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Creation 41(4):44–47, October 2019

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The unique post-Flood Ice Age

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Since 1837, when Louis Agassiz (1801–1873) first presented evidence for the Ice Age, secular scientists have been mystified. Why did it start? What caused it to stop? Over the years, creation scientists have realized that the unusual conditions created on the earth by the global Flood described in Genesis caused the Ice Age. And they have developed a powerful model that answers questions surrounding it.1 Table 1 presents the three requirements that must be met before an ice age can develop. These conditions existed immediately after the global Flood.

reflection-volcanic-dust
Figure 1. Reflection of some of the sunlight back to space from stratospheric particles. The ash settles out in weeks and months, but the small aerosols take years.

Volcanoes and impacts jumpstart it

requirement-ice-age
Table 1. The three main requirements for an ice age.

The cooler summers needed were caused by abundant volcanism and meteorite impacts during the Flood, which filled the stratosphere with very small particles that reflected some of the sunlight back to space (figure 1). This volcanism has left evidence in the geological record. Secular scientists have estimated the effect of small particles high in the stratosphere by studying an impact in southern Mexico. They found it cooled global mean temperatures by more than 27°C (49°F) for about 30 years,2,3 and this was just one large impact. The net result of volcanism during the Flood would be a quick start to the Ice Age immediately after the Flood, especially in susceptible areas such as central Canada, and in high mountains of the mid and high latitudes. As the quantity of snow built up, the geographical area covered by the ice increased. The ice sheets did not have to physically move from the higher latitudes.

Ongoing volcanism prolongs cooling

Mount-Rainier
Figure 2. Mount Rainier stratovolcano, 4,392 m (14,411 ft) above sea level, Washington, USA, which likely built up after the Flood.

With time, these small volcanic particles would slowly sink out of the stratosphere. However, copious post-Flood volcanism would replenish them, allowing the cooler summers to persist for many years. Ice Age expert J.K. Charlesworth writes: “…signs of Pleistocene [Ice Age] volcanicity and earth movements are visible in all parts of the world.”4

The Ice Age portion of Greenland ice cores shows evidence of 1,927 volcanic events recorded in the ice sheet.5 There are 700 stratovolcanoes on Earth (figure 2), and these cones would mostly represent post-Flood volcanism.

Data from eruptions during the past 2,000 years reveals that a single eruption can cause global and/or regional cooling of around 0.5 to 2.5°C (1 to 4.5°F) for several years. Some eruptions during the post-Flood Ice Age were much larger than eruptions in historical times. The great Toba, Sumatra, eruption is believed to have cooled global climate 3.5°C (6.3°F) for 9 to 10 years,6 with some estimates much greater.

As a result of these eruptions the land would have cooled much faster than the oceans, especially lowering the mean temperature of the summers. The oceans would lose their heat mainly through evaporation. This heat loss would occur much more slowly than that of the atmosphere. The cool land and warm oceans would create the ideal conditions for a rapid ice age.

Warm oceans supply the moisture

The warm ocean provided the abundant moisture essential for the Ice Age. Evaporation is linked to sea surface temperature. After the global Flood, ocean temperatures would have been much warmer than they are today mainly due to the enormous volcanism during the Flood, when “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth” (Genesis 7:11). This is consistent with much superheated underground water as well as lava from the enormous volcanism pouring into the ocean, as seen in the geologic record.

The greatest warming compared with today’s oceans would have been at the mid and high latitudes. The Arctic Ocean would have been warm and ice-free with strong evaporation, generating high rates of precipitation. Snowstorm after snowstorm would have dropped their loads on land where eventually large ice sheets developed. The lower latitudes also had a higher rate of precipitation during this time, expressed as much higher rainfall, including in areas that are now extremely dry.

The Ice Age would persist until the oceans cooled and the post-Flood volcanism decreased, after which it would wane. The Ice Age was roughly 700 years long, taking some 500 years to build and 200 years to wane—40,000 or 100,000 years are not needed for an ice age.

Short timescale—key to mystery

Concerning volcanism, secular scientists recognize that large volcanoes cool the climate for several years. If these Ice Age volcanoes were spread out over tens of thousands or more years, each volcanic eruption would have an insignificant effect on long-term cooling. However, if we telescope all these volcanic eruptions into several hundred years, volcanism provides the powerful cooling mechanism for the Ice Age. The short timescale the Bible sets out is not a side issue, but key to solving what to secular scientists has remained a mystery for the past 200 years—the cause of even one ice age.7

Winters warmer than today

water-vapour
Figure 3. Graph of water vapour capacity at saturation (100% relative humidity) versus temperature. Note the 60% drop in capacity as temperatures cool from 10°C to –2°C.

The creationist post-Flood Ice Age differs greatly from the ice age envisioned by secular scientists. They postulate very cold, dry winters, but in the biblical model the winters would be much warmer and wetter than today, especially during the early- and mid-part of the Ice Age. This warmth would come from two processes unique to the climate effects of the Flood. The first is the heating of oceanic air by contact with the warmer ocean. This warmer air would produce a warm onshore air flow, especially in western North America and western Europe. Onshore flow today is the reason why western Washington, USA, is much warmer in winter than the interior of the United States at the same latitude. As a result of this onshore air flow, the Ice Age would be delayed in western North America and western Europe, except for the high mountains.

Second, when water vapour condenses and precipitates, it releases much heat to the atmosphere. This would be especially significant in storms, which would be strongest in winter at mid and high latitudes. This winter heat would spread all over the earth. Warmer, wetter, winters would produce much more rain and snow, since the warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold (figure 3).

Solving Ice Age mysteries

The unique biblical Ice Age model solves the stubborn mysteries of earth science that secular scientists have been wrestling with for some 200 years. The Genesis Flood explains why the Ice Age began, why it stopped, and how it took only hundreds of years, not hundreds of thousands. The Ice Age model solves other mysteries such as the life and death of the woolly mammoth in Siberia, Alaska, and Canada’s Yukon Territory; the end-Ice-Age mass extinction of animals; the mix of warm and cold-climate animals and plants; and why today’s dry areas (e.g. the Sahara, Central Australia) were once well-watered. These will be dealt with in later articles.

Mammoth

What about the other Ice Ages?

Secular scientists say that the first ice age began more than two billion years ago and envisage there were five main ice age periods (see table). Each of these are thought to have lasted from a few million to hundreds of millions of years. The last major ice age period is called the Pleistocene and is currently divided into 50 glaciations of variable intensities, each of which are said to have cycled every 40,000 or 100,000 years in the past 2.6 million years.1 These numerous glacial/interglacial cycles are deductions from the astronomical or Milankovitch theory of the ice ages. Creationist scientists generally maintain that the theory is incapable of explaining even one ice age. They agree with secular scientists, however, that the last of the Pleistocene ice ages is real.2 The claimed earlier 49 ‘ice ages’, which creation scientists maintain did not happen, are mainly based on speculative interpretations of oscillations of certain variables in deep-sea sediment cores.

Not ancient ‘ice ages’ but huge landslides during the Flood

Secularists infer the four oldest alleged ice age periods (‘ancient ice ages’ to distinguish them from the recent Ice Age that followed Noah’s Flood) from features in sedimentary rocks similar to those in glaciated areas. One problem is that these sorts of features are not always caused by glaciers. Another major flaw in this ‘glacial’ interpretation is that the rocks are found near the equator, and more disastrously, they were formed below sea level. So, secular scientists are forced to postulate that Earth was totally glaciated at least twice! This so-called ‘snowball Earth’ hypothesis4 is scientifically implausible because it would be almost impossible to melt the ice and snow because of the reflection of the sunlight back to space. An alternative, more logical explanation is that the features are from widespread underwater landslides, which would have been common during the Flood.5,6

Geological Period Approx. Secular Age Range Approx. Creation Age Range
Pleistocene 10,000 to 2.6 million years ago 4,500 to 3,800 years ago
Late Paleozoic 256 to 338 million years ago Did not happen
Late Ordovician 429 to 445 million years ago Did not happen
Late Precambrian 520 to 950 million years ago Did not happen
Mid Precambrian 2.2 to 2.4 billion years ago Did not happen

Table: The five main ice age periods within the uniformitarian (‘slow and gradual’) paradigm and their assigned age ranges,3 and comparative creation position.

References

  1. Walker, M. and Lowe, J., Quaternary science 2007: a 50-year retrospective, Journal of the Geological Society London 164:1,073–1,092, 2007.
  2. Oard, M.J., What caused the Ice Age? Creation 36(3):52–55, 2014; creation.com/ice-age-number.
  3. Crowell, J.C., Pre-Mesozoic ice ages: their bearing on understanding the climate system, Geological Society of America Memoir 192, Boulder, CO, 1999.
  4. Oard, M.J., ‘Snowball earth’—a problem for the supposed origin of multicelullar animals, J. Creation 16(1):6–9, 2002.
  5. Oard, M.J., The challenge of ancient ice ages answered, Creation 38(1):38–40, 2016; creation.com/ice-age-answers.
  6. Oard, M.J., Ancient Ice Ages or Gigantic Submarine Landslides? Creation Research Society Books, Chino Valley, AZ, 1997.

References and notes

  1. Oard, M.J., Frozen in Time: Woolly Mammoths, the Ice Age, and the Biblical Key to Their Secrets, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2004. Return to text.
  2. Brugger, J., Feulner, G., and Petri, S., Baby, its cold outside: climate model simulations of the effects of the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous, Geophysical Research Letters 44:419–427, 2017. Return to text.
  3. Artemieva, N., Morgan, J., and Expedition 364 Scientific Party, Quantifying the release of climate-active gases by large meteorite impacts with a case study of Chicxulub, Geophysical Research Letters 44(20):10180–10188, 2017. Return to text.
  4. Charlesworth, J.K., The Quaternary Era, Edward Arnold, London, UK, p. 601, 1957. Return to text.
  5. Abbott, P.M. and Davies, S.M., Volcanism and the Greenland ice-cores: the tephra record, Earth-Science Reviews 115:173–191, 2012. Return to text.
  6. Timmreck, C., Graf, H.-F., Lorenz, S.J., Niemeier, U., Zanchettin, D., Matei, D., Jungclaus, J.H., and Crowley, T.J., Aerosol size confines climate response to volcanic super-eruptions, Geophysical Research Letters 37(L24705), 1–5, 2010. Return to text.
  7. Oard, M.J., The Deep Time Deception: Examining the Alleged Millions of Years, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA, 2019. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Howard B.
How does the Ice Age relate to the division of the lands into today's continents in the days of Peleg?
Tas Walker
The most likely meaning of the division of the earth in the days of Peleg was the separation of the peoples of the earth at Babel by God’s confusion of their languages some 100 years after Noah's Flood (see ‘In Peleg’s days, the earth was divided’: What does this mean?). The division of the lands is not considered to related to continental drift, which is envisaged as occurring during Noah's Flood (see Chapter 11 of The Creation Answers Book: What about continental drift?). The Ice age occurred after the Flood and is estimated to have taken some 500 years to build to glacial maximum and 200 years to melt back to today's cover (see Chapter 16 of The Creation Answers Book What about the Ice Age?). The Answers Book is a very helpful book that deals with scores of the most-asked questions such as the ones you asked here. I recommend it to you.
James H.
Persuasive and concise article. I appreciate your work, Michael.
WR B.
Your overall model seems interesting, but how do you correlate a warm Atlantic Ocean with drumlins and other glacial evidence that Nova Scotia, Canada was scraped down to the basement by the glacier? If a warm Atlantic Ocean existed, Nova Scotia would be surrounded with warmth, and would not develop glaciers. And how do you correlate your recent information that much/ some glacial evidence you now attribute to extraterrestrial impacts in recent JoC article?
Mike Oard
Thanks for your question. There are numerous details that must be considered during glaciation. Yes, there are plenty of glacial features on Nova Scotia. It was glaciated. This is not inconsistent with a warm Atlantic Ocean for at least two reasons: 1) although Nova Scotia is almost all surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, that part of the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Bay of Fundy, is rather narrow and would not add too much heating for Nova Scotia because of the predominant west to east air flow. Nova Scotia would be affected by cold air masses from Quebec. In fact, the cold air moving across the Bay of Fundy from the west and northwest would pick up a lot of moisture that would end up on Nova Scotia.
2) The ice Age was dynamic. Although it started with warm water, it would cool with time, mostly be evaporation. The Bay of Fundy, affected by cold west to northwest winds, would cool quite fast, and the Bay of Fundy would stop being a warm, moist-air source. By the end of the Ice Age, winters were even colder with more sea ice than today. There are meteorological reasons for this. So, the ice buildup likely delayed in Nova Scotia because of the warm Atlantic, but with time it would glaciate.
Other places around the world would be similar, such as the British Isles with warm onshore flow of moist air. This area would glaciate late in the ice age, starting from the northern mountains and working its way down to the lowlands and spreading farther south. That is why we have warm-climate hippo fossils in more than 100 locations England, buried with cold climate animals. Hippos would migrate up into northwest Europe because of the warm onshore flow of moist air early in the Ice Age.
The post-Flood rapid ice age was unrelated to impacts. You are thinking of those supposed four 'ancient ice ages' from the late Paleozoic to the mid Precambrian. Some secular scientists speculate that the features used as support these 'ice ages' could also be caused by impacts, and I think they are correct. However, not all of these features can be accounted for by impacts. Gigantic Flood submarine slides can account for many of them. (See: Oard, M.J., Ancient Ice Ages or Gigantic Submarine Landslides? Creation Research Society, Chino Valley, AZ, 1997.)
Jeff M.
Dear Mr Oard

Why doesn't the Bible mention volcanoes or meteorites? One might imagine that Noah would have sen them.

Jeff
Tas Walker
Volcanoes and meteorites are mentioned in other parts of the Bible, but not in connection with Noah's Flood. There is much detail about the Flood in Genesis 6–8 but there is also much information not mentioned. One can only assume that Noah preserved the information that he saw as most relevant. Of course, the Lord would have guided him in this.
Dan M.
This model makes perfect sense to me since I lived in Alaska for 32 years and observed exactly what Michael Oard is talking about. I lived 8 years in Fairbanks and 24 in Anchorage. These cities have very different winter climates due to there proximity to the Gulf of Alaska. In Fairbanks during the winter it can get more than 50 degrees below zero and there is almost zero humidity because it freezes out of the air, (very dry). As a result it never snows any appreciative amount during these cold periods only fine ice crystals form and produce frost. Also when it is cold in anchorage it doesn't snow, maybe lite flurries.
On the other hand, when a moist warm front from the gulf meets cooler air on the coast in South central Alaska, torrential snow-falls result! I returned home once to Eagle River Alaska, (10 miles out of Anchorage) from the south 48, (continental U.S.) to a 24 hour old snow storm and when I drove up my driveway I could see my axles were plowing snow. I drove a 1 ton 4x4 Dodge dually diesel in those days and they sit high off the ground. There was close to 2 feet of snow in 24 hours! And then there is Valdez Alaska where I have seen the snow clear up to the eaves on the houses in town! The driveways and walkways were corridors with 8-10 foot high snow walls on each side. Plow trucks don't work well in Valdez. They have front end loaders with huge snow blowers attached.
My point is, the observations support the model and the snow-falls at the end of the flood must have been larger than anyone could have imagined. Maybe twenty feet or more per snow-fall? Or maybe perpetual snow-fall in some areas? Gods word makes perfect sense according to what we see nowadays in the aftermath of the Flood while the evo's continue to struggle to explain the past.
Chris W.
A fascinating article. Thank you. I was wondering where the generally accepted estimated of 700 years of ice build-up comes from? And what do you think were the temperatures in Job and Abraham's day? For it seems they must have lived no more than 1,000 miles from the ice sheet to the north?
Tas Walker
The 700 years (500 to build, 200 to wane) come from an analysis set out in Mike Oard’s 1990 monograph published by ICR entitled “An Ice Age Caused by the Genesis Flood”. Concerning temperatures in Job and Abraham’s day, even though there was ice on the continents the oceans were warm and so the land was quite habitable, even in Siberia (as explained in articles on the Woolly Mammoths available on creation.com).
Thomas C.
As moisture piled up on land, the Bay of Fundy would have lost a lot of the water compared to what is there today, wouldn't it? Some info states that the earth is slowly moving away from the sun, what impact would that cause on glaciation?
Did the earth spin faster after the Flood because of subduction and the fountains emptying and soil and rock sinking closer to the axis of rotation? Maybe causing stronger air flows?
Tas Walker
The Bay of Fundy is connected to the ocean and its water level would have reflected changes in sea level. Specifically, the water level in the Bay of Fundy would have dropped since the Flood ended. Sea level immediately after the Flood was at about plus 65 m and dropped to about -60 m at the peak of the Ice Age (Last Glacial Maxumum). So, if the Bay of Fundy is shallow at its northern end, that part would have been exposed late in the Ice Age towards its glacial maximum. The southern end is deep and that area would not have changed much. The bay is small and so its water level would not be affected by evaporation. Any change in the earth-sun distance in the 4,500 years since the Flood would be tiny and have negligible effect on glaciation. The earth likely spun faster after the Flood which would have increased the number of days in a year, but that is not likely to have had a significant effect on air flows compared with other factors.

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