Heat problems associated with Genesis Flood models.
William Worraker (Biblical Creation Trust)
Paul Garner (Biblical Creation Trust)
The bottom line:
The main sources of heat during the Flood are: (1) Accelerated Nuclear Decay, (2) Catastrophic Plate Tectonics (CPT) and (3) bombardment from space. Each is overwhelmingly sufficient to melt the entire Earth’s crust or to boil away the oceans. They follow different spatial patterns. Although no general explanation has yet been found of how a heat catastrophe during the Flood was avoided, worthwhile further investigations have become apparent.
In geological terms the Genesis Flood was short and violent, and must have generated an enormous amount of heat. However Noah, his family, the animals on the Ark and many aquatic creatures survived the Flood. Thus the problem arises of explaining how the heat was removed without raising temperatures too high for survival.
This project consists of a review of the relevant uniformitarian and creationist literature together with supporting calculations. The first part reassesses what is known about ocean temperatures through Earth history. Most of the relevant data comes from the oxygen-18 content of marine calcite, both inorganic and in fossil shells; more 18O in the calcite relative to the seawater indicates lower formation temperatures. Although data from Precambrian rocks is scanty, the fraction of 18O increases upwards throughout the geological record (Veizer and Prokoph 2015). Taken at face value this implies a progressive cooling of the oceans before, during and after the Flood. However some investigators have argued that the trend is largely due to a secular change in seawater chemistry. Further investigation from a biblical perspective, including newer methods of palaeothermometry, notably Mg/Ca (Barker et al. 2005), and “clumped isotopes” (Ghosh et al. 2006), is needed to reliably determine ocean palaeotemperatures.
Several of the findings of the RATE project, notably the widespread occurrence of polonium radiohalos in biotite flakes in granite (Snelling 2005), imply that radionuclide decay was vastly accelerated during the Flood. Given present-day nuclide concentrations and heat generation rates, and assuming that the main heat-generating decay series (238U, 235U, 232Th and 40K) were accelerated by a factor of 600 million over the Flood year (Snelling 2014), we estimate that this heat was over five times enough to melt the Earth’s entire continental crust.
The heat released during CPT is mainly that brought up by mantle convection to the ocean floor at mid-ocean ridges or spreading centres. The current heat deposition rate is ~3.9×1014 J/m2 of newly-formed oceanic lithosphere (Furlong and Chapman 2013). Thus the cooling needed to produce the present-day ocean floors (area 3.6×1014 m2) is estimated simply by multiplying these two figures together, which gives 1.4×1029 J – over 30 times enough to boil away Earth’s oceans.
The heat deposited by bombardment from space during the Flood is essentially the kinetic energy of the impactors, which depends on their masses and velocities and the number that fell during the Flood. Most creationist authors considering space impacts assume that they occurred mainly during the Flood, and that the Earth was struck by the same impactor population as the Moon (Samec 2008, Oard 2009, Spencer 2013). However the most reliable estimate of what impacted the Earth during the formation of the lunar maria (roughly equivalent to the Flood) is probably that of Kring and Cohen (2002), who give a minimum energy/heat deposition of 1028 J, with a possible maximum an order of magnitude larger.
Given that these enormous heat loads arise by different mechanisms and in different locations, a generic heat removal mechanism is difficult to formulate. One possibility may be a supernatural, transiently-operating form of temperature-dependent radiation (not electromagnetic) from crustal materials, to which terrestrial substances are transparent. The feasibility of this idea could be investigated by simple quantitative modelling of crustal heat flows in Flood conditions.
Summaries of project work undertaken up to July 2016 were presented in two talks given at the Origins 2016 conference held at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, USA (Worraker 2016a, 2016b).
Barker, S., I. Cacho, H. Benway and K. Tachikawa. 2005. Planktonic foraminiferal Mg/Ca as a proxy for past oceanic temperatures: a methodological overview and data compilation for the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews 24:821–834.
Furlong, K.P. and D.S. Chapman. 2013. Heat flow, heat generation, and the thermal state of the lithosphere. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 41:385–410.
Ghosh, P., J. Adkins, H. Affek, B. Balta, W. Guo, E.A. Schauble, D. Schrag and J.M. Eiler. 2006. 13C–18O bonds in carbonate minerals: a new kind of paleothermometer. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 70:1439–1456.
Kring, D.A. and B.A. Cohen. 2002. Cataclysmic bombardment throughout the inner solar system 3.9–4.0 Ga. Journal of Geophysical Research 107(E2):4-1-4-6.
Oard, M.J. 2009. How many impact craters should there be on the earth? Journal of Creation 23(3):61–69.
Samec, R.G. 2008. On the origin of lunar maria. Journal of Creation 22(3):101–108.
Snelling, A.A. 2005. Radiohalos in granites: evidence for accelerated nuclear decay, pp.101–208 in Vardiman, L., A.A. Snelling, and E.F. Chaffin (eds.), Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative. Institute for Creation Research and Creation Research Society, El Cajon, California and St Joseph, Missouri.
Snelling, A.A. 2014. Private e-mail communication. 6 August 2014.
Spencer, W. 2013. Impacts and Noah’s Flood – how many and other issues. Journal of Creation 27(1):85–89.
Veizer, J. and A. Prokoph. 2015. Temperatures and oxygen isotopic composition of Phanerozoic oceans. Earth-Science Reviews 146:92–104.
Worraker, W.J. 2016a. Quantifying the Flood heat problem. Journal of Creation Theology and Science Series C: Earth Sciences 6:4–5. See page 4 of PDF file.
Worraker, W.J. 2016b. Reassessing Earth’s oxygen isotope record. Journal of Creation Theology and Science Series C: Earth Sciences 6:5–6. See page 5 of PDF file.
Worraker, W.J. 2018. Heat problems associated with Genesis Flood models – Part 1. Introduction and thermal boundary conditions. Answers Research Journal 11:171–191.
Worraker, W.J. 2019. Heat problems associated with Genesis Flood models – Part 2. Secondary temperature indicators. Answers Research Journal 12:211–254.
Worraker, W.J. and R. Ward. 2018. Modeling of Flood and post-Flood ocean floor cooling, pp.673–682 in: Whitmore, J.H. (ed.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism. Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.