Wood Buried Under Ocean Floor Thousands of Miles at Sea
Wood chips hundreds of feet deep in ocean sediments have been found. How did they get there?
Watch out for ocean trees.
Geology researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) went boring into ocean sediments near India, and were surprised to find direct evidence that “Catastrophic events carry forests of trees thousands of miles to a burial at sea.” They pulled up six cores of sediment from the ocean floor a thousand feet below the surface. The cores were extracted miles apart and over a thousand miles from shore.
Geology researchers at USC Dornsife find, for the first time, evidence that fresh wood can move from its home far inland to settle deep in the ocean, a discovery that appears to add to current models of Earth’s carbon cycle.
One implication is that this kind of burial of wood at sea will cause revisions of Earth’s carbon cycle. Climate models have not sufficiently taken this kind of carbon sequestration into account. But another implication was unexpected. How did wood chips from trees growing on mountains two miles high end up under the ocean floor?
“We found pristine pieces of conifers,” Feakins said. “These trees grow two miles above sea level, up in the Himalayas.”
The trees likely were uprooted during the last ice age by a massive release of water from the breach of a natural dam created by a glacier, landslide or similar land feature. In what must have been a surge of water, the trees rode rivers thousands of miles from Nepal through Bangladesh and into the Bengal Fan, the largest underwater sediment accumulation in the world.
The press release and the paper in PNAS, including the Supplemental Information, are frustratingly vague about whether the wood chips are pristine as opposed to petrified or mineralized. They do, however, call it “wood” throughout the literature, so it must have stood out from the other sediments. The fragments they found are in the millimeter to centimeter range, and appear dark. The scientists refer to them as “readily visible wood pieces.”
Once at the target point at sea, the U.S.-operated research ship R/V Joides Resolution, which is part of the International Ocean Discovery Program, extended a drill mechanism more than two miles down from the ocean’s surface to its floor and drilled more than a half a mile down into the sediments. They then carried the samples back to the lab, where the research team combed through the resulting core samples. They discovered wood chips in the sandy layers dating back as far as 19 million years.
The paper is also silent about how the layers were dated. There is no mention of radiometric dating or radiocarbon (which would not be expected to survive past 100,000 years, anyway). Perhaps the dates were inferred by the layers they were in, according to the geologic column.
However the layers were dated, the millions-of-years dates are problematic not just because wood would not be expected to survive so long. Another problem is why so little wood was detected. There was plenty scattered throughout the cores, to be sure, but 19 million years is a long time.
These wood chips likely were carried to the sea by torrential rains and flooding during monsoons or cyclones that occurred many time [sic] across the 19-million-year time span.
How many monsoons would that be? Simple calculations based on assumptions of one major flood per century would result in almost two million cyclones sufficiently strong to transport trees down the rivers and out onto the Bengal Fan. Reduce the assumption to one major cyclone every thousand years; even that would result in almost 20,000 such storms. That’s a lot of trees. Most likely, large monsoons are much more frequent.
Most trees, of course, would float. So perhaps few wood chips would be expected to sink to the bottom and get buried. How catastrophic would a monsoon have to be to bury trees within sediments, when the trees are buoyant by nature? However the wood got down there, the findings caught the scientists off guard.
The new findings point to a previously unrecognized way carbon can remain locked away, effectively removed from the carbon cycle, for millions of years. The abundance of wood suggests that the prior estimates of carbon exported by modern Ganges-Brahmaputra rivers were low, and now accounting for wood, the amount of carbon exported and buried may be 50% greater than previously thought.
“As we’ve tried to calculate the amount of carbon in all parts of the carbon cycle, we didn’t know about this forest of fragmented trees buried in the ocean floor,” Feakins said. “Now we need to add it to the equation.”
This indicates one more unexpected data point that could affect climate models. That’s the geologists’ focus. Yet certainly more interesting would be to figure out how buoyant wood can be be buried half a mile down in sediment, and how it could survive intact for millions of years.
Look what Lyell did to science. The clear evidence of a single catastrophe is disallowed due to a religious bias against recent creation. Geologists cannot, and will not, even consider that as an option. It’s up to open-minded scientists not yet hypnotized by Charlie & Charlie’s* moyboy propaganda to take up the cause and think about the kinds of causes that could bring about the observed effects. Ockham’s Razor would also prefer parsimony: if one event** could produce the observations, why postulate thousands or millions of them?
**Documented in writing, too.