October 5, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

Explaining Inland Seas Without a Flood

The Great Salt Lake and other large extinct inland seas in the desert remain a challenge to explain by conventional geology.

A press release from Stanford University suggests that “Tropical rain may have formed Utah’s Great Salt Lake, says Stanford Researcher,” but problems appear further down.  First, we learn that this is an old problem:

Between 20,000 and 14,000 years ago, the deserts in the American Southwest were covered with enormous lakes. How all that water got there has long puzzled Earth scientists, but new work by a group of scientists that includes a Stanford climate researcher could provide an answer.

These lakes “covered about a quarter of both Nevada and Utah.”  Till recently, the leading explanation called for a shift in the jet stream that dumped more precipitation in the southwest in the past.  Problem: that theory should show increased wetness from the coast inland that is not found.  That explanation has been “ruled out,” the press release indicated.

The researcher to the rescue is appropriately named: he is Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences.  His theory calls for tropical rains from storms coming inland from the Pacific and Gulf.  These storms conspired to dump vast quantities of water in Utah and Nevada that formed giant lakes that dried up after the stormy period. Noah and colleagues published their idea in Science (Lyle et al., “Out of the Tropics: The Pacific, Great Basin Lakes, and Late Pleistocene Water Cycle in the Western United States,” Science 28 September 2012: Vol. 337 no. 6102 pp. 1629-1633, DOI: 10.1126/science.1218390).

“We think that the extra precipitation may have come in the summer, enhancing the now weak summer monsoon in the desert southwest. But we need more information about what season the storms arrived to strengthen this speculation,” said Mitchell Lyle, a professor of oceanography at Texas A&M University and lead author of the study.

They plan to drill dry lakebed sediments for clues. Nevertheless, as it stands, their hypothesis leaves many unknowns, betrayed by the number of times they used words like maybe and perhaps.

With the data now in existence, it is impossible to determine whether summer precipitation was more enhanced than winter precipitation between 17 and 14 ka. However, if winter storms were the major precipitation source, it is difficult to understand why coastal California remained dry…. The evidence suggests that precipitation in the glacial western United States originated from the tropical eastern Pacific, perhaps via stronger spring/summer precipitation fed by tropical air masses rather than higher numbers of westerly winter storms.

The hypothesis, or speculation as Lyle called it, leaves unanswered why the storms brought in so much precipitation then and not now, and why they impacted the Great Basin so heavily but not the coast of California.  Is there any other place on earth where inland seas have been observed to grow year after year from tropical storms in a restricted region?  If so, they didn’t refer to any modern analogues.  They just invoked the trendy phrase “climate change.”

The Flood explains these lakes in a straightforward and plausible manner.  After the global flood, any landlocked basin retained its water.  In addition, increased precipitation during the (one) Ice Age kept them filled  As climate conditions subsided and stabilized over the next few centuries, some of the lakes breached their dams and drained out.  Many remnants of these escape channels can be seen today, such as the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington.  The Grand Canyon is likely a relic of a colossal dam breach, as both Walt Brown and Steve Austin have proposed.  Smaller dam breach events are recognized by secular geologists, like the cascade of lakes from Owens Valley down to Lake Manly, now the parched playa in Death Valley.  Austin also found evidence for a catastrophic dam breach that explains the Santa Cruz river canyon in Argentina, a river that had misled Charles Darwin to believe in Lyell’s slow and gradual millions of years (see video on YouTube).

Creation geologists ascribe these lakes to effects of a one-time event, the global Flood.  From small-scale analogues we can extrapolate to the kinds of forces necessary to create the lakes and canyons.  The required forces are far beyond anything observed today, undermining Charles Lyell’s concept of “the present is the key to the past” (uniformitarianism), a Victorian myth largely discarded today anyway (5/22/2003, 11/04/2003, 4/30/2009).  By contrast, the calculated forces fit well with the global flood model.

The problem Noah Diffenbaugh and Mitchell Lyle face when attempting to provide a secular, materialist hypothesis for the dried-up inland seas is coming up with a “law of nature” that can account for them.  If tropical rains or jet streams cause giant lakes, why are they not building up vast inland seas today?  Why aren’t hurricanes creating new Lake Bonnevilles in Louisiana that we can watch grow year by year?  Why then, and not now? What was different?  Don’t just say “climate change.”

Secular scientists generally discourage ad hoc mechanisms in theories.  While the Flood is a singular event, it is not ad hoc.  It has written testimony for support: the detailed record in Genesis 6-9.  Textual evidence suggests the record could have been originally written by Noah, an eyewitness, then handed down through his son Shem and his descendents, eventually compiled by Moses (the Babylonian and other accounts, with their absurdities, being corruptions of the real event).

Contrasted with all the failures of Darwin and Lyell, the Genesis explanation should be taken seriously on its merits, whether or not the secularists mock, as they were predicted to do nearly two millennia ago (2 Peter 3:1-9) – another independent corroboration.  Which Noah is more trustworthy – one who wasn’t there, who leans on Charlie & Charlie, or one who was an eyewitness and told us what happened, with effects we can still see today with our own eyes?


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  • Donald Holliday says:

    This was the same failed explanations Hope Jahren & Leonel Sternberg gave in trying to explain why rain storms didn’t move off oceans and release their O-18 isotopes on land, but rather somehow Tropical Monsoonal Moisture must have moved directly north from the Gulf of Mexico and fallen as rain that way. Yet wasn’t the Coriolis effect in existence then ? And if so, then why don’t tropical air masses move northwards today and create a paradise of forests in the Arctic today ?

    Actually I believe Genesis does explain the mechanisms of the flood. Two components. “Springs of the watery deep broken open” (Volcanism, Hydrothermal springs, artesian springs, etc ???? – just a thought) AND the “Floodgates of the Heavens” proceeds after that. Makes sense in that order since numerous gases, aerosols etc are needed to facilitate cloud formation and rainfall release. I don’t know for sure, but none of these geniuses will ever attempt to look at such possible mechanisms as a viable explanation. And why not ? It’s called resentment of accountability and repugnance of definitions of morality. It has zero to do with science.

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