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Local Mesopotamian Flood: An Apologia

Local Mesopotamian Flood: An Apologia July 9, 2021

This is a follow-up to my article, Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought (7-2-21), and it will deal with some elements of proposed local Flood models that are “difficulties” to work through. I’ll start by citing again (with some abridgement and slight modification of presentation) key parts of the previous post that have to do directly with what I will address here, so this article can be more coherent and complete on its own.

Carol A. Hill, in her article, “The Noachian Flood: Universal or Local?” (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 54, Number 3, September 2002), wrote:

In no way can “earth” be taken to mean the planet Earth, as in Noah’s time and place, people (including the Genesis writer) had no concept of Earth as a planet and thus had no word for it. Their “world” mainly (but not entirely) encompassed the land of Mesopotamia—a flat alluvial plain enclosed by the mountains and high ground of Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Saudi Arabia (Fig. 1); i.e., the lands drained by the four rivers of Eden (Gen. 2:10–14). The biblical account must be interpreted within the narrow limit of what was known about the world in that time, not what is known about the world today. . . .

The “earth” was the land (ground) as Noah knew (tilled) it and saw it “under heaven”—that is, the land under the sky in the visible horizon, and “all flesh” were those people and animals who had died or were perishing around the ark in the land of Mesopotamia. The language used in the scriptural narrative is thus simply that which would be natural to an eyewitness (Noah). Woolley aptly described the situation this way: “It was not a universal deluge; it was a vast flood in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates which drowned the whole of the habitable land … for the people who lived there that was all the world (italics mine).”

Regarding specifically the water covering “all the high mountains” (Gen 7:19), Hill states:

[T]he Hebrew word har for “mountain” in Gen. 7:20 . . . can also be translated as “a range of hills” or “hill country,” implying with Gen. 7:19 that it was “all the high hills” (also har) that were covered rather than high mountains.

This being the case, Genesis 7:19-20 could simply refer to “flood waters . . . fifteen cubits above the ‘hill country’ of Mesopotamia (located in the northern, Assyrian part)”. The Hebrew word har (Strong’s #2022) can indeed mean “hills” or “hill country”, as the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon defines it. Specifically for Genesis 7:19-20, this lexicon classifies the word as following:

mountain, indefinite, Job 14:18 (“” צוּר); usually plural mountains, in General, or the mountains, especially in poetry & the higher style; often figurative; הָרִיםהֶהָרִים, covered by flood Genesis 7:20 compare Genesis 7:19; . . .

Lorence G. Collins is a geologist and petrologist. He wrote a fascinating article, “Yes, Noah’s flood may have happened but not over the
whole earth” (Reports of the National Center for Science Education, 2009, 29(5): 38-41. In it, he observed:

Northeast and southwest of the nearly flat surface that contains the two rivers, the topography rises to more than 455 m [1493 feet] in Saudi Arabia and in Iran. Calculations show that elevations of 455 m high cannot be seen beyond 86 km [53 miles] away, and these places are more than 160 km [99 miles] from the Euphrates or Tigris Rivers. Therefore, none of the high country in Saudi Arabia or Iran would be visible to a tribal chief (or Noah). On that basis, the “whole world” would definitely appear to be covered with water during the Flood, and that was the “whole world” for the people in this part of southeastern Mesopotamia at that time.

Basically, the big problem with this scenario, is how to get to a Flood as described in the Bible in its duration and scope — even if construed as a local phenomenon — that can sustain itself for some 11-12 months without, in this instance, draining into the Persian Gulf: the one direction in relation to the Mesopotamian floodplain (unlike the other three) with no barriers or elevation gain. Thus, this local Flood theory gets pilloried by Christian believers in a universal, global Flood, and atheists alike (odd bedfellows those!). Geoff Benson, one of the latter, wrote on 7-8-21:

A local flood makes no sense biblically and it makes no sense physically. How could flood water just accumulate to a great height relative to non-flooded adjacent areas, in way placid enough to allow a huge boat to float merrily on its way? It’s physically impossible.

A discussion thread on the site, Evidence for God from Science called “Location of Noah’s Local Flood” is fascinating. First, we hear objections to the local Mesopotamian Flood. Greg Neyman, who thinks the local Flood occurred in the area of what is now the Caspian Sea, observed:

It does look like a plausible theory, however, the major problem this theory has is that the entire area drains into the Persian Gulf. There is no possible way to contain the flood waters, and a flood of this magnitude would never have occurred here. The rain waters would simply run away into the ocean. The only way to make this work is to have God perform a miraculous event at the southern end, making an invisible wall, or barrier, to keep the flood waters within the region. There is no indication in the Biblical text that this occurred.

I wrote today on atheist Jonathan Pearce’s blog:

It’s also true that the Flood may be partly supernatural and not wholly a natural event. That’s the question with the parting of the Red Sea (or whatever the actual body of water was). Was it a natural phenomenon (several scenarios have been suggested), wholly supernatural, or a combination? Any of those are possible in the biblical worldview.

Sometimes in the Bible God is described as having caused something that is actually natural. In these cases, the meaning would be that God “upholds” creation and/or caused the origin of natural laws in the first place, which now govern natural events, short of the rare miraculous divine intervention with a miracle. Other times it is purely miraculous (several of the plagues of Egypt seem to fit that bill well; also people being raised from the dead).

God’s statement in Genesis 6:17: ” I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth” (RSV; cf. 6:7, 13) could, I submit, be interpreted in either way. Also, see 7:4: “I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights . . .” and 8:1: “. . . And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided”. After the Flood, when God makes a covenant with Noah, He says:

Genesis 9:11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

Genesis 9:15 I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

Thus, if God didn’t directly cause the Flood, it sure seems like He is directly intervening here to prevent such a catastrophe again. To me, this implies by analogy that He likely directly caused the Flood, meaning that supernatural aspects were at least partially involved. Carol A. Hill (“Qualitative Hydrology of Noah’s Flood”Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 58, Number 2, June 2006) discussed these distinctions:

Noah’s Flood was a miracle because God intervened into his physical laws. One does not have to invoke the notion of the suspension or violation of natural laws in “nature miracles.” Divine action can simply be understood as higher-order laws (God’s ultimate purpose) working seamlessly with lower order laws (God’s physical laws). Is it any less a miracle because it can be explained by natural processes? This is the nature of “nature miracles”: to have the timely intervention of God into natural processes.

One of the best examples of a “nature miracle” that comes to mind is Jesus rebuking the winds and sea (Matt. 8:23–26). In Matt. 8:26, the calming of the winds and sea could be explained by a sudden change of barometric pressure—which was probably the case. But it was God who caused this change to take place exactly when Christ commanded the waves and wind to be still.

Geologist Hill in this article makes many fascinating observations about this proposed local Flood scenario. After describing typical cyclical weather patterns in Mesopotamia, she gets more specific and talks about flooding:

Long-duration downpours are caused by the stalling or blocking of a Mediterranean frontal system, and depending on how long the system stalls, a “100-year” or “1000-year” precipitation event can result. [5] These rare occurrences of extremely high precipitation are referred to as the “Noah effect” by meteorologists and hydrologists. [6] When circulation patterns persist, then high amounts of rain (and snow in the mountains) can also precede or follow a cyclonic event. An example of this happening was in 1969 over the Jordan basin, when cyclonic circulation patterns persisted for 24 days, and rain and snow fell for almost two months. [7] The stalling of this front, over a period of 80 hours, brought an average of 75 inches (300 mm) of rain to the basin—the highest amount in 150 years— and caused considerable flooding.

Other stalled frontal systems are recorded for the Mississippi River region, USA. In the Mississippi River flood of 1927, it rained 15 inches in 18 hours, the water rose one inch an hour, the flood waters did not start to recede for two months, and some of the tributaries of the Mississippi actually flowed backward (up into their channels) due to the rapid flooding of the Mississippi River. [8] In the Mississippi River flood of 1973, the duration of flooding in some parts of the watershed was up to 97 days (over three months). [9] This 1973 flood was caused by the duration and persistence of a large-scale, anomalous, atmospheric circulation pattern, where the trough (low) existed in roughly the same location for a prolonged period of time in March and April.

Precipitation. Southern Mesopotamia is one of the driest spots on Earth, with an average annual rainfall of less than four inches. [10] The Mediterranean cyclonic disturbances that pass through Iraq in winter and spring provide practically the only rain of the year for this area, and even this meagerly rain can be “fickle”—with some years having no rain at all and with other years having substantial amounts.  . . .

The Zagros Mountains of eastern Mesopotamia run parallel to the Tigris River, and practically every spring, melting snow feeds the Tigris to overflowing. In these areas, mountain snows come mainly in the winter months (January–February), while the greatest rainfall occurs in the spring (March–April). Spring rainfall can quickly melt the mountain snow, causing the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to reach their highest flood level in late spring. [14] . . .

She then discussed wind conditions, but for brevity’s sake I will omit it. These weather conditions remarkably line up with the biblical account, as she explains:

Accordance with the Biblical Account

If the “second month, seventeenth day of the month” of Gen. 7:11 is interpreted as denoting the season of the year when the flood started, . . . then the Bible is in remarkable accordance with the weather patterns that actually exist (and have existed) in the Mesopotamian area. If one compares the tropical calendar of today with the sidereal calendar of the Mesopotamians for the years around 2900 BC, [22] then this would place the “second month, seventeenth day” in about the middle of March when meteorological conditions bring the most abundant rain to the Mesopotamian region. Genesis 7:12 says that it was a “heavy” rain which fell upon the earth (land) for forty days and forty nights, [23] and this is the type of rainfall (continuous downpour) that can result from the activity of maritime air masses characteristic of this season. The duration of the rain (forty days and forty nights) could have been caused by the stalling of a Mediterranean cyclonic front over the Mesopotamian area in combination with maritime air masses moving up from the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean. This stalled storm would have been associated with southerly winds (the sharqi and/or suhaili), not with the northwesterly shamal wind, and these could have been very intense winds both in strength and duration.

The Bible (Gen. 8:1) also records that sometime before the 150 days of Gen. 7:24 (five months or about in the middle of August, assuming a middle-of-March start-date for the Flood), a wind passed over the earth causing the waters to subside. This wind could correspond with the northwest shamal wind that blows almost continuously during the summer months. In spring, the melting of snow and steady rain in the mountains of northern Iraq produces flooding in the valleys of the south. Then in summer, the wind howls southward along the narrow fertile strip between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, and the drying process begins. [24] Thus, the Genesis account accurately records the actual meteorological situation that exists (and has existed) in Iraq (Mesopotamia).

She notes how the region has actually been known for having a lot of floods, albeit not as large as Noah’s Flood:

Floods in Mesopotamia

The Mesopotamian alluvial plain is one of the flattest places on earth. The surface of the plain 240 miles (400 km) inland from the head of the Gulf is less than 60 feet (20 m) above sea level, [25] and at An Nasiriyah, the water level of the Euphrates is only eight feet (<3 m) above sea level, even though the river still has to cover a distance of more than 95 miles to Basra (Fig. 1). Once As Samawah and Al ‘Amarah are passed, the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers are lost in an immense marshland-lake region (Fig. 1), where water flows very slowly to the Persian Gulf. During spring this whole region—from the Euphrates east to the Tigris—can become severely inundated. [26] The level surface of the plain and shallow river beds of the Euphrates and Tigris, which offer the right conditions for irrigation, [27] can also cause immediate, widespread flooding. And, however difficult it is to get water to the land via irrigation canals, it is just as difficult to get it off the land when it floods. [28] Before any dams were built (before ~1920), about two-thirds of the whole area of southern Mesopotamia (Babylonia) could be underwater in the flood season from March to August. [29] . . .

There are historical references to floods in Mesopotamia in the tenth, eighteenth, and twentieth centuries BC and seventh and eighth centuries AD. 33 From AD 762–1906, thirty major floods were recorded in and around Baghdad. [34]

How to account for a 150-day accumulation of rain and floodwaters and seven more months of drainage? She offers some theories:

A number of hydrologic factors could have been responsible for 150 days of flooding as recorded by Gen. 7:24.

Rain. Not only did it rain heavily and continuously for forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:12), but it could have also rained intermittently after that until Day 150, when Gen. 8:2 says the rain finally stopped. The exact duration of the rain is unclear, and exactly where it rained is also unclear. It likely rained where Noah lived and built the ark (probably Shuruppak, the traditional “hometown” of Noah), as that is where the ark was lifted above the ground and began to float (Gen. 7:17). But if the cyclonic storm was regional, it could have rained over all of Mesopotamia and the surrounding highlands.

Snow. While the Bible does not specifically mention the involvement of snow in the Genesis Flood, melting of mountain snows by the rains of Gen. 7:17 could also have been an important factor affecting flooding. Vast amounts of water are held in snow storage, and the greatest floods on large rivers (such as the Tigris or Mississippi) tend to occur in spring in response to snow melt. [36] . . .

Springs. The Bible mentions the “fountains of the deep” (springs) twice in its narrative—once when the springs start (Gen. 7:11) and once when they stop (Gen. 8:2). Springs are a prime factor that could have caused prolonged flooding. When it rains or when snow melts, water does not only flow over the ground as stream runoff. It can also travel underground as “groundwater,” finally exiting at springs. . . .

Springs exist all over Mesopotamia and surrounding highlands, and most of these are limestone (karst) springs. Ras-el-ain (ain means “spring”), near the border of Syria and Turkey, is one of the largest limestone karst springs in the world and is the effective head of the Khabr River, a major tributary of the Euphrates. [41] . . .

Specific springs (among many) that could have contributed water to the Mesopotamian hydrologic basin during Noah’s Flood are those located near ancient Sippar, Babylon, and Kish; [42] those in the vicinity of Hit; [43] and those in the Jezira desert region between Baghdad and Mosul. [44] . . .

Storm Surge. There is the possibility that a storm surge (in addition to rainfall and snow melt) may have helped maintain flooding in the southern part of Mesopotamia. Storm surges are where a low-pressure meteorological system causes high winds and tides, which can drive seawater inland for hundreds of miles. This hypothesis is supported by written cuneiform records.

She then tackles the question of Flood sediments, and why so few can be found in Mesopotamia (detractors of a local Mesopotamian Flood make much of this):

At Shuruppak, and also at Uruk, the last Jemdet Nasr remains are separated from the subsequent Early Dynastic I Period by clean, water-lain clay deposited by a flood. This clay is nearly five feet thick at Uruk [60] and two feet thick at Shuruppak. [61] Since the Sumerian King List mentions that Noah (Ziusudra) lived in Shuruppak (today the archaeological mound of Fara), and since Noah is believed to have lived during the Jemdet Nasr Period, [62] then these sediments date from the right time and place and may be deposits left by Noah’s Flood. [c. 2900 BC]

A popular misconception is that a great inundation such as Noah’s Flood should have left a widespread layer of sediment all over Mesopotamia. If flood deposits occur at Shuruppak (Fara), then why not at nearby Kish? Why have no flood deposits been found at Ur that correspond to Noah’s Flood, and why in the city-mound of Ur do some pits contain thick flood deposits while other pits nearby contain no flood deposits?

This presumed problematic situation is completely understandable to hydrologists—in fact, it is what they expect. Floods erode sediment as well as deposit sediment. Rivers in vegetated terrain (like in northern Mesopotamia) are capable of eroding less sediment than in unvegetated, clay-silt terrain (like in southern Mesopotamia). Rivers may scour and down cut sediment along steep gradients, whereas they may deposit sediment in shallow-gradient situations. Or, sediment left from the waters of one flood may be removed by erosion in a later flood. Most Mesopotamian cities were located close to former river channels or canals since commerce and transportation depended on these waterways.

The entire article is fascinating and should be read by anyone interested in Noah’s Flood and particularly this hypothesis as to its location and extent. Carol’s husband is physicist Alan E. Hill, Distinguished Scientist of the Quantum Physics Institute at Texas A&M University. He has spent some forty years inventing and developing evermore-powerful lasers of the Star Wars variety. In the early 1960s, while at the University of Michigan, Alan was the first person to discover nonlinear optics phenomenon. They make up quite a team of scientists who are also devout Presbyterian Christians.

I shall now cite his article, “Quantitative Hydrology of Noah’s Flood” (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 58, Number 2, June 2006) at length:

[T]his paper specifically answers the physical objections raised by Young Earth Creationists, who ask: (1) How could the flood waters, if constrained to a local region, have stayed backed up for 150 days, and (2) How could the ark have traveled against the current, landing in the mountains of Ararat, instead of floating with the current down to the Persian Gulf? . . .

I have constructed a mathematical model into which the most critical topological features of the Mesopotamian region have been incorporated. Then, the literal biblical description of the period of rainfall and period of spring-water flow (“fountains of the deep”) was entered into the calculation. . . .

Finally, having developed input conditions that conform with Scripture, it is most interesting that the required rainfall and spring flow rate values are entirely consistent with the actual meteorological and hydrological conditions that can prevail in the Mesopotamian region. [2] . . .

[W]e are unable to realistically determine what actually happened to any level of detail during Noah’s Flood. However, even my simplistic approach can be used to determine what might have happened, in terms of possible scenarios consistent with the Genesis record. And, we are enabled to generate a plausible set of conditions, and subject to these, show that the ark could have readily been blown against the gradient to land 440 miles upstream, over an elevation change of 2100 feet within 40 days. . . .

I have evaluated many rainfall distribution scenarios, but for simplicity sake, only a single “benchmark” one (with several variations) will be presented. For this scenario, a rainfall and spring water distribution has been adjusted to develop the characteristics specifically described in Genesis 6–8. Essentially, the water depth immediately rises to 40 ft (not including the central 600-ft-wide assumed river channel of an additional depth of 20–30 ft) and floods the entire Mesopotamian plain, including the ziggurats there. The foothills of the mountains of Ararat are also flooded by rain, snow melt, and spring waters pouring off the surrounding mountain highs.

The rainfall distribution over time for the benchmark scenario is shown in Fig. 3A. As Gen. 7:12 states, the hard rainfall is limited to a 40-day period, whereas weaker rain fell thereafter until day 150, and then both the rain and spring flow stopped completely after 150 days (Gen. 8:2). Interestingly, a peak rainfall of only 2.75 inches per hour, tapering off to just one inch per hour in 40 days produces the requisite conditions. Such rainfall rates are not unreasonable for large hurricanes.  . . .

He then proceeds to show (with all kinds of scientific and mathematical calculations) that the ark could have been blown by strong winds, to its landing place near Cizre, (elevation 1,237 feet), where the plain starts transforming into foothills and mountains (“mountains of Ararat”), and the traditional landing-site,  Jabel Judi (discussed in my previous paper) is nearby. The biblical text doesn’t require the ark resting on top of a mountain. It says “came to rest upon the mountains of Ar’arat.” Ararat was a region, and it is where the traditional ark resting place (in Christian thinking prior to the 11th century) is located: just north of the Mesopotamian floodplain where the hills and mountains begin.

I can’t follow all the science and math (it gets very technical), but for those who can, it should be an even more fascinating read. A topographical map of the area (“Cudi Dagi” is Jabel Judi or Mt. Judi) shows how the hills and mountains abruptly begin. Thus it makes perfect sense for a boat that came from southern Mesopotamia, floating on massive floodwaters, to land at the first higher elevation landforms that it runs into.

Much less technical is an article cited on the site (referred to above), Evidence for God from Science and the discussion “Location of Noah’s Local Flood”.  It’s entitled “Noah’s Flood: A Bird’s-Eye View” by Steve Sarigianis. He stated:

The topography of the Mesopotamian region forms a huge U-shaped bowl that stretches 600 miles from the Persian Gulf to the northwest. Steep escarpments that rise quickly from less than 200 meters to 1,000 meters set boundaries for the Mesopotamian Plain on the north and the east. Terrain that rises gradually, but consistently, to heights above 400 meters forms the southern and western boundaries. Elevations above 400 meters fully contain the Mesopotamian Plain except where it meets the sea. . . .

A super-storm of this unprecedented magnitude would have produced an enormous surge in the Persian Gulf. During a storm surge, the force of the winds circulating around the storm’s low-pressure center pushes water ashore. A large hurricane can cause storm surges 50 miles wide and 25 feet deep. Shallow coastal waters like those in the Persian Gulf only amplify a storm surge. And, greater storm surges are observed with slow-moving storms.

Astrophysicist Hugh Ross added in the same comment in this thread:

The Genesis text does not specify the exact depth of the floodwaters. It states only that the ark floated up on the waters and that the nearby hills were so inundated that from Noah’s perspective the whole face of Earth was covered with water. That is, from one horizon to the other, all Noah could see was water.

An ark 450 feet long by 75 feet wide by 45 feet high, loaded with animals and supplies, probably needed a draft of at least 20 feet. If Noah stood on top of the ark, his eye level would have been approximately 30 feet above the waters (refraction corrections included). The water level horizon for him would have been about 8 miles away. Any hill more distant than about 15 miles, sticking up even a hundred feet or more above the water, would have been invisible. Hills higher than 500 feet and 1,000 feet above water level would have been beyond the possible view of Noah if they were more than 28 and 38 miles distant, respectively. . . .

The rate at which a 50-foot, 100-foot, or higher surge of water above the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers would flow out to the Persian Gulf depends upon the slope of the land. From 400 miles northwest of Ur to Ur (the location of the Persian shore at the time of Noah), the Euphrates and Tigris rivers drop just 300 feet in elevation. This drop provides a grade of only about 0.01 percent. With that gentle a slope, the Flood waters would have moved very slowly out to the Persian Gulf. Moreover, for several months after the rain stopped, any water that exited to the Gulf would have been replaced with runoff from springs and melting snow on the distant mountains that surround the Mesopotamian Plain.

Searching around, I found several peer-reviewed, scientific articles that talked about floods in coastal areas, rate of drainage, and what is possible. One such article stated:

Designers of coastal drainage systems recognize the unique characteristics of coastal flooding, particularly the impacts of tides, low elevations, and high groundwater tables (Kuo 1980). The rate at which gravity can drain an area depends in part on the difference in elevation between the area being drained and the place to which the water flows. The greater the difference in elevation, the greater the slope of the “hydraulic head” and the faster the water can drain.

Coastal areas generally are low-lying and thus vulnerable to flooding. High tides can decrease the elevational difference and further slow gravity drainage. Moreover, storm surges in coastal areas frequently occur during rainstorms, and can completely stop natural drainage. (“Greenhouse Effect, Sea Level Rise, and Coastal Drainage Systems”, James G. Titus et al, Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, Vol. 113, No. 2., March 1987).

This plainly has relevance to the scenario of a Mesopotamian Flood. As noted above, there is only a 300 foot drop in elevation of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers over 400 miles (0.01 % grade). That’s as flat as it gets. Rivers can barely even flow. Since the elevation change is so slight between the floodplain and the Persian Gulf, any flood that occurred would drain relatively slowly, and storm surges would slow the drainage all the more. This is from an article that has nothing to do with Noah’s Flood. It’s simply describing hydrology.

Since southern Mesopotamia is one of the flattest places on earth (the only raised areas being raised mounds of the archaeological remains of cities like Shuruppak and Uruk), then it is one of the places where we would most expect a slow drainage of flood waters: precisely what the Genesis text requires. So this aspect also shows remarkable harmony between the Bible and actual topography in present-day Iraq.

Another article specifically about the Persian Gulf notes a “period of the flooding of the Gulf and the subsequent flooding of the low-lying delta region when sea levels rose perhaps a few meters above its present level between about 6000 and 3000 yr BP. (“Shoreline reconstructions for the Persian Gulf since the last glacial maximum”, Kurt Lambeck, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 142 [1996] 43-57)

This time-period is 4000-1000 BC; I am defending a model where the Flood is thought to have occurred in around 2900 BC. The article also tosses out this fascinating tidbit:

During-Caspers [37] notes evidence for ancient civilisations on the bottom of the now northern part of the Persian Gulf. Excavations at Ur and elsewhere have led to evidence of a flooding event at about 4000-3000 B.C. and it is tempting to associate the Sumerian ‘Flood’ legend [36] with the peak of the Holocene transgression.

An article at the Carbon Brief website, from marine scientist Thomas Wahl and engineer Shaleen Jain: “How storm surges and heavy rainfall drive coastal flood risk in the US” (7-27-15), reinforces aspects of a theoretical biblical Flood with heavy rains and a storm surge from the Persian Gulf:

For coastal areas, flooding can happen in two main ways: from sustained heavy rain that doesn’t drain away, or from storm surges, when storms drag the sea up and over the coastline. But when they occur together, or in close succession, the consequences can be even more severe.

In a study, just published in the journal  Nature Climate Change, we look at how heavy rainfall and high water levels combine to cause “compound flooding”. . . .

When a storm weather system is over the sea, its low pressure centre pulls up the surface of the water. As the storm blows onto the land, the wind pushes the sea towards the coast, creating even higher sea levels and battering the coastline with large waves. This is known as a  storm surge, which can breach coastal defences and cause flooding. . . .

Heavy rainfall can combine with a storm surge to cause a “compound flood”. High water levels can impede stormwater draining into the sea, causing flooding inland, or high rainfall can add yet more water to an existing tidal flood.

Peak winds of up to 150 miles per hour were in fact recorded in Super Cyclonis Storm Gonu in June 2007, in Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Iran, not far from southern Iraq. It was the most powerful tropical cyclone known to have hit the Arabian Peninsula and attained peak one-minute winds of  170 mph and gusts of 195 mph, with a 17-foot storm surge on the coast of Oman, in the Gulf of Oman, which is connected to and southeast of the Persian Gulf. Waves along the coast of the United Arab Emirates on the southern end of the Persian Gulf were 32 feet high.

Carol Hill offers more great information in her book, A Worldview Approach to Science and ScriptureMaking Genesis Real (Kregel Publications, 2019), in chapter 6: “Noah’s Flood: Global or Local?”.

She supports a landing-place for the ark on Jabel Judi by noting that it wasn’t “far from a region of vineyards and olive trees” (p. 81). The Bible states that a dove came back with an olive leaf (Gen 8:11) and that Noah planted a vineyard after the flood (9:20). She notes that we know that wine was made in northern Mesopotamia from before 3000 BC. This requires a hot climate with mild winters, but not too hot and dry.

North of this area (present-day Mt. Ararat) and the southern floodplain don’t fit the requirements for vineyards. But northern Iraq / ancient Assyria / northern Mesopotamia does, with moderate rainfall and lots of streams. The Bible refers to the area in this regard (2 Kgs 18:32), mentioning  both vineyards and olive trees. Olive trees also need very particular conditions to survive (met by this area). Dr. Hill argues that this is an indication of a local Flood:

If a raging flood had covered the entire planet Earth to 17,000 plus feet (the height of Mount Ararat) with seawater for a whole year, an olive tree (or even its seeds) could not have survived. The return of the olive leaf by the dove (Gen. 8:11) suggests the survival of relatively unharmed trees outside the flooded area. (p. 81)

She makes another argument for a local Flood based on a proposed landing in this area:

If the ark did land in the Cizre, Turkey area, then it means that the flood stayed within the (northern) boundary of the Mesopotamian hydrologic basin. . . . if the flood was global, why wouldn’t the ark have floated to . . . a place like Europe or Asia? (p. 82)

Dr. Hill notes on page 83 that mud or clay flood deposits have been found in five locations in Mesopotamia: Ur, Kish, Shuruppak, Uruk, and Lagash: all dating to 2900-2800 BC: which she proposes as the time of Noah and the Flood.

Related Reading

Fountains of the Great Deep and Noah’s Flood (Lorence G. Collins, 8-18-20)

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Photo credit: The Building of Noah’s Ark (c. 1675), by Französischer Meister [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Summary: I document several fascinating scientific arguments (from scientists) for a local Mesopotamian Flood c. 2900 BC. The various cumulative evidences are self-consistent and striking.

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