Volcanism, "Fountains of the Great Deep," and Forty Days of Rain, by Hamilton Duncan
Marko’s summary: A common criticism of the Biblical Flood account is that it would be impossible for rain to occur 40 days and nights over the surface of the entire earth without stopping.
If you believe in the Almighty Creator God who created the entire Universe miraculously in six days, it would be no great difficulty for him to supply that much water. He could have done it miraculously, of course. Or he could have done it by using what was already available on Earth and the Solar System.
Hamilton Duncan shows that there is at least enough water trapped in molten rock (magmas) beneath the surface of the earth to supply 23 inches a day for 40 days everywhere on the planet! But how could all that water suddenly shoot into the atmosphere? A simultaneous bombardment of comets and meteors worldwide would be enough to cause the upper layer (mantle) of the Earth’s surface to lead to sudden decompression of the upper mantle, which would cause the trapped water to vaporize and erupt spectacularly into the earth’s atmosphere, shooting many miles up into the sky. Duncan concludes: “A world where 40,000 volcanoes simultaneously erupt would be extremely dreadful and may very well be the world referred to in Genesis 7 and 8.”
Of course, the miraculous hand of God is involved at some point! He is the one that warned Noah that the Flood was coming, and told him exactly how to build the Ark to take refuge. He is the one that sent the rains at their appointed time, and caused them to stop on the 40th day. May we recognize the awesome majesty, splendor and strength of our Creator (1st Chronicles 16:26-27).
(This review and article digest is by Marko Malyj, of the article published in Creation Research Society Quarterly Journal, Volume 47, Number 1, Summer, 2010, to appear at http://www.creationresearch.org/crsq/abstracts/Abstracts47-1.htm).
Water is the primary gas released during virtually all volcanic eruptions. Gravimetric analysis of large igneous provinces indicates the liberation of water from their magmas could have contributed at least 58 cm of rain worldwide every day for forty days. Under the scenario of global decompression from bolide impacts, the forty days of rain came from four potential sources: (1) liberation from volcanism, (2) destruction of vapor canopy, (3) vaporization of existing liquid water upon bolide [comet, meteor, etc.] impact, and (4) vaporization of bolides.
The phrase "fountains of the great deep" in the Bible appears three times: Genesis 7:11, Genesis 8:2, and Proverbs 8:28. Genesis associates the fountains of the great deep with rain.
These fountains may be the eruption of crustal and subcrustal magmas, which would have "caused" the Global Flood of Noah's day. (Dickens and Snelling, 2008; Dillow, 1981; Hunter, 1996; Rehwinkel, 1951; Whitcomb and Morris, 1961). The "effect" would have been large releases of lava and volatiles into the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide, sulfur, chlorine, and fluorine are common, but water vapor is the most abundant volatile (Johnson et al., 1994). If water vapor released during an eruption is forced high into the atmosphere, it will cool and condense. The liquid water can precipitate or revaporize (Fetter, 1988). Therefore, rainfall can be sustained indefinitely by sufficient volcanism.
Volcanism and the Flood Waters
Presently there is approximately 1.27 x 1019 grams of water in the atmosphere (Trenberth and Smith, 2005), which is enough to provide approximately 2.5 cm (1.0 inch) of rain simultaneously across the entire Earth's surface (Dillow, 1981; Fox, 1952; Whitcomb and Morris, 1961). This modest amount of water would be insufficient to generate a global flood. Therefore, magmas would have had to liberate considerably more than the 1019 grams of water in order to sustain forty days of rain.
Snelling (2008) quoted previous investigators who determined granites could disolve 24 weight percent water at 100 km depth. Rhyolite melts can contain up to 21 wt % H2O at 10 kbars pressure (Sood, 1981) which is equivalent to 36 km depth (22 miles, Blatt et al., 2006). Andesitic melts can dissolve 10 wt % H2O, and basaltic melts can disolve 14 wt % H2O under similar conditions (Middlemost, 1985; Annen et al., 2006). Mitchell (1986) discusses how kimberlites could have contained 40% H2O at a depth of 200 km.
Magmas degassing these large amounts of water vapor at Earth's surface could have contributed significant amounts of precipitation for the Flood.
Rainfall during the Flood
Determine the precise amount of precipitation during the Flood could begin with a quantification of water liberated from erupted magmas. The largest known volcanic emplacements on Earth consist almost exclusively of basalt and are called large igneous provinces (LIPs) (Figure 1), as defined by Coffin and Eldholm (1994).
|Figure 1. Distribution of known large igneous provinces (in black, after Reviews of Geophysics, by Coffin and Eldholm, 1994) |
Before the acronym "LIP" was coined, Schubert and Sandwell (1989) published a paper estimating the volumes of continental submarine plateaus, oceanic plateaus, and thermal swells, much of what is now known as LIPs. The total volue is 605,603,000 km3. Kovalenko et al. (2007) reported H2O values for corresponding volcanic settings.
When gravimetric analysis is applid to the information supplied by both Schubert and Kovalenko, a volume of 605,603,000 km3 of basaltic magma would have yielded a total of 1.174 x 1023 grams H2O. This estimate gives a "rough idea" for a minimum value of global precipitation during the Flood. Continental LIPs and other forms of volcanism are underrepresented in this study.
High Velocity Volcanism
Basaltic magma is capable of spectacular eruptions. An example of rapidly ascending, degassing basaltic magma are kimberlites, famous for their association with diamonds. (Evans, 1987; Heinrich, 1966; Milashev, 1984; Mitchell, 1986; Morgan et al., 2004; Smith, 1999c). McGretchen and Ullrich (1973) have modeled ascent rates ranging from 25 meters/sec at 90 km deep to 334 m/s at the surface.
These launch velocities would have sent volatiles several kilometers high into the atmosphere. The suborbital presence of volatiles would have collapsed any existing vapor canopy and contributed additional precipitation to the Flood (Dillow, 1981; Hunter, 1996; Jorgensen, 1990; Whitcomb and Morris, 1961).
Cause of Concentrated, Global Volcanism
Although the Bible tells us "why" God flooded Earth, it does not provide many details about "how". One vital clue appears in Genesis 7:11: "The same day were all the fountains of th great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." What could cause concentrated, global volcanic eruptions on the same day?
Decompression melting is considered the most common form of melting in the crust and mantle. Hunter (2000) has proposed that rocks were decompressed globally by a miraculous change in the gravitational constant. Another alternative is that bolide impacts could have created areas of concentrated decompression worldwide and intiated the Flood.
Bolides are meteors, meteorites, or comets (Jackson, 1997; Smith, 1999d). Many investigators believe Earth was bombarded by bolides in the past (Gilmour and Koeberl, 2000; Glikson, 2001; Norman et al. 1977; Oard, 2009; Spencer, 1998a; Unfred, 1984; Whitcomb and Morris, 1961).
A rapid, global bombardment could have led to extensive fracturing, segmental upper mantle decompression, LIP emplacement (Jones, 2005; Jones et. al, 2002), and diatreme emplacement (Oard, 2009). The modeled ascent speeds of kimberlite and basaltic magmas attest to the accuracy of the Bible's recording how the fountains of the great deep were "broken up" on the same day.
Bolides may have contributed to the Flood in other ways. If they struck water, the impact would have vaporized water near the impact area (Ingle and Coffin, 2004; Spencer, 1998b). Additionally, comets are comprised mainly of water (Campins et al., 2004; Dasch, 1996b; Hartmann, 1989), and if comets struck Earth, they would have been vaporized upon impact.
Therefore, under the scenario of global decompression from bolide impacts, the forty days of rain came from four potential sources:
- liberation from volcanism,
- destruction of vapor canopy
- vaporization of existing liquid water upon bolide impact
- vaporization of bolides
The conjunction of the "fountains of the great deep" and "windows of heaven" at the beginning of the Flood suggests a causal relationship. Voluminous magmatic emplacements with water contents measured today could have provided at least 58 cm (23 inches) of rain worldwide everyday for forty days.
An abrupt catastrophic event must have triggered these phenomena. A global bolide impact event could have triggered tremendous crustal volcanism through decompression of the mantle and fracturing of the lithosphere. Moreover, bolide impacts may have initiated LIP emplacements and the launching of volatiles including water vapor through diatremes.
There are over 40,000 volcanoes on Earth, with 1,500 of them active (Dasch, 1996b). A world where 40,000 volcanoes simultaneously erupt would be extremely dreadful and may very well be the world referred to in Genesis 7 and 8.
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