Cosmogenic glacial dating, 20 years and counting

Press/Media: Article/Feature


Using cosmogenic isotopic analyses of less than two dozen samples, Mackintosh et al. (2007 [this volume, p. 551–554]) lift the veil of suspicion that has hung over the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. No longer should it be considered a major player in postglacial sea-level rise. Until just 20 years ago, when pioneering work in accelerator mass spectrometry (Elmore and Phillips, 1987), cosmogenic isotope systematics (Lal, 1988), and geologic applications (Craig and Poreda, 1986; Kurz, 1986) hit the presses, such conclusions were unreachable because many hypotheses regarding rates and dates of glacial processes were simply unfalsifiable. In two short decades, we have learned so much about when glaciers and ice sheets retreated that it’s hard to imagine a world where glacial boulders were not targets for dating. Yet, children born when the first paperusing cosmogenic nuclides to date such erratics was published (Phillips et al., 1990) are still not old enough to vote.

Period1 Jun 2007

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleCosmogenic glacial dating, 20 years and counting
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletGeology
    Media typePrint
    Country/TerritoryUnited States of America
    PersonsAndrew Mackintosh