By Glenn R. Morton
This may be freely distributed so long as not changes are made to the text and no charge is made.
Young-earth creationists believe that the entire geologic column was deposited in a single year. But there is a problem that if this is true, then Noah and company, would be choked to death on noxious gases. Volcanoes produce lots of sulfuric acid and if all the volcanic rocks on earth are the result of a single year's worth of eruptions, how much sulfuric acid was placed into the atmosphere? Three volcanoes provide the data for this calculation (de Silva and Zielinski, 1998).
Tambora erupted in 1815 and threw 20 cubic kilometers into the air. It also threw 200 megatons of H2SO4 into the stratosphere. This is 10 megatons of sulfuric acid for each cubic kilometer.
Huaynaputina erupted in 1604 and 1605 and threw up 19.2 cubic kilometers of ash and rock and 50 megatons of sulfuric acid. This is 2.5 megatons of acid per cubic kilometer.
Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 threw 10 cubic km of rock and 30 megatons into the atmosphere. This is 3 megatons of acid per cubic kilometer.
We will not use an average but we will use the lower value of 2.5 megatons of acid per cubic kilometer as the value for the following calculation.
There are huge lava flows on earth, called volcanic traps, which must have occurred during the flood year because they lie on top of supposed flood deposited sedimentary rock and beneath flood deposited sedimentary rock. So if the geology requires that they be extruded during the flood, how much sulfuric acid must come with them? Here are some of the volumes of rock extruded to the earth's surface during such episodes:
Volcanics flood basalt flows (Coffin and Eldholm).
Ontong Java/Nauru 121-124 my 38-55 x 106 km3
Kerguelen Plateau/ Broken Ridge 114-109.5 my 15-25 x 106 km3
North Atlantic 57.5-54.5 my 6.6 x 106 km3
Deccan Traps 65-69 my 8.2 x 106 km3
Siberian Traps 250-216 my 2.3 x 106 km3
Central Atlantic Magmatic Province(CAMP) 200 my 2 x 106 km3
Columbia River 6-17.5 my 1.74 x 105 km3
Ethiopian Traps 7.5 x 105 km3 before erosion
(estimated from the data of Mohr and Zanettin, 1988, p. 63; Siberian Traps from Reichow et al, 2002, p. 1849; CAMP from Marzoli et al, 1999, p. 618).
Other Basalt flows Volcanics flood basalt flows (Hess, 1989)
Snake River Plain 16 my .5 x 105 km2
Parana Plateau Brazil 119-149my 12 x 105 km2
Karoo Basalts 166-206 my >1.4 x 105 km2
Assuming a 1 kilometer thickness for the second list of traps this adds up to as much as 1 x 108 cubic kilometers.
Given a production of sulfuric acid of 2.5 megatons/cubic kilometer of extruded material gives 2.5 x 108 megatons or 2.5 x 1014 tons of sulfuric acid that must have come out of the earth during that single year. A ton is 1016 kg so this represents 2.34 x 1017 kg. This is 2.46 x 1017 kg of acid! The atmosphere has a mass of around 1018 kg. This means that 1/4th of the atmosphere would have been sulfuric acid at the end of the flood. This level of acidity would destroy Noah and the ark occupants.
Carl Froede (personal communication July 20,1998) stated the he 'would agree with Morton if there were no global flood to absorb all the gases and ash!' He further suggested that all the volcanic rocks were deposited underwater (Froede, 1996, p. 116, 123) and the acid ate away at the limestone creating karsts and caves. So if the young-earth creationist position is that H2SO4 is absorbed by the flood waters and thus the acid was kept from the atmosphere, there are other implications.
First, the volcanic traps, I cited show little lithological or textural of having been extruded under water. Magma, when extruded underwater, most often is quenched into pillow shapes. That is why underwater extruded lava are often called pillow lava. While there are some subaqueous sheet and lobate flows (Gregg and Fink, 1995), subaqueous lava tubes (Haymon, et al, 1993), they are not as extensive and uniform in thickness as those observed in some of the volcanic traps which are believed to have been subaerial flows. Also, along the edges of subaqueous flows, where the rate of lava movement is slowed, pillow lavas almost always form. The volcanic traps don't have pillow lava and thus look like subaerial flows. One of the flows studied by Steven Austin in his former life as Stuart Nevins from the Eocene John Day formation concluded that it had to have been deposited subaerially. He wrote (Nevins, 1974, p. 225)
"One of the most perplexing difficulties presented by the Mesa basalt is its horizontal extent compared to thickness. As an illustration of the remarkable thinness of the Mesa compared to its widespread flow, imagine that the actual thickness of the flow were reduced in scale to this thickness of a page of this Quarterly. In order to represent to scale the maximum horizontal dimension of the flow, the page would have to be 20 feet long!"
The Mesa basalt is 30-40 feet over 100,000 square miles (Nevins, 1974, p. 225)
Austin further states (Nevins 1974, p. 225),
"It is the opinion of the author that the Mesa basalt as well as many other Cenozoic basalts flowed after the Noachian Flood. The Mesa basalt could not have flowed during the flood otherwise it would have been 'quenched' by the waters and could not have spread so broadly."
So if young-earth creationists are to believe Austin, then Austin's data would imply that many volcanic flows found in the geologic record must have been deposited subaerially. Individual flows of other areas are also equally thin compared to their extent.
While H2SO4 can be absorbed by water, this is irrelevant if the H2SO4 comes from subaerially deposited lava flows. The volcanic traps were extruded under the air not under the water. Thus, Noah must have dealt with. sulfuric acid.
Austin, Baumgardner et al, in "Catastrophic Plate Tectonics," 3rd ICC pp. 609-621 suggest that the entire motion of the continents was accomplished in the flood year. This means that a 5 km thick layer of basalt was extruded onto the ocean floor. Five kilometers is the thickness of the oceanic crust.
The ocean area is 361 x 106 km2 and the volume of basalt extruded during the flood is
5 km x 361 x 106 km2 = 1.805 x 109 km3
Since there are 2.5 megatons of H2SO4 per km3 we find that the rapid continental drift would release
2.5 x 1.805 x 109 = 4.5 x 109 megatons or 4.5 x 109 megatons x 106 tons/megatons = 4.5 x 1015 tons.
Multiplying the tonnage by 1016 kg/ton we find that continental drift released
4.584 x 1018 kg of H2SO4
The mass of the ocean is 1.4 x 1021 kg. Thus you have a .3% solution of acid (by weight) in the oceans.
I am not a chemist, a friend who works for the Tennessee Department of Geology (Jim Moore, personal communication, July, 1998), calculated that that much acid would cause the ocean to have a pH of 2.2. Froede, who works for the EPA, admitted that such a pH would not be good for the fish. The young-earth advocates need to ask themselves if the EPA would allow a factory to discharge enough acid to turn the river into a .3% solution (by weight)? Fish can not live in such highly acidic waters. Since during the global flood, the fish were not protected by the ark they would be unlikely to survive the flood. Acid is as bad for the gills as it is for the lungs.
There is direct observation that the above calculation might not be too far wrong. A deep sea dive along the East Pacific Rise was able to observe an actual undersea volcanic eruption. They measured the pH of the water just above the magma. They measured a pH of 2.5 which is not far from what is stated above. (Haymon et al, 1993, p. 85)
Also, if the acid is used to eat away the limestone that the flood was busy why wouldn't it eat the shells of shellfish? Shellfish also were not protected by the Ark and would also be subject to this highly acidic water. They too would die. The global flood is incompatible with the survival of oceanic life. The young-earth creationist needs to realize that his model of the flood would turn the oceans and atmosphere into an acidic cesspool.
Note Added in Proof:
John Baumgardner criticized this for only using eruptive volcanoes and suggested that I should use Kilauea-type volcanism. That data confirms what I am suggesting. According to Vincent Courtillot, (1990, p. 89) the Deccan Traps (using Kilauea as a model) injected 6 x 1012 tons of sulfur into the atmosphere. This would make 1.8 x 1013 tons of H2SO4. The Deccan traps are 8.2 x 106 km3. Thus, this represents 2.2 megatons of acid/km3 for the Deccan traps. This is not far from the 2.5 megatons/km3 I used.
Coffin, Millard F, and Olav Eldholm "Scratching the Surface: Estimating Dimensions of Large Igneous Provinces." Geology, 21:515-18.
Courtillot, Vincent, "A Volcanic Eruption, Scientific American Oct. 1990, p. 85-92, p. 89
de Silva, Shanaka L. and Gregory A. Zielinski, "Global Influence of the AD 1600 Eruption of Huaynaputina, Peru," Nature, 393(1998):455-457
Froede, Jr., Carl R., "Evidences of Catastrophic Subaqueous Processes at Goat Mountain, in Big Bend National Park, Texas, U.S.A." Creation Research Society Quarterly, 33(1996):2:115-135.
Gregg, Tracy K. P., and Jonathan H. Fink, "Quantification of Submarine Lava-Flow Morphology," Geology 23(1995):73-76
Haymon, R. M. et al. "Volcanic Eruption of the Mid-ocean Ridge Along the East Pacific rise Crest at 9o45-52'N: Direct Submersible Observations of Seafloor Phenomena Associated with an Eruption Event in April, 1991," Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 119(1993):85-101.
Hess Paul C., Origins of Igneous Rocks, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), p. 180
Marzoli, Andrea et al, "Extensive 200-Million-Year-Old Continental Flood Basalts of the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province," Science 284(2002):616-618.
Mohr, Paul and Bruno Zanettin, "The Ethiopian Flood Basalt Province," in J. D. McDougall (ed.), Continental Flood Basalts, (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1988),pp 63-110.
Nevins, Stuart "The Mesa Basalt of the Northwestern United States," Creation Research Society Quarterly, (March 1971), pp 222-226.
Marc K. Reichow e al, 40AR/39Ar Dates from the West Siberian Basin: Siberian Flood Basalt Province Doubled," Science, 296(2002):1846-1849