Rev 1, October 6, 2004
Theory Supporting the Biblical Account of the Great Flood
James A. Marusek
(As published in the Cambridge-Conference Network (CCNet) , Issue 47/2003 of 29 May 2003))
Summary of Theory
A large comet or asteroid impact in a glacier ice sheet produced the Biblical Great Flood which brought the last Ice Age to an abrupt and sudden end.
Accounts of the Great Flood
A scientific approach might be to discount the Biblical account of the Great Flood as folklore or as a fairy tale. A religious interpretation might be to cloak oneself in dogma and discount science. Somewhere in between lies the true tale of one of the greatest cataclysms to ever befall mankind.
The Great Flood was a very unusual and singular event. Because of the magnitude of the destruction, it would have left an indelible and permanent mark on the minds of any survivors. This story would have been told and retold, passing down from generation to generation. And so it was. The story of the Great Flood is embedded in many cultures and beliefs. Over 600 of these stories throughout the entire world have been carried down to the present age.
I will rely upon 2 accounts, that given in the Bible (Book of Genesis) and the account given in Platos dialogues (Timaeus and Critias). These accounts record different frames of reference. They are complementary accounts and dovetail together fairly well. Both accounts describe:
According to the Bible, a Pre-Flood civilization existed. The civilization had cities. They had divisions of labor (farmers, shepherds and livestock keepers, tentmakers, metalworkers, and musicians).
According to Plato, a Pre-Flood civilization existed. The civilizations had massive fleets and armies and large cities. They knew the art of writing. They had divisions of labor (artisans, husbandmen, warriors, carpenters, rulers, shipbuilders, stone quarry workers, metal workers, merchants, and sailors).
According to Plato, the Pre-Flood civilization existed in a great island nation in the Atlantic Ocean called Atlantis, and in distant nations around the Mediterranean (including a pre-Greek and a pre-Egyptian civilizations) and in Asia.
According to the Bible, the Earth was destroyed by a Great Flood when "All the fountains of the great deep burst open and the floodgates of the sky were opened and the rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights." (Gen 7; 11, 12) This passage describes the sea level rising up at the same time torrents of rain fell from the sky.
According to Plato, the island of Atlantis and the distant Mediterranean civilizations were completely destroyed in a single day and night of violent earthquakes and floods. They disappeared into the depths of the sea. And according to Plato, the Great Flood occurred around 11,400 years ago. (The account records the event occurring 9000 years before Platos time. Platos dialogues were written around 360 BC) This would make the Pre-Flood civilization an Ice Age civilization.
According to the Bible, mankind was destroyed by a Great Flood. Noah and his family built a huge ship, an ark, out of wood sealed with pitch. They were saved when "the flood came upon the earth for forty days; and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth and the water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. And the water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered." (Gen 7; 17-19). Noah floated in the ark for approximately 370 days.
According to Plato, few people survive the cataclysm. The only survivors dwelt in the mountains. They were herdsmen and shepherds. They were ignorant of the art of writing and had very little education.
The present Ice Age has lasted for millions of years. At the height of the Ice Age, glaciers covered most of Greenland, Canada, Scandinavia, and northwestern Siberia. Within the Ice Age are short warm spells called Interglacials that last for a few thousand years. The opposite of an Interglacial is a short extremely cold spell called a Stadial. The Earth was in the middle of a cold Stadial (Younger Dryas) when the Earth very suddenly (approximately 11,600 years ago) transitioned into the present Interglacial.
The dynamics of glacier ice sheet movement have been studied. The pressure exerted by a massive glacier, which is miles thick at its base, creates a liquid boundary layer that acts as a lubricant for ice flows. Basal sliding occurs by the slippage of meltwater causing a decrease in friction between the bed and the glacier base. Subglacial bed deformation occurs when a glacier flows over unfrozen unlithified sediment and the sediment deforms. A short-lived phase of rapid glacier sheet movement is called a surge. During a surge, large volumes of meltwater are released.
Within this website, I have defined the effects of a comet/asteroid impact on land and in the ocean in great detail. Refer to: http://www.BreadAndButterScience.com/TA.pdf. An atmospheric impact, commonly referred to as a bolide or airburst, is another type of impact event. The Tunguska impact is an example of a strong bolide event. Another type of impact is an Ice Age glacial impact. Such an impact could produce the effects contained in the Biblical description of the Great Flood.
A comet/asteroid impact on a large glacier mass could cause the following effects:
The impact of a large comet/asteroid (~2 mile diameter) with an Ice Age glacial sheet could produce the following chain of events:
The impactor penetrates through miles of thick ice, like a bullet. Below the surface, the impact releases the energy of a million nuclear bombs. A gas bubble of trapped superheated steam forms. The steam causes a general uplifting of the glacier ice sheet. The ice sheet rises like a steam boiler about to burst. The gas bubble exerts tremendous force on the ice flow. The impact triggers the release of potential energy locked in ice flow allowing million of tons to break loose and begins to move on the frictionless fluid bed toward the oceans. Some of the steam escapes like an erupting geyser or volcano. The glacier sheet fractures, opening up fissions for the steam to escape. Boiling water and steam further lubricate the surface boundary layer of the ice flow. The explosion hurls large masses of ice fragments into the air with great force. Ice and water flowing off the continents cause an immediate rise in sea level in conformance with the Displacement Theory. The released superhea ted steam falls back to Earth, generating very violent storms. Heavy rain falls for several days and weeks. The atmosphere heats up. Large earthquakes combined with the Earths crustal rebound from the movement of large ice sheets exert significant strain on the tectonic plates. The strain is relieved by the eruption of volcanoes, and lava flows throughout the world. Underwater earthquakes expose frozen methane hydrate beds. The heat generated at the impact point and the heat from underwater volcanoes and lava flows elevate the temperature of the ocean bottoms and melt the exposed methane hydrate. The released methane bubbles to the surface, where in time it is ignited by lightning strikes, which further raises atmospheric temperatures. The methane burn releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In the end, the global temperature rises significantly, breaking the back of the Ice Age.
Release of Potential Energy
During an Ice Age, the sea level drops. Snow accumulates forming mile-thick ice sheets in the polar regions and high latitudes. The loss of this ocean mass places the Earth slightly out of equilibrium. The massive ice sheets have potential energy (for a visual example, think of an avalanche). An impact can trigger the release of this potential energy. When these large ice sheets are shattered, billions of tons of ice can break loose and move the Earth back into equilibrium.
Large lakes form near the end of an Ice Age. These lakes can suddenly break forth with violent rage. For example, a giant lake exploded through an ice age dam releasing 500 cubic miles of water that carved its way across the Pacific Northwest. This event was called the Missoula Floods. Large impacts can provide the trigger mechanism for a global release of this potential energy.
A temperature rise of approximately 7o C (13o F) occurred at the end of the last Ice Age. This was the result of heat released by:
A large impactor (2 miles in diameter) will release energy equivalent to approximately 1,000,000 megatons of TNT. This impact energy is equivalent to 12.6 times the total annual energy usage throughout the entire world today; all released in a split second. (World energy consumption=316 quadrillion BTUs, 1995 figure, World Bank) This energy would be released under the skin of a large glacier sheet. If an estimated ½ of the impact energy were released in the form of heat; the impact would produce approximately 2,000,000,000,000,000,000 Btus. A British Thermal Unit (BTU) is the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit (F).
Volcanic and Lava Flows
Some of the energy released by an impact would be through momentum transfer. An impact would set off a large number of earthquakes, landslides, volcanic activity, lava flows, tectonic plate movement, glacier ice sheet movement, and surface readjustments. The flexing of the Earths crust would release large quantities of molten lava, adding heat to the oceans and atmosphere. Most of this molten lava would be released at the bottom of the ocean near the tectonic plates. Magma is very hot, with temperatures ranging from 1,650 to 2,200°F. Currently the annual eruption of lava is estimated at 4 to 5 cubic kilometers for all Earths volcanoes and 3 cubic kilometers for mid-ocean ridges. After a large impact, these amounts would go up dramatically.
Increased Solar Absorption
The Earth absorbs approximately 70% of incoming solar radiation. Approximately 50% of the incoming solar radiation is ultimately absorbed at the Earths surface. Refer to: http://www.cwr.uwa.edu.au/cwr/teaching/ole107/globalenergy.pdf The Earth releases the absorbed radiation back into space as Infrared radiation, thus achieving a global heat balance.
Ice and snow are highly reflective. Freshly fallen snow will reflect 90% of the solar radiation. During an Ice Age, less solar radiation will be absorbed in the glacial regions. As a result the Earth is generally colder.
After a large comet/meteor impact on glacial ice sheets, the amount of solar radiation absorbed will increase because:
The Effect of the Impact on Civilization
Analysis of staghorn coral (a coral that always grows in shallow water) provides evidence that the ocean level rose 400 feet since the end of the last Ice Age and the Ice Age came to an abrupt end approximately 11,650 years ago. This occurred when global temperatures rose approximately 7o C.4
In order to study the effects of the impact on civilization, lets step back in time. This is not the civilization that you read about in history books but the thriving civilization that existed throughout the world during the last Ice Age. Large areas of the continents were covered in glacier ice sheets. Strong jet streams moving north/south made it difficult to grow crops and scratch out a living in many locales and environments. But some moderate and tropical areas were blessed by mountain ranges that traverse east/west that protected the region from these fierce winds (Himalayas, Caucasus, and European Alps). It was in these regions (such as Cuba, the Mediterranean, and India) that mankind found a niche and thrived. These shallow coastal lands were among the richest and most fertile on Earth. These protected coastlines were the sites of the largest cities and population centers. (This is not much different than today, where 85 percent of the Earths population and the majority of cities are within 200 miles of the coastline. Its just a different coastline, the edge of the continental shelf.)
The end came suddenly. A large comet or asteroid cut its way down to the Earth in a flash and bore through the glacier sheet. For most people, this initial event was so sudden and distant that it might go unnoticed. They would first feel the effects of the impact when a series of massive earthquakes would rumble through a few minutes later. The cities of brick and stone would crumble about them and on top of them. If they looked at the sky, they might notice that it was beginning to take on strange colors before it finally went completely dark. Survivors would stumble around, trying to free family and friends trapped in the rubble. The sea level would begin to rise at the same time that torrents of rain would begin to fall from the sky. As the hours turned into days and months, the unending deluge would lift the level of the sea by as much as 400 feet, submerging approximately 15 million square miles of coastal land around the world and drowning its inhabitants. This brought to an end the Ice Age and destroyed most traces of the Ice Age civilization that came before us.
Remnants of the Ice Age civilizations exist but they are buried under many feet of silt and sand, four hundred feet below sea level, far too deep for most divers. I predict that some of the greatest archeological discoveries in the 21st century will be uncovered off the coastlines, buried hundreds of feet underwater.
1. Dr. William Dillion, U.S. Geological Survey, "Gas (Methane) Hydrates A New Frontier", n.p.; on-line, Internet, available from http://marine.usgs.gov/fact-sheets/gas-hydrates/title.html
2. Michael Paine, "Did Asteroid-Induced Firestorm Destroy the Dinosaur?", SPACE.COM, 18 November 1999, n.p.; on-line, Internet, from http://www.space.com/scie...omy/astronomy/dinosaurs_fry_991118.htm.
3. "All about Hydrates, Chemistry of Natural Methane Hydrates", n.p.; on-line, Internet, available from http://www.netl.doe.gov/scng/hydrate/about-hydrates/chemistry.htm
4. "The Younger Dryas", n.p.; on-line, Internet, available from http://www.agu.org/revgeophys/mayews01/node6.html
Is the Great Flood Story limited to just the Genesis account in the Bible and Platos history of the destruction of Atlantis?
No. Stories of the Great Flood are almost universal among the
civilizations on Earth. Anthropologists who study legends and folktales from
different geographical locations (China, Babylon, Mexico, Egypt, Sudan, Syria,
Persia, India, Norway, Wales, Ireland, Indonesia, Romania, Mexico, Peru,
Australia, Greece, Tanzania etc.) and cultures consistently have reported one
particular group of legends that is common to practically every civilization,
the story of the Great Flood. Historians estimate that these legends number
into the hundreds. In 95% of the stories, the flood was worldwide; in 88%, a
certain family was favored; in 70%, survival was by means of a boat; in 67%
animals were also saved; in 66% the flood was due to the wickedness of man; in
66% the survivors had been forewarned; in 57% they ended up on a mountain; in
35% birds were sent out from the boat; and in 9% exactly eight people were
spared. The reality of a global Great Flood event is supported by the universal
nature of these accounts.
Is there any physical evidence of a Great Flood?
Yes. William Scott Anderson, arrived at this theory independently and even before me. His research was published in 2001 in a book titled "Solving the Mystery of the Biblical Flood". One of the more interesting elements in his book is that he found a proxy in diatoms that support the theory of a Great Flood. Diatoms are a microorganism, a type of plankton that has a silicon shell, which are preserved as fossils. Mr. Anderson realized a global flood should have left a physical record in the geological strata of these tiny sea creatures. He analyzed the strata at the boundary of the end of the last ice age in the middle of the North American continent in Wisconsin and discovered the presence of ocean diatoms in the boundary layer. His book details his methodology and techniques. These details should allow others to scientifically test and validate his findings and spread this research across the entire globe.
Is there any evidence of a large impact event at the end of the last glacial period?
Yes, but is a little different than my original hypothesis.
The evidence can be found in the Carolina Bays. Refer to http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/cbayint.html
Scattered along the eastern coast of the United States from southern New Jersey to northern Florida are approximately 500,000 elliptical depressions collectively called the Carolina Bays. The size of these depressions range from 200 feet to 7 miles along the major axis. One of the interesting aspects of the Carolina Bays is that they occurred during recent geological time. Otherwise the depressions would have been eroded and filled in. Any event that is capable of producing a half million craters is a significant global event. And this might just be the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended). Because if these impacts were not limited to the Carolina Bays but also peppered the North American Glacial Mass, they could produce a massive release of water and ice. It is worth noting that the trajectory of the Carolina Bay impactors appear to originate from a cometary breakup directly over the North American Glacial Sheets.
The Carolina Bays
Is there any evidence of a massive flood at the end of the last glacial period?
Yes, this can be found in the Lake Missoula, Altai and Agassiz megafloods, to name a few.
Glacial Lake Missoula, a North American inland sea, was as big as Lakes Erie and Ontario combined. The glacial lake covered over 3,000 square miles, and was over 2,000 feet deep at the edge of the glacial dam. The Missoula megaflood release over 520 cubic miles of water and ice across Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Flood waters roared across the landscape at speeds approaching 90 miles per hour, the lake drained in as little as 48 hours. Some argue that it was caused by a massive ice dam that broke releasing a massive flows of water and ice and the event repeated several times. Refer to: http://www.opb.org/programs/ofg/episodes/1001/missoula/index.php Others argue for a single flood event. Refer to: http://nwcreation.net/articles/missoulaflood.htm
Deep in Altai mountains in Southern Siberia a huge ice age lake 300 feet deep containing 200 cubic miles of water ruptured sending a wall of water 1,500 feet high down the Chuja River valley at 90 miles per hour. Refer to: http://www.sentex.net/~tcc/cfdb-sib.html
The Lake Agassiz megaflood in Canada was even larger than the other two. The flood released over 5,000 cubic miles of water approximately 11,335 years ago. Refer to: http://cgrg.geog.uvic.ca/abstracts/FisherPreborealThe.html
If these massive megafloods, along with others, were triggered simultaneously by a large comet impact, they could hypothetically generate a global flood event.
How could the waters cover the entire earth during the Great Flood?
The crust of the Earth is flexible and deforms over geological time under redistributed weightloads. Mr. Anderson describes this process in some detail in his book. During the Ice Age, the weight of ice sheets miles thick effected the shape of the world; the ocean became shallower and the continental landmasses flattened out.
Is there any other evidence supporting a Great Flood?
Yes. Massive extinctions occurred at the end of the Pleistocene. Most of these are associated with the larger megafauna. The following disappeared from America, Europe and Australia:
All herbivores > 1000 kg
75% of herbivores 100-1000 kg
41% of herbivores 5-100 kg
< 2% of herbivores < 5 kg
This extinction of megafauna included: wooly mammoths & mastodons, the saber-toothed tigers, native American horses & camels, giant Australian kangaroos, wombats, the marsupial lion (Thylacoleo carnifex), the largest ever marsupial (the 2 1/2-ton Diprotodon), giant Irish deer or Irish elk, wooly rhino, peccaries, short-faced bears, as well as the armadillo-like glyptodonts, and the giant ground sloths (Megatheriadae).
Assuming the Earth was struck by a large impactor, where is the iridium evidence?
At the bottom of the ocean. A global flood would wash away this thin dust layer.