Congressman Joe Burton opens the Bible to find evidence of natural, catastrophic climate change:
“If you believe in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change. That certainly wasn't because man had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”
The notion that epic, Noah-style catastrophic flooding ocurred during recent Ice Ages went from controversial to Conventional Wisdom among geologists after the details of the Glacial Lake Missoula were pinned down:
About 12,000 years ago, the valleys of western Montana lay beneath a lake nearly 2,000 feet deep. Glacial Lake Missoula formed as the Cordilleran Ice Sheet dammed the Clark Fork River just as it entered Idaho. The rising water behind the glacial dam weakened it until water burst through in a catastrophic flood that raced across Idaho, Oregon, and Washington toward the Pacific Ocean. Thundering waves and chunks of ice tore away soils and mountainsides, deposited giant ripple marks, created the scablands of eastern Washington and carved the Columbia River Gorge. Over the course of centuries, Glacial Lake Missoula filled and emptied in repeated cycles, leaving its story embedded in the land.
- The ice dam was over 2000 feet tall.
- Glacial Lake Missoula was as big as Lakes Erie and Ontario combined.
- The flood waters ran with the force equal to 60 Amazon Rivers.
- Car-sized boulders embedded in ice floated some 500 miles; they can still be seen today!
- The ice dam was over 2000 feet tall.
Mind boggling. And once geologists knew what to look for, they found evidence of other glacial lakes in Europe and Asia. From Discover Magazine:
Recognition of the Missoula flood helped other geologists identify similar landforms in Asia, Europe, Alaska, and the American Midwest, as well as on Mars. There is now compelling evidence for many gigantic ancient floods where glacial ice dams failed time and again: At the end of the last glaciation, some 10,000 years ago, giant ice-dammed lakes in Eurasia and North America repeatedly produced huge floods. In Siberia, rivers spilled over drainage divides and changed their courses. England’s fate as an island was sealed by erosion from glacial floods that carved the English Channel. These were not global deluges as described in the Genesis story of Noah, but were more focused catastrophic floods taking place throughout the world. They likely inspired stories like Noah’s in many cultures, passed down through generations.
Did they mention Noah? So did the NY Times in a 1996 story about how climate change may have led to Noah's flood around the Black Sea:
LONG before the splendid palaces and minarets of Istanbul lined its shore, the Bosporus was little more than a narrow spillway where fresh water from the ancient Black Sea flowed out to the Aegean Sea and on to the Mediterranean. Then rising sea levels worldwide brought about a cataclysmic reversal. Suddenly, sea water cascaded through the Bosporus with a force 400 times mightier than that of Niagara Falls, the terrifying sound of the roar carrying for at least 60 miles.
In perhaps less than a year, the Black Sea turned brackish and rose several hundred feet, inundating former shores and river valleys deep into the interior. The relentless waters encroached on the land at a rate of half a mile to a mile a day. More than 60,000 square miles of land were soon submerged, a 30 percent expansion in the Black Sea's size, which essentially gave the body of water its modern configuration.
An international team of geologists and oceanographers has reconstructed the history of this catastrophic flood from data gathered by a Russian research ship in 1993. Seismic soundings and sediment cores revealed traces of the sea's former shorelines, showing an abrupt 500-foot rise in water levels. Radiocarbon dating of the transition from freshwater to marine organisms in the cores put the time of the event about 7,500 years ago, or 5500 B.C.
Could it be, Dr. Ryan and Dr. Pittman speculate, that the people driven from their land by the flood were, in part, responsible for the spread of farming into Europe and advances in agriculture and irrigation to the south, in Anatolia and Mesopotamia? These cultural changes occurred around the same time as the rise of the Black Sea.
Could it also be, they ask, that the Black Sea deluge left such enduring memories that this inspired the later story of a great flood described in the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh? In the epic, the heroic warrior Gilgamesh makes a dangerous journey to meet the survivor of a great world flood and learn from him the secret of everlasting youth.
If a memory of the Black Sea flood indeed influenced the Gilgamesh story, then it could also be a source of the Noah story in the Book of Genesis. Scholars have long noted striking similarities between the Gilgamesh and Genesis flood accounts and suspected that the Israelites derived their version from the Gilgamesh epic or independently from a common tradition that might have stemmed from a real catastrophe long before.
Dr. Ryan and Dr. Pittman concede that a link between the Black Sea flood and Gilgamesh and Noah may be a bit of a stretch.
Ah, well. Apparently subsequent research has left this hypothesis up in the air. Still, Noah's flood does seem to be a possible example of a catastrophic but natural climate change. Other than to the Glacier Deniers, of course.