Tackling the big freeze
An interview with weather scientist Michael Oard
Michael J. Oard has a Masters Science degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Washington. He works as a meteorologist/weather forecaster for the (US) National Weather Service, and has published several papers in his field in widely recognised journals.
When I first spoke with Michael (Mike) Oard, he jokingly ‘put down’ the State where he lives as ‘home to the (maybe) Unabomber and a bunch of other interesting people.’
Montana is in fact a beautiful part of the United States, one associated with rugged backwoodsmen and scenic wilderness. It is also a place where one can see a lot of evidence that large chunks of the world were once covered by huge glacial sheets. For example, Mike points out there are huge boulders which show signs of having been transported a long way from their original location. He says this was either from their being carried by an ice sheet, or dropped from an iceberg floating in one of the many lakes which were abundant near the ice sheet.
Although he does a lot of thinking and part–time research into other aspects of creationism, particularly in regard to the Flood, Mike (who has written quite a number of items for our associated Journal of Creation ) is best known for his work on the biblical Ice Age. He has written a technical monograph on the subject, as well as Life in the Great Ice Age, a family book co–authored with his wife Beverly. This book really makes the subject ‘come alive’ with its clever use of illustrated fiction, as Neanderthals and other post–Flood groups of humans interact with the harsh climate conditions.
Raised in a liberal church, Mike was taught that ‘there were errors in the Bible and all that sort of thing.’ However, when he read it for himself, it ‘seemed reasonable.’ In spite of getting ‘a lot of religious education’, it wasn’t until a stint in the Navy that he thought seriously ‘about whether God existed, and if He existed, that’s all that mattered.’
Mike earnestly searched for evidence of whether God was real, and the Lord kept on bringing him back to creation. As time went on, he increasingly realised that ‘if you start messing with something that’s reasonable, clear-cut and straightforward, which is God’ Word, you get a lot of serious problems with all of Scripture.’ He believes that six-day creation is really important, because he says, ‘If you start compromising that which seems to me very obvious in Scripture, you’re opening yourself up to compromise in many other areas of the Bible, and that’s what I think a lot of people do.’
Mike says that he first began to think seriously about the mechanism for an ice age about twenty years ago, when he noticed that the evidence for the boundary of the North American ice sheet was right at the edge of where the present–day ‘permanent’ winter snow accumulates. He says that ‘putting that together with ideas that other creationists have had over the years’ was the key.
The important thing for any ice age theory, he says, is to find a way ‘to cool the summers, to stop ice from melting—in most areas that were once glaciated, the winters are already cold enough.’ One such cooling mechanism was readily available after the Flood, with much volcanic ash and gases still in the air from the breaking up of the crust, which also liberated the ‘fountains of the great deep’ described in Genesis. Such volcanic matter in the air would reflect much of the sun’s heat back out to space.
However, just having cooler air is not enough. Mike points out that in Siberia today, there are very low temperatures, but it is so cold that there is not enough moisture in the air to maintain an ice sheet. To have an ‘ice’ age, he says, you need a way to get lots of water out of the ocean up on to the land.
‘After the Flood you would have both’, says Mike. ‘The water that the Bible indicates came from under the ground during the Flood would have been very warm or hot. This water mixing with the pre–Flood ocean would result in a significantly warmer ocean, right after the Flood, than today. Warmer water means more evaporation. So you have more moisture in the air available for storms, generating snow and ice at middle and upper latitudes, close to the developing ice sheets. And the ash and gases in the air is what gives the cooling of the summers.’ All this, he points out, would have been like a ‘loaded gun’ at the end of the Flood. ‘There would have been no way to delay it, an ice age just had to start.’
Evolutionists, says Mike, have a favoured astronomical theory for the Ice Age which gives them a little cooling, but no way to get more moisture into the air (a colder world means less evaporation from the oceans).
Mike Oard’s calculations show that a likely estimate for when the Ice Age reached its maximum would have been around 500 years after the Flood, with about another 200 years to melt. He warns that this is only a ‘ballpark’ figure, which could vary by hundreds of years—‘but that’s still a short time for evolutionists.’
What about the riddle of the frozen mammoths? Mike says he is sure that they were the result of post–Flood events, since most of them are found in the frozen so–called ‘muck’, on top of Flood sediments, in cliffs which are actually river deltas, or on marine shorelines. ‘They’re actually rather surficial, and although scientists estimate there are hundreds of thousands, or millions of mammoth skeletons in Siberia, there are only several dozen which have flesh on them, and this is mostly scraps. There are only a few fairly intact carcasses, like the Beresovka mammoth in the Leningrad museum. Some of these were found with stomach contents only partially digested.’
Does this prove they were frozen extremely rapidly, as one frozen food company suggested? Mike replies, ‘The Beresovka mammoth was preserved largely by freezing, but it didn’t have to be a super cold “snap freezeâ€?. A mastodon with some stomach contents was found in the Midwest of the United States, where the ground isn’t frozen at all. So there may be other mechanisms at work.’
Does this mean no evidence for catastrophe? ‘Oh, no,’ says Mike, ‘There is no doubt that there has been a permanent, rapid climate change in northern Siberia/Alaska. Today, the ground there, in which these mammoths are buried, is permanently frozen, so you couldn’t push a mammoth into it today. The vegetation today is too sparse to support large herds of mammoths anyway. After the mammoths were buried in it, the ground had to become frozen fast enough to preserve the flesh which is found, and has stayed that way since.’
Though he doesn’t claim to have all the answers, Mike speculates that these creatures died at the very end of the post–Flood biblical Ice Age, when the vast sheets were melting, bringing in permanent climate change and also catastrophic flooding events when huge lakes burst through ice dams. ‘Believe it or not,’ he says, ‘summers would get warmer, but winters would get a lot colder, developing a permafrost.’ He says there is published evidence of a massive catastrophic burst of an ice dam in Siberia, on the scale of the Spokane Flood which carved the channelled scablands of the northwest US. As huge amounts of fresh water surged into the Arctic Ocean, it would cause a drop of up to thirty degrees Centigrade in around a week.
‘It’s hard to freeze saltwater, but when a mass of fresh water (which floats on top of the saltwater) pours into a region with sub–zero temperatures, you could freeze much of the Arctic ocean surface within days. The air above this sea ice is deprived of heat and moisture from the ocean. The snow that soon falls will reflect much of the sunlight back to space, cooling the air further.1 As a result, there would be a tremendous cold front over the land which, with the added wind chill, could possibly explain the frozen mammoth carcasses.’
[Ed. note: a few years after he gave this interview, Mike Oard proposed that the mammoths were killed and buried by gigantic dust storms, because the yedomas and muck are loess, or wind–blown silt. See ‘Mr Ice Age’ solves woolly mammoth mystery, and his overview The extinction of the woolly mammoth: was it a quick freeze? Journal of Creation 14(3):24–34, 2000.]
Mike says that secular scientists have been deafeningly silent about his published work. The only exception was a vigorously anti-creationist geophysicist who, Mike says, ‘could only point to a few real small points he thought were mistakes, and I don’t think they were—and he said there isn’t all this volcanic dust in the sediments, but I went back and found out that there is, so he wasn’t correct on that. And he hasn’t said anything since.’ Mike Oard is convinced, as a scientist, that the Ice Age gives excellent evidence for the real history of the world given in the Bible.
- These effects, Mike explains, would overwhelm the much more modest amount of heat liberated as the fresh water froze.