Changes in Sea Levels and the Biblical Flood
10 Haziran 2014
Dokuz Eylül University
Environmental Earth Science Department (Head)
The flood, also known as the Biblical flood in mythology, has been investigated directly or indirectly by several researchers. Although the earliest written information about the Biblical flood goes back to Gilgamesh inscriptions of 4700 years ago, there are around 600 stories about the flood most of which indicating different time periods and places for the occurrence of the flood.
Actually the flood, most probably, is a struggle of mankind, stucked over a piece of land turned into an island through the rapid rise of sea level because of the latest global warming and melting of glaciers, to reach the mainland with the vessels they built. In brief, the Biblical flood is a thesis accepted by the science world indicating a flood through rapid rise in sea levels.
Why do the sea levels change?
The earth continuously experiences two different periods (global warming and global cooling) consecutively. In another words, climates of the world never exhibit continuity. They are always changing either in short-run or long-term. As a clear example for the short-run change in climate, the latest mini glacier period, experienced between the years 1600-1850 in which the Bosporus freezed totally time to time, can be presented. The old Istanbul photos taken in 1900s with meters-high snow dunes represent this period. Such changes may be experienced in 100 000 years in mid-run, they may also be observed in 40 000, 20 000 like shorter periods. The basic reasons of such changes are the changes in parameters of rotation of the earth around its own axis and the sun (Figure 1). Changes in these parameters results in either decreased or increased solar energy receipt of the earth. During the periods in which the earth receives higher solar energies, glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising and during the periods with less solar energies, waters are freezing and sea levels are descending through contraction toward the North and South poles.
The studies about flora, fauna and delta movements revealed that based on the changes in these parameters during the last 500 000 years, sea levels decreased around 100 meters for 5 times and increased to today’s levels in some other times. The greatest sea level descent of the recent periods was the period ended with the rise of 18 000 years ago and the sea level descended around 120 meters (Yaşar, 1994). As an example for this decrease, the merger of islands like Lesbos, Chios, Imbros, Tenedos with a water level difference less than 120 cm with Anatolia to the mainland as the western extension of Anatolia can be given (Figure 2). Such a decrease ended with the return to global warming period again. Sea levels then increased about 2.5 cm/year until 11 000 years ago and then about 1 cm/year until 6000 years ago. Such increases are still going on in a slower fashion today despite the small occasional descends (Figure 3). In a study carried out based on tidal data during the first half of the last century, sea level rise was reported as about 1.1 mm/year. During these sea level fluctuations (also called as major glacial and interglacial periods), abundant existence of mini glacial and interglacial sub-periods indicates continuous variations in sea levels. The ‘mini glacier period’ started at the beginning of 1600s and lasted until 1850s can be presented as an example for such periods. The researches carried out over Fernau glaciers of Alps indicated the impacts of cold and humid climate five times on the earth during the last 3000 years. These periods were determined as 1400-1300 BC, 900-300 BC 450-750 BC, 1150-1300 AD, 1550-1850 AD. The researches carried out over tree annual rings to find out the climate changes also indicated the existence of such periods and revealed that world climate is in a continuous change.
Today sea levels are in general increasing tendency and increased about 15 cm during the last century and it is estimated that sea levels will increase about 30 cm during the upcoming 50 years. Some researchers even estimate such an increase as to be 95 cm in the years 2100s (Warrick et al., 1996).
In brief, although the latest global warming period started 18 000 years ago was interrupted time to time by mini glacial periods, it is still going on and sea levels are still rising.
The Biblical Flood and Sea Level Changes?
Several researchers have carried out researches about sea level changes in Black Sea and especially Bill Ryan and Walter Pitman carried out the recent researches and indicated that the case resulted in the Biblical flood happened about 7150 years ago through reach out of Mediterranean waters to Bosporus (~32 m) and demolishing the naturally-formed dam in there and poured into Black Sea instantly. Such a pour out increased the level of Black Sea about 15 cm per day (Ryan and Pitman, 1999). The greatest evidence of such an idea was proposed as the Mediterranean species observed in Black Sea (about 7150 years ago). However, Dokuz Eylül University and Newfoundland Memorial University (Canada) carried out a joint research entitled as “Marmara Sea Gateway” in 1995 covering the paleo- oceanographic, sedimentological and seismic investigations of Aegean, Marmora and Northwestern Black Sea and researchers observed various results. They investigated about 7500 km seismic line, carried out flora, fauna and isotope investigations over 65 core drill samples, carried out 43 age analyses all to investigate the changes in sea levels during the last 20 000 years.
The researchers of Dokuz Eylül University and Newfoundland Memorial University have been carrying out research activities with K. Piri Reis research vessel since 1995 and they have observed contrary results to the idea indicating instant pour out of Mediterranean waters into Black Sea. Especially in shallow seismic data, they observed the delta formations at Marmora outreach of Bosporus and data representing strong NE-SW flows observed over sedimentary at the entrance of Marmora-Dardanelles indicated the flow was from Black Sea to Marmora (Aksu et al., 1999). Flora, fauna, isotope and age analyses carried over sedimentary indicated that the flow from Black Sea to Marmora started about 10 000 years ago and this single-way flow lasted until 7150 years ago. In other words, the data presented by Ryan and Pitman as the evidence of the Biblical flood by presenting Mediterranean species living in Black Sea indicates in fact the beginning of currently on going bi-directional flow between Mediterranean and Black Sea. Today, this bi-directional flow is still going on; while less-density Black Sea waters are flowing from the upper surface (as 20-25 m layer) to Marmora, denser Mediterranean waters flow beneath this layer to Black Sea.
What will happen when the sea level rises about 1 meter today?
An increase of 1 m in sea level may affect 6 million people and 15% of agricultural lands in Egypt, 13 million people and 16% of agricultural lands in Bangladesh and such impacts are highly significant to point out the possible environmental impacts of sea level rise (Nicholls and Leatherman, 1995). From the end of mini glacier period ended around the beginning of 1900s until today, 25 cm rise was observed in sea level and such rise will be around 50-70 cm by the year 2100s. A rise of 4 meter in sea levels will result in water cover over some islands of the Pacific Ocean over which people are already living.
Why the rises are in different places at different times?
The fact of water cover over some islands of the Pacific Ocean over which people are already living with 4 meter rise in sea level may provide a respond to this question. In other words, the case is still going on today and will continue as long as the water levels rise. This is totally related to altitude of the piece of land over which people are living from the sea level. With today’s technology, it is easy to migrate from the Pacific Islands to be covered by the water to the mainland. However, such a case was not that much easy about 10 000 years ego. People tried to reach to mainland with the vessels they built. These cases were brought to today with various stories made by each civilization based on their cultures. These may provide a respond for the question of “why at different places and different times”.
Possible Occurrence Mechanism of the Biblical Flood
The sea level rise rates presented in the following figures were taken from Fairbanks and represent the rising rates in open seas worldwide.
The arrows show the movement of people when the agricultural lands were covered by the rising water.
A) 18 000 years ego, the sea level was 120 cm below the today’s level.
B) Following this date, global warming period started and sea levels rose with the melt down of glaciers. People had to leave the agricultural lands covered with the raising water and started to practice agricultural activities at higher altitudes. Such a rise sometimes reached to a rate of 25 mm per year in Mediterranean-like sea opening to oceans (Fairbanks, 1989) and the rising rate was around 60 mm in Black Sea (Aksu et al., 2002). Considering the current worldwide sea level rising rate of around 1.1-3 mm, such previous rates were thought to be significantly high. Especially the rise in Black Sea was about 2.5 meters during the average human life of that period (40 years). The intensification of stories about the Biblical flood in this region is possible related to higher sea level rising rates of the Black Sea.
C) The people moving to the mainland have continued to move to higher altitudes as the water was rising. However, the people trying to survive and live over the lands turned into an island had their life areas narrowed and they tried to create ideas to reach the mainland with the continuing rise in sea levels.
D) The stories indicating that the first serious vessels were built by the people trying to survive over the land pieces already turned into islands into the mainland also by taking a couple from their seeds and animals and stories indicating that death cases mostly because of punishment of the gods of the people who were not able to pass to the mainland by the floods are most probably the stories of those people.
Contributions of the Biblical Flood to the History of Humanity?
The inventions and technological developments in history of humanity accelerated about 10 000 year ago. Such acceleration may be related to the first serious wars made by the people to settle over more fertile lands after their escapes from the floods.
Aksu, A.E., Hiscott, R.N. and Yaşar, D., 1999, Oscillating Quaternary water levels of the Marmara Sea and vigorous outflow into the Aegean Sea from the Marmara Sea–Black Sea drainage corridor. Marine Geology, v. 153, p. 275–302.
Aksu,E. A., Hiscott R., Mudie P., Rochon A., Kaminski A., Abrajano T., Yaşar D., 2002 Persistent Holocene Outflow from the Black Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean Contradicts Noah's Flood Hypothesis. GSA Today, basımda.
Fairbanks, R.G.,1989. A 17,000-year glacio-eustatic sea level record: influence of glacial melting rates on the Younger Dryas event and deep-ocean circulation. Nature, 342: 637-642.
Nicholls, R.J. and Leatherman, S.P., 1995. Global Sea-level Rise. In: Strzepek and Smith (1995). p.92-123.
Ryan, W.B.F. and Pitman, III, W.C., 1999, Noah’s Flood: the new scientific discoveries about events that changed history. Touchstone Book, Simion and Schuster, New York, 319p
Warrick, R.A., C.Le Provost, M.F.,Oerlemans,J. and Woodworth, P.L., 1996. Changes in Sea Level. IPCC 1996a, Chapter 7, p.362-405.
Yaşar, D., 1994, Late Glacial - Holocen Evolution of the Aeagean Sea. Dokuz Eylül Üniversitesi, Deniz Bilimleri ve Teknolojisi Enstitüsü, Doktora Tezi, İzmir, 329 s.