Viewed from outer space our home on this planet appears considerably different than it would have appeared at the glacial maximum of the Wisconsin Ice Age 22,000 years ago. Imagine we are traveling toward Earth on a spacecraft 22 millennia ago. Ice caps covered Canada entirely, a large part of northern United States, and substantial portions of Northern Europe and Asia as well as high elevation locations at lower latitudes.
A famous photograph dubbed The Blue Marble was taken by astronauts in December 1972 from 18,000 miles as they traveled toward the Moon. Earth appeared as a blue marble—a mostly water-covered, blue planet. The Apollo 17 journey was the last scientific human effort to reach and walk on the Moon. It was also a unique photographic opportunity to see Planet Earth without ice caps which recently covered large portions of the planet. Ice caps two miles thick shrouded land areas of Earth a mere geological instant ago when we were in the grip of the last deep ice age, called the Wisconsin glaciation. We say a geological instant because the last glacial maximum, the Wisconsin, persisted for a brief moment compared with the total geological time frame since the Cambrian Explosion, a burst of creation marked by the sudden appearance of nearly 100 novel phyla and thousands of individual species. The CE suddenly commenced 541 million years ago.
The Wisconsin glaciation is only one of eight distinct worldwide glacial episodes to occur in the past 800,000 years. Each glacial advance occurred on a cycle of 100,000 years. These beneficial cycles have appeared only during the last 0.017 percent of Earth’s history. The Wisconsin glaciation was one of many glacial periods beginning in the so-called Quaternary Period which began 2.59 million years ago, but its effects are significant in terms of successful Earth life in our time. Going back farther in time to the beginning of the Quaternary, many shorter ice ages occurred on a cycle of 41,000 years. There have been hundreds of ups and downs in Earth’s average temperature generally superimposed on Earth’s climate. Climate proxies such as ancient ice core data or tree ring records leave their telltale record. The Quaternary period of the last 2.59 million years is a period when glaciation of the planet occurred repeatedly.
The geological history of Earth tells the story of many unique preparations for the eventual arrival of modern humanity. We might call these preparations divine transformational miracles. Much of that history is related to changes taking place in the Quaternary Ice Age. In particular, the most recent manifestation of a well-known geological event, the Wisconsin event, evokes the thought that our Creator initiated abundant transformational miracles to prepare Earth for humans created in the Image of God.
If we consider only the recent Wisconsin glaciation we determine that its conclusion heralded the warm interglacial we enjoy today. In future posts we will discuss other transformational miracles. For example, about 12,000 years ago, the rapid change in climate from the hostile cold ice age to advancing global warmth enabled the birth of civilization with its eventual agricultural revolution. While fully modern humans existed in warmer areas of the planet for many thousands of years they were basically hunter-gatherers living a harsh life. They left artifacts of their primitive culture. Their agriculture was virtually non-existent. No writing system existed. The wheel had not yet been invented. Life in Paleolithic times, in contrast with the civilizations which arose after 12,000 years ago in the so-called Fertile Crescent, was difficult. Population density was very low, but even secular paleontologists pronounced the population “fully behaviorally and anatomically human.” Humanity had not yet begun to “subdue the earth.”
The current interglacial warm period was fully underway 12,000 years ago and sparked a population explosion as agriculture replaced hunter-gathering. The explosion paralleled new central political structures. The end of Wisconsin glaciation ushered in a period of climate stability. We are still technically in an ice age and benefit from an unusual period of climate stability—neither too hot nor too cold. Temperature graphs demonstrate this leveling off of world temperature in the most recent 10,000 or 12,000 years in contrast with earlier spikes and sudden temperature drops in the previous million years.
Our recent posts have only begun to suggest that God performed many environmental transformational miracles for specific purposes. These miracles are included in God’s ultimate plan. They do not occur instantaneously as do many less frequent transcendent miracles such as the original creation of the universe or the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A biblical expression “for such a time as this” from the Book of Esther could apply to the many transformational miracles which shaped and prepared our planetary home for today’s teeming billions of residents. This type of miracle is initiated by the timeless God of Creation, who creates all things according to His timeless schedule.