When you are a young-earth creationist for long enough, you tend to notice some arguments get thrown at you more often than others. One of (if not the) most common questions I get is…
“WhErE dId AlL oF tHe FlOoDwAtErS gO?”
I have no problem answering this question if the asker is genuinely curious. But usually, skeptics of young-earth creationism ask this as a sort of gotcha question, as if I have never before considered such a devastating proposition.
It is not as if this question has never been answered: it has! Many. Times.
The views expressed in this article reflect those of the author and not necessarily those of New Creation.
This question has been answered so many times that it has become a PRATT. That is, A Point Refuted A Thousand Times. Nevertheless, diehard skeptics repeat this question over, and over, and over, and over again.
Nevertheless, while many people have answered the question itself many, many times, the science behind how we think the Flood’s mechanisms operated is not often appreciated. That is the purpose of this article.
The Problems Aren’t All On Our Side
Many keyboard warriors do not realize that their model of earth history has a water problem of its own. Even though they do not believe Noah’s Flood was a global event, old-earth geologists agree with young-earth geologists that sea levels were much, much higher than is currently the case. We know this because thick packages of marine sediments blanket large portions of the continents. They contain fossils of marine organisms like seashells, sharks, and even other marine reptiles. Geologists can examine the layers exposed in outcrops around the world and determine whether each layer formed underwater or on dry land. This gives them a pretty good idea of how much of the continents were underwater at any one time in earth history.
There are even clues that help us figure out how deep the water was in a given area. For example, a rock layer showing evidence of strong current activity (such as cross-bedding) suggests it formed in a region covered by shallow water. On the other hand, rock layers made up of fine-grained sediment, like limestone, can suggest that it formed in deep water.
Geologists can then take this data and use it to construct a sea level curve. There is some flexibility in the interpretation of data that is fed into a sea level curve, which results in differing models. Nevertheless, there is general agreement among old-earth geologists that the maximum sea level in the past ranged from somewhere between 820 feet and 1312 feet higher than modern sea levels.
Dry Still Wet
Why is this problematic to the keyboard warriors against Noah’s Flood? Refer to the image on the side to see how much of the continents would be covered if these sea levels existed today.
The red represents how much land area would be submerged if all of the ice melted. This would raise sea levels just 230 feet or so. As such, the melting of the polar ice caps alone is not sufficient to explain sea levels any higher than this. The orange represents how much land area would be submerged if sea levels rose 820 feet. And everything in yellow is how much of the land area would be flooded if sea levels rose 1312 feet. Most of South America and Australia, the American Midwest, virtually all of western Eurasia, and many other places, would be underwater.
We can now turn to the keyboard warriors who argue against Noah’s Flood with the same question they pose to us: if sea levels were so much higher in the past, where did all of that water go?
Where Did the Floodwaters Come From?
Before we address where the floodwaters went, we must first understand where they came from.
Scripture describes two primary sources of water for the Flood: 40 days and nights of torrential rain and the breaking up of the “fountains of the deep.” Exactly what these “fountains” were is up for discussion, but the “breaking up” seems to be a reference to crustal rifting that took place at deep sea ocean ridges, and perhaps even within continents.1 Today, we call this phenomenon seafloor spreading. New oceanic crust is hot, expanded, and more buoyant than older oceanic crust. The recycling of oceanic crust during the Flood shallowed the ocean basins, forcing seawater onto dry land. This process alone would have displaced enough ocean water to raise global sea levels as much as 1,500 meters (4921 feet).2 This makes sense in light of the apostle Peter’s description of the Flood too:
“…the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.”2 Peter 3:5-6
As we see from this passage, the pre-Flood waters proved a major source of water for the Flood. One Flood model that uses seafloor spreading as a flooding mechanism is Catastrophic Plate Tectonics (CPT).3
Where Did the Floodwaters Go?
Even today, our planet is a water world. Over 70% of the earth’s surface is covered in water. If the earth’s mountains flattened and the ocean floor uplifted, there would be enough water to cover the globe in an ocean almost two miles deep! The reason the planet is not currently overflooded has to do with its topography. Contrary to its catastrophic, eruptive start, the Flood is described as having a gradual, drawn-out ending. Many months passed before the earth was dry enough for Noah, his family, and the animals to leave the Ark. Psalm 104:6-8 provides us with some clues as to what was going on in the latter half of the Flood:
“You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took flight. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them.”Psalm 104:6-8, ESV
The rise of mountains after the Flood seems to refer to mountain building. Similarly, the sinking of valleys seems to be referring to the deepening of ocean basins. According to the catastrophic plate tectonics model, the Flood’s destructive phase ceased when a buoyant oceanic crust replaced all of the original, pre-Flood seafloor.3 As the oceanic crust cooled, it became less buoyant. The ocean basins sank as a result, and the floodwaters were withdrawn from the landmasses.
So, where did the floodwaters go? They are still here, in our ocean basins!