temperatures would have to fall to below freezing on the average to maintain snow cover until the end of summer. Sunshine is the main cause of melting snow cover, even more effective than warmer temperatures. Summer sunshine at mid and high latitudes is intense. Using the net melting of snow and ice at low altitudes of the Antarctica Ice Sheet3 as an example, the average temperature has to fall to about -7°C (20°F) for any winter and spring snow to last through the summer until the late autumn. This represents a cooling of about 19 Celsius degrees (34 Fahrenheit degrees) for the high latitudes of Scandinavia and Canada and about 28 Celsius degrees (50 Fahrenheit degrees) for the mid latitudes, such as the northern United States and along the southern edge of the ice sheet that developed in Europe and Asia.