Black Sea flood

21 Aug 2015

The Ryan and Pitman claim (back in 1997) that the Black Sea was flooded when a rock sill at the Bosporus was breached and salt water from the Mediterranean gushed into the freshwater lake system of the Black Sea and changed its composition for ever, dating the event around 8000 years ago (or slightly earlier) caused a bit of a stir, to put it mildly. The response was multi-pronged - even the Creationists were against the proposal. For instance, it conflicted with the Biblical numbers so beloved by young earth creationists, upsetting the orderly view of the past they had formulated within their heads. When you key in 'black sea flood' into your search engine you will find most of the hits on the first ten pages will be creationist blogs and web sites - which is not unremarkable as Ryan and Pittman's book had 'Noah's Flood' in the title. Amongst the warnings to the faithful not to be misled by Ryan and Pitman there are the odd pdf of papers produced on the back of the publication of their book - which must have been popular otherwise the issue would have been ignored. The idea here seems to have been to dilute the Ryan and Pitman storyline - take out the catastrophism, or the sudden nature of the event. They went on to achieve their aim, providing the kiss of death to the catastrophic nature of the event simply be spreading it out - insisting it took place over a longer period of time (and not suddenly). In fact, the flood was extended by some to have been such a long process it took from the end of the last glacial until 8000 years ago. This implies, on the face of it, that something did happen around 8000 years ago - otherwise they would have been able to wipe it off the game board altogether. As you may expect, they achieved their goal by using the sea level curve - and by emphasizing this factor they were able to convince most people who were not prepared to delve too deeply into the issue. This is precisely how the global warming meme became accepted - it sounded reasonable the way it was presented and as long as you didn't peer beneath the bed clothes you went along with it, trusting in the honesty of scientists. In other words, most educated  people accepted the criticism of Ryan and Pitman and subsequently they disappeared from the spotlight. 

The assumption was that the global sea level curve is reliable - just like the assumption co2 drives global warming. It isn't reliable. It is a line drawn between a point A and a point B. It is purely an estimation based on the idea that sea level has gone up (in some places) and therefore sea level went up everywhere. Along the Pacific coast of S America it has gone down - or the land has gone up (take your pick). Unfortunately for Ryan and Pitman Russian geologists were not impressed as they had been collecting evidence of changing levels in the Black Sea from long before 8000 years ago. The new book seemed like hype - it was hype as far as the media was concerned (and the publisher who chose the title, 'Noah's Flood: the new scientific discoveries about the event that changed history'). 

Another problem for Ryan and Pitman was that all their evidence for a rapid flooding event was submerged. Later, they took to a submersible and came up with some claims that were never taken seriously, as by then the sea level curve dominated the argument. We don't know if a sudden breach of the Bosporus occurred 8000 years ago - but does it matter? Well, it would be interesting if it did as we know the southern North Sea basin was flooded 8000 years ago - might the two events have a common connection?

Unlike the Bosporus breach the North Sea flood is associated with evidence of a tsunami wave that engulfed Mesolithic communities along the coast of eastern Scotland and northern England. The actual drowned landscape is now submerged and in that context the two events have a commonality. In the case of the southern North Sea basin the bottom of the sea bed has been systematically mapped by oil and gas exploration and computer graphics have produced a map of the sea floor that proved a bonus to archaeologists. As far as the North Sea event is concerned, it is attributed to the collapse of the Storegga Shelf between Norway and Scotland - and this was the source of the tidal wave, or tsunami. It was what happened afterwards that is intriguing. Following the tsunami wave the southern North Sea basin was drowned, way to the south of the evidence of a tsunami - permanently. In the recent Japanese tsunami and the earlier Boxing Day tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the waters receded as rapidly as they had advanced. What was different about the North Sea event in order to submerge Dogger Land and keep it submerged for the last 8000 years. There is something else at play.

Again, we find the global sea level curve came into play. In fact, this was the accepted explanation prior to the discovery of the tell tale signs of a tsunami event and the development of the geological theory of the collapse of the Storegga Shelf. In other words, the sea level curve idea dominated the debate both before and after the acceptance of a catastrophic under water landslide (presumably by tectonic forces at work, as in the case of the Boxing Day tsunami and the Japanese tsunami). We are still left with a bit of a teaser here as why did the North Sea basin become submerged at the same moment in time as the tsunami wave struck the Scottish coastline - and at the same moment in time that Ryan and Pitman located their breach of the Bosporus (or near enough).

Going back to the sea level curve and point A and point B - and a nice curving line to join up the two dots. These are actually two dots where they know sea level was at a particular moment in time. Point A was the post glacial period when sea levels went up by a fantastic number of feet (or metres). The assumption that an ice sheet covered the top of the world is based on that sea level rise - as ice melt provides the explanation as to why the sea level rose so rapidly and steeply (at that time). We might also wonder if that sea level rise at the end of the glacial period was perhaps not a little understated - otherwise they would have had a problem if the rise was too steep for the amount of ice available to melt. Actually, the latter is still true as according to some researchers large parts of the top of the world were not glaciated. Siberia was cool but not covered in ice and permanent snow. This little fact is conveniently brushed aside as Gradualism must have an Ice Age and must not have any kind of movement at the poles.

Point B turns out to be 8000 years ago when another world wide event is associated with a sharp drop in global temperatures that lasted a couple of hundred years, may be a little more, and at the same time an abrupt rise in global sea levels. Not a great rise when it is compared with the end of glaciation sea level changes but enough to stick out like a sore thumb in various research papers. How does colder weather create rising sea levels - it is the opposite way round. The explanation is that global ocean circulation somehow changed and warm water failed to reach the northern Atlantic etc. but what caused the global ocean currents to switch from a warming to a cooling phase? A hypothetical inland lake composed of glacial water that had somehow managed to survive intact for nearly 10,000 years without leaking was invented - and this was supposed to have poured into the North Atlantic and slowed down the ocean circulation system - switching off the Gulf Stream. No evidence of such a lake has ever been found - or the route of its rapid progress from inland N America to the sea. It should have left some sign of its passing. There are no scablands in the Atlantic provinces. In spite of that the theory is still the consensus position (until a new explanation of a Gradualist nature is found) and you will often read people citing this event as if it really happened - and was not in the minds of a couple of scientists that went on to publish a paper claiming they had found the answer to the puzzle, the sudden cooling event around 8000 years ago - but the explanation was a hypothesis (and remains a hypothesis no matter how many times it is repeated by the great and the good).

So, here  we have a hypothetical event at 8000 years ago, that claims a freshwater lake emptied into the North Atlantic (no evidence of which exists) but a very similar event in the Black Sea was debunked as it was seen as unwelcome, but it did explain how a freshwater lake rapidly became a salt water inland sea.

You may also bear in mind point A and point B were divided by other events, not least the Younger Dryas. This would have affected the curve - and any lesser event as well. The curve, in other words, may have wavered, gone up and down, jumped on occasion, and so on. Even after 8000 years ago there was a succession of sea level jumps - but not of a steep nature. For example the estuaries around the coast of Britain were drowned and according to Brit Arch (email thread, a few years back) I was informed these occurred around 4000 years ago and 3200 years ago - with obvious parallels. The person who came up with the dates may not have realised the significance of them - but that only means they were arrived at independently and in an acceptable manner. Archaeologists don't come up with such numbers unless they are confirmed by geologists.

As you can see the assumption basic to the sea level curve may be entirely fictional. Sea level may not have been rising significantly at any point in the Holocene and it may, in the main be due to catastrophic shifts of some kind - shifts that were also involved in moving the monsoon track (or reducing its intensity), creating cooling periods (or warmer periods) and affecting ocean circulation patterns in the process as well as coinciding with tectonic events - such as the possible breach of the Bosporus.