Remnants of a cypress forest were recently discovered off Alabama’s coast. What climate changes could explain such a massive rise in ocean level?
Sixty feet (18 m) beneath the green waves of the Gulf of Mexico, about 15 miles (24 km) off the Alabama coast, lie the remnants of an ancient forest of giant cypress trees.1 For hundreds of yards (meters), the stumps follow the lazy meanders of what appears to be an ancient river channel that flows down from the coast, near the place where two present-day rivers spill into the sea through the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta.
How did a forest ever grow here, and when did the ocean level rise enough to bury a forest and river? That’s an interesting question, showing that ocean levels have fluctuated dramatically since Noah’s Flood. Global warming and coastal flooding are not just modern worries!
Stumps are scattered across the seafloor 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) apart, spaced just as they would be in a modern floodplain forest on the banks of a coastal river. The stumps along the edge of the old river channel are the most exposed, in some cases rising as much as 5 feet (1.5 m) above the bottom, usually beginning with a tangle of roots and ending in a stump. Some of the trunks are massive, stretching up to 10 feet (3 m) across. Away from the river channel’s edge, more stumps dot the seafloor, but they are seldom as big, and they seldom rise more than a few inches (up to 10 cm) above the surrounding sand.
The stumps bear the telltale, irregular shapes of cypress, each stump being surrounded by a ring of cypress knees (knobby wood rising from the roots of swamp-growing trees), just as in modern cypress forests. Fallen trees are also visible, too large for divers to wrap their arms around.
Hurricane Ivan blew through the area in 2004, removing the mud and exposing the stumps. The wood is now rotting but still remarkably well preserved. When cut, the wood releases the scent of fresh cypress, and fresh sap oozes.
Their presence on the seafloor provides powerful evidence of the massive climate changes that swept the earth after the global Flood about 4,300 years ago. Water from the ocean was locked up in massive ice sheets and glaciers for a brief time during the Ice Age in the centuries after the Flood, causing the sea level to lower. The cypress forests spread into this newly exposed coastline. Then rapid melting of the ice sheets about 4,000 years ago flooded the forest, covering the stumps and fallen logs with thick mud and preserving the wood.
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