Climate change, Niagara and catastrophe
Warming makes Niagara Falls—in a hurry!
The melting of the Laurentide Ice Sheet in Canada generated a huge lake—Glacial Lake Agassiz (Louis Agassiz was a Swiss geologist who studied the geology of America and was a staunch opponent of Darwin’s theory of evolution). At some point during the Younger Dryas episode of the Holocene, it breached the natural dam that made its eastern border and catastrophically drained eastward, filling in the Great Lakes. This cut the Niagara Gorge and Falls, as well as the St Lawrence River, in one gigantic episode of erosion.
In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, around 120 scientists were discussing the long-standing issue of global warming.1 Not surprisingly, the major thrust was pollution and fossil fuel burning as the main causes of this warming.
There is little doubt that some warming is attributable to those causes, but it seems untrendy today to mention other aspects of the global ‘big picture’.
First, even my secular colleagues would maintain that for about 85% of the time that the earth has existed, the average global temperature has been substantially warmer than today.2
Second, massive volcanic eruptions in the past have thrown into the atmosphere huge amounts of greenhouse gasses (like CO2) and ozone depleters (like HCl aerosols),3 way more than the entire epoch of industrial civilization.
Third, for the last 100 to 150 years the sun has become brighter and hotter.4
All these are seldom spoken about, while human pollution has taken central stage on this topic.
Also, the melting of the great ice sheets and glaciers began at the end of the Ice Age, and has in fact never stopped. There is much ado today about how the glaciers and Arctic and Antarctic ice are melting. Yet little is mentioned in the media about the Younger Dryas episode in the recent past when, in the middle of a period of global warming, an extremely cold span hit the planet, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. It is worth mentioning that the search for an explanation of this mysterious episode (involving the thermohaline circulation system which drives global climate) led to the discovery of a major, regional flood that has affected North America—see box.
The huge amount of fresh water that this ‘Niagara Flood’ dumped into the Atlantic Ocean disrupted the thermohaline circulation system, and thus dramatically affected the climate.5
This flood (normally referred to as the ‘Lake Agassiz Flood’) and other similar massive catastrophes were, however, small splashes compared to God’s Genesis Flood global judgment—which in fact caused the Ice Age and its aftermath.
So we see, the ‘big picture’ tells us a different story about climate and its caprices. Let’s be wise and spend time understanding it instead of simply jumping on bandwagons. At the same time, let’s remember that God expects us to be good stewards of His creation.
- Canadian Artic Shelf Exchange Study, 2005–2006 General Meeting; CBC News, Arctic could be ice-free in summer in 15 years. Return to text.
- Frakes, L.A., Climates Throughout Geologic Time, Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Amsterdam-Oxford-New York, 1979, p. 261. Return to text.
- Officer, C.B., Hallam, A., Drake, C.L., Devine, J.D., Late Cretaceous and paroxysmal Cretaceous/Tertiary extinctions. Nature 326(6109):143–149, 12 March 1987. Return to text.
- SwissInfo, Sunspot activity hits 1,000-year high, 12 July 2004. Return to text.
- Broecker, W.S., Unpleasant surprises in the greenhouse? Nature 328(6126):123–126, 9 July 1987. Return to text.