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How did the earth dry out after the Flood?

Responding to local Flood advocates

Published: 2 January 2021 (GMT+10)
The major deserts of the world are at 30 degrees north and south latitudes.

Dan T (USA) wrote in:

I am sorry to bother you with this question, but I have looked high and low on the internet, including creation.com, for an answer, and I am stymied.

Local flooders say the wind God caused to blow over the earth in Gen 8:1 could not have dried the flood up if the flood was global. The clouds would soon become saturated, rain would fall right back on the flooded earth, and the flood would continue. But no problem on a local theory supposition.

There are two problems. One, it sounds like the wind was the cause, or at least the primary cause, of the drying. Two, if the wind was not the cause of the drying, why did Moses mention it at all? What was the point of mentioning it, except to say that it was the cause of the drying, or at least one of the causes?

How does water that has been evaporated from the area of the Ark not fall to the earth again, and continue the global flood? I am thinking that the evaporated water would have to fall to the sea in a place not near Noah’s ark. Is that reasonable?


Dr Robert Carter responds:

Wow, what an interesting question. I had to think about it some, but I think there are multiple ways to answer it.

1) We can quickly dispel the naïve thought that there was an ocean of water sitting above the continents at the end of the Flood. The old questions, “Where did all the water go?” and “Was Mt Everest under water?” can be answered simply. The rising mountains and falling ocean basins naturally led to waters draining off the continents. Part of their objection might be rooted in the incorrect thought that you would need an extra 5 miles (the height of Everest) of water around the earth. A shell of water that thick would have volume of about 4.5 billion cubic kilometers and there would be nowhere to put it.

But Mt Everest is composed of Flood-deposited marine and terrestrial sediments that were laid down flat and then tilted upward as the Himalayas were forming. My answer to the question “was Mt Everest under water?” is usually, “No, for it did not yet exist.”

We do not need to account for any ‘extra’ water.

2) I note that the ESV does not denote a causal relationship between the wind and drying of the waters: “And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.” Where does it say the wind dried up the water? I do not know a single YEC scientist or speaker who believes the winds dried out the water. Are we all ignoring the text? Or is there something in the text that people assume is there but is not. I was wondering if this was due to the influence of the KJV, because the phraseology of that translation sticks in many people’s minds. Yet it also fails to provide a causal link: “and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged;” This whole section reads more like a simple list of observations than a tightly-argued scientific thesis, so people who are clinging to the wind = drying argument are really stretching things.

3) Mountain uplift (Genesis 8:4 vs Genesis 8:5, note the order of events), and general uplift of the land surrounding mountainous areas would have drained much of the water.

Global air circulation is broken up into Hadley cells. As rising air cools, it causes much rain. Sinking air is extremely dry.

4) In the ‘catastrophic plate tectonics’ model, Baumgardner has shown that massive tsunamis would be triggered by the plates sliding against each other.1 The net effect is to push massive amounts of water onto the continents above sea level, and it takes longer for the water to drain than it does to rise. After most of the sliding stops, gravity would drain water off the continents even without mountain building.

5) For the sake of argument, let’s assume the wind did dry the waters. Is this possible?

Q: Why are most of the major deserts in the world at 30 degrees north and south latitude? This is because major atmospheric uplift occurs in the tropics. When the air rises and cools, it dumps a massive amount of water, hence the tropics are very rainy. As the air rises further, it is pushed north and south. Upon descending, there is very little moisture left in it, hence the worldwide bands of deserts.

This causes the formation of what are called Hadley cells. They are persistent and predictable and they control the world’s weather.

CMI’s US office in is the southeastern part of the US, in Georgia. It is not like other regions at a similar latitude, because of the Gulf of Mexico. If that large body of water to our southwest did not exist, there would be no source of water vapor for us and we’d be bone dry. What if the Mountains or Ararat were under a descending cell? The dry air would quickly remove much water.

Nobody knows what atmospheric circulation would be like as the earth settles down to a new post-Flood normal. Yet, the claim that ‘the clouds would soon become saturated’ is couched in ignorance of atmospheric dynamics. All we need is for the Ark to land somewhere under a descending cell and the bone-dry wind would do the rest.

6) Wind pushes water. Wind can move massive amounts of water, hence the storm surge of a hurricane and extreme high and low tides caused by onshore and offshore winds. Even lakes can experience wind-induced changes in water level (technically called ‘seiche’). If the wind is pointing ‘downhill’ it will help to drain the water more quickly.

7) Air moves water. As moisture-laden air travels across the globe, it transports large amounts of water from the area of evaporation to the area of precipitation. But this does not mean the areas that are getting rained on will drown. Instead, some of the water re-evaporates and some flows downhill to the sea. Here we have a recipe for drying out the land, even in the wetter areas.

8) Finally, we must mention chinook winds, those super dry and strong winds that come down off mountains. Note the appearance of the mountaintops in this passage. Therefore, we have two potential sources of strong, dry winds: global circulation patterns and chinook winds coming down off the Mountains in the Ararat region.

Either way, the atmosphere clearly cannot hold much water vapor. If the entire earth is flooded, that water cannot be sucked up into the air. Thus, the Flood model requires rising lands, deepening oceans, massive tsunamis that pile the water on top of continents, or some combination of all three, for flooding the continents. After the Flood, we need a way to move water from the land to the oceans, and there are multiple ways to get that done. And yet, there is abundant evidence for huge freshwater lakes that remained on the earth for years after the Flood (the Great Salt Lake, the Aral Sea, etc.). These have been shrinking for thousands of years. In other words, the entire surface of the earth does not have to be dry the day the Flood ended in the Ararat region.

Robert Carter

References and notes

  1. Baumgardner, J., Understanding how the Flood sediment record was formed: The role of large tsunamis. In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, ed. J.H. Whitmore, pp. 287–305. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Creation Science Fellowship, 2018. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

Ken J.
Isostasy! Geologists have found that even now there remains an awful lot of water held in aqueous ringwoodite mineral in the mantle. Before the flood, there was even more. The flood released a lot of it when the ocean floor ripped open. That left void space in the mantle. With time, with the water bearing down, the crust settled into it. Geologists call this "isostasy".
Robert Carter
It would take a lot of work to flesh out this hypothesis properly. Problem is, it goes against our preferred position on the subject, CPT. Also, it's not like there is an ocean of free water under the earth's crust. It is locked up in mineral form, and there is no guarantee that removing the water of hydration from a crystal will reduce its bulk volume (it depends on the crystal). Also, isostatic rebound is a real thing. That is, we have reasonable explanations for it in areas where it is occurring. It fits with operational science and so I cannot see why anyone would need to try and redefine it to mean 'sinking into voids left behind after the Flood'. Did you see the link to our article on Catastrophic Plate Tectonics?
Brandon C.
Just want to say thanks for this! I was literally just thinking about the wind thing yesterday so it's pretty cool to find this article.
T B.
This seems to be placing a lot of dependency on natural scientific occurrences, rather than simply believing God can do anything and doesn't need a natural way to make things happen. Why so much emphasis on how it happened naturally? Are we dismissing the power of God to do whatever he wants just by speaking it? Maybe he worked a miracle. If we attempt to make everything scientifically accurate I fear we may get to the point of explaining away God's power to perform his will outside of nature's ability, thus denying His power and miracles. Food for thought.
Robert Carter
Let's not fall off on the other side of the horse. See God, miracles, and logic, Miracles and science, and Why does science work at all? for starters.
John R.
Could there be a parallel with Ex 14:21? “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD swept the sea back by a strong east wind all that night and turned the seabed into dry land, and the waters were divided.”
Adding to my note about the wind - we should not think that the only way for waters to be removed would be through evaporation. Water was also removed by run-off as the ocean depths sank deeper and the land masses rose up (Psalm 104:7-8). Other water was removed by being converted to ice in mountain glaciers and polar icecaps (Job 38:30).
Althought the English translation does not convey a "Causation" between the wind and the removing of the waters, it does seem to me that the Hebrew does suggest a causation, by means of what is called the "Vav Consecutive" - a series of imperfect verbs connected by the conjuction attached to each of the verbs - so that a very correct translation would be "AND THEN" - so we could easily see the sense is "God caused a wind to pass over the earth (in the sense of the whole planet) and THEN the waters subsided.
It is not necessary that the wind was the only cause of the abating of the waters - but we could certainly accept this MIRACULOUS wind as a factor.
Robert Carter
And yet, the wind might have a simple physical cause. We know enough about the earth to know what causes strong winds and dry winds, so we don't have to lean on the miraculous for this one aspect of the Flood. The 'waw consecutive' is certainly important in the Genesis narrative, but it indicates consecutive events more than causal links. See Yes, Genesis really is historical narrative: waw-consecutive verbs and the rest of Scripture say so.
Thomas R.
The KJV word “assuaged” can be rendered as “to make quiet” or “to lessen the intensity”. In other words, the purpose of the wind may have been to calm the water’s surface so that the ark could touch down safely on the land after it appeared. There is nothing in the KJV that suggests the wind was given to evaporate 100% of the water needed for the continents to appear. Also worth noting is that Noah needed dry land, not muddy or swampy land, for disembarkment. He also needed relatively flat land to begin his new life. The wind from v1 may have been instrumental in drying out muddy ground, and as indicated in the article, ushering the water off the land more quickly so that flatter areas were more readily accessible. Finally, v3 tells us plainly that the water returned from off the earth continually (KJV). This is an overt statement about gravity, not evaporation.
Robert Carter
Good points, but wind does not tend to calm the surface of any water. The opposite is generally true.
Dan D.
Has everyone forgotten that God is in the miracle business? He could have gotten rid of the excess water in the blink of an eye. Am I being too simplistic or naive?
Robert Carter
No, you are right. We seek scientific answers to many biblical questions, but in the end we also have to account for God, who is not bound by physical laws. Flood models, specifically, have been notoriously difficult to develop, for each hypothesis raises further questions. In one sense, our explorations into the matter are seeking to discover what God did, letting the evidence point us in a specific direction and following the clues He left behind to their logical conclusion. However, since there is plenty of water on the earth today to account for the Flood, most creation scientists are looking into tectonic models to explain how the water went from the land to the sea. Also, the Bible specifically say the waters receded, so our first guess is not that God simply took the water away.
Jacob N.
Another thing occurred to me while reading: after the Flood, a lot of evaporated water fell as snow in northerly and southernly climates and stayed there as glaciers, and did not return to the ocean. The Flood triggered the ice age after all, with the unique blend of warm oceans and cool continents (the Flood model being, as I understand it, the only mechanism known to provide these requirements long enough for an ice age to form). When the glaciers were at their largest, half of North America was encased in deep ice, and the oceans were low enough to allow a land bridge from Russia to Alaska (120 meters lower than today is the current estimate I believe). It seems not unreasonable to think that the glaciers, too, contributed to the waters receding, though perhaps someone with more expertise in hydrodynamics and climatology would know better. Just a thought.
D T.
Could very likely been a localized flood,and not the whole world but the Mediterranean basin. There have been too big floods in the area when the straits of Gibraltar and the other at the Baltic Sea broke and flooded those areas.
Robert Carter
You comment on an article on Creation.com and advocate a local flood? You need to read this, for starters:

Faltering on the Flood: Evading the Bible’s clear meaning is disastrous

Also, I must point out that you cannot just flood the Mediterranean basin. What is the maximum altitude of the Suez crossing? It's can't be more than 100'. Thus, any Med Sea flood would also be a Red Sea flood. Finally, regarding the ancient flood evidence for the Med, the water was flowing into it, not out of it. See Did the Mediterranean Sea desiccate numerous times?, also The Black Sea flood: Definitely not the Flood of Noah, and releated articles.
Michael O.
Rob, as an atmospheric scientist, I have always looked at this wind during the Recessive Stage of the Flood just two observations with no causal link. During the Recessive Stage, as more and more land appears, some land will warm and some will cool depending upon the season, latitude, etc. This would cause temperature gradients, which drive the upper winds. So, the wind should increase by the increasing exposure of the continents and the fact that Noah found himself higher and higher in the atmosphere, where the upper winds would become stronger than the surface. The atmosphere responds quickly to its forcings. A computer model was run in which the wind was at rest, and then all the forcings due to differential solar radiation absorbed, etc. turned on. The current wind system with its general circulation developed in just 40 days!
Gilbert B.
The world seems to be still drying out after the Flood of Noah's Day. I recently saw an evolutionary presentation on the origin of the Sahara Desert, and it linked to the desert originally having been under sea water, and then slowly drying out. Large skeletons have been found in the Sahara Desert, and remnants of human habitation and some civilization. I believe that the presence of sinkholes developing in the Dead Sea, Israel, area, in Florida, and in South America are results of rain water eroding limestone rock over the centuries of drying. Also notice the drying under the "horse latitudes" that have resulted in large desert areas.
Martin K.
This was a good question and Dr Carter gave a much broader answer than what I was thinking. The one recent event that compels me to believe in the Catastrophic Plate Tectonics theory is the 2001 tsunami that hit the Indian subcontinent. Afterwards it was revealed how little the tectonic plate moved, it budged 18 inches. Just that little movement depth wise multiplied across miles of fault line and miles deep of ocean water. This was a good question to start a new year!!
Alf F.
I would really like to hear more about the water that slowly drained, after the "assuaging". I think of areas like the Great Lakes, and that dry lake in Australia, and also the Karoo region in South Africa, and the Plain of Sodom, and the Sahara, all of which were much less dry in recent history. Archeologists place a very dry spell in Africa some thousands of years back (but of course according to their evolutionary dating scheme). That could be part of a related cycle. But ancient shorelines abound around the world. Generally, the earth seems still to be getting dryer all the time?
Gerrit '.
I was taught in High School that if all the dry land and the ocean floors were to be levelled out then there would be about 2km of water depth over the whole earth. Also if one reads Genesis 1 then God created the earth and the Spirit moved over the waters. Later in the creation week God caused dry land to appear. It seems to me that in order to make the dry land appear God caused portions of the globe to rise (tectonic plates moving?). On that dry land God created all vegetation and the land animals and birds. It has always been my understanding that with the flood God caused the earth to return to the state it was in at the beginning of the creation week and that at the end of the flood God caused these plates (or even different ones) to rise and create the continents as we have them now and also all the mountain ranges, etc. Would that be how we could look at it?
Mark B.
Dear Dr. Carter, it is quite telling that Creation.com does not choose to take the Universal Model head on. It is the most comprehensive treatment of young age geology--written very much by Christians. They realized that, after presenting mountains of evidence, including thousands of references to peer-reviewed articles, that nearly every discipline and subdiscipline of the earth sciences is pointing to a very young planet, then they must put forth a mechanism. There's is truly exquisite and can be modeled perfectly for both the cause of the 5-mile high flood and the subsequent dissipation and resulting orogenesis. The UM is spreading like an Australian bush wire across homeschoolers in America. Maybe 2021 is the year your Creation Team pulled up your trackies and gave it more than a tiggy touchwood! Cheers mate from a Yank admirer of the Aussie can-do spirit, mb
Robert Carter
Why is it "telling" that we have not directly engaged with this one lone-wolf author? And, thankfully, his ideas are not "spreading like wildfire". Here at CMI, we have dozens of scientists and theologians, jointly putting their heads together to come up with the best information possible, and even then we are lacking in perfection. Some of our team members are incredibly intelligent, yet they would not be able to single-handedly come up with a universal solution to all scientific questions. The author has but a B.S. in a non-scientific field and is associated with a tiny, non-accredited college. I also believe he has a Mormon connection. Hence, I am entirely skeptical of the Universal Model. I don't want to get into many specific claims about the model, because I don't want to make any mistakes, yet I believe I have met the author (12 to 15 years ago) and found his ideas to be incorrect, suspicious, or otherwise ridiculous. he rejects operational science in general and unsupportable hypotheses abound in his writing. I would recommend you run far and fast from the so-called Universal Model.
Martyn M.
Interestingly in a local Aboriginal legend, of possibly a memory Noah's flood, a "wind" is mentioned. Colette Barker recorded the following in 1830. "Mokare related to me today that a very very long time ago, the sea came in & covered all the country for a long way. Porongorup was under water. Mt Lindsay & Mt Many Peak remained small specks, little islands. Mt Hallowell was completely covered. The sea went back with a North wind. No black fellow had been drowned, all having run in time to the little spots on the few mountaintops which continued dry. The Wallaby, bandycoots & other animals having run in great abundance the same places for shelter, they fared well. There was living at this time a black man & woman named Mendeeyerin & Yotogitepart or Yetopurt. Can this tradition be derived from some indistinct account of the deluge?" Also in the Bible a wind is mentioned as sent by God to part the Red sea Exodus 14 : 21. Perhaps "wind" has cultural significance rather than purely as an instrumental force in moving water? For in the Red sea case the water was a wall on the right and left, not something a wind is likely to naturally produce?
Egil W.
The atmosphere may not be able to hold much water-vapour... in the air. But it’s more of a question where it went, where the water came down. And as far as I can gather, the vapour was transported far North, and far South, beginning the ice-sheet build up that would become the 700 year Ice-Age. I don’t see a problem with either the winds strength or hot temperature. The strength would move the waters, being one element causing the Flood-recession. The heat of the winds would cause it to become clouds, which then would - through the dynamics of tectonics and climate-change toward the end of the Flood-year - transport these vast volumes of water vapour to the poles, starting the build up of the Ice Age (which would go on for 700 years).
Geoff T.
Could Dr Carter please define net precipitation and net evaporation as the last paragraph, according to my definition, does not make sense.
Robert Carter
You are correct. I tried to edit the sentence to improve clarity, but it made more sense to simply delete it entirely.
Karen T.
Have you heard of primary water? Could it be explained for the non scientists
Robert Carter
Yes, we have heard of it, but you will notice that it is not discussed on our website because there is really nothing to it. A lone geologist pushed the idea beck in the 1940s, but his claim that the earth produced great volumes of (potable) water have fallen under suspicion. First, his test sites do not produce the amount of water he claimed. Second, each of his sites can be explained by the normal infiltration of rainwater, through rock, from distant sources. Third, water dissolves salts and minerals. Thus, water coming up from deep underground should be chemically saturated and non-potable. Since the concept does not solve a biblical or a geological puzzle, there is no reason to chase the idea.
Teresa D.
One thing I rarely see mentioned is that Genesis 1:9 says that God gathered the waters into one place. If you look at a map of the world you wouldn't say the water was in one place - the land is broken up into a comparatively few bits! Most of the water is there in plain sight. The original land would have been a much bigger proportion of the globe. If there was a lot of water under the ground, and it was released (Gen 6:11), it would now be above the ground. There it is to this day.
Robert Carter
There are many possible combinations of land and ocean that would fulfil the statement in Genesis 1:9, but the modern continental configuration certainly does not. I agree that much water could have escaped from inside the earth, but definitely not in the same sense as suggested in Walt Brown's hydroplate model, so let's make sure we are carefully specifying what we mean when talk about subterranean water.

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