Dripping Canyon Crust

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The Grand Canyon slices through the high Colorado Plateau, but how did the plateau come to be so high? New seismic data paints a picture of the plateau’s underbelly.

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Most geologists believe the Colorado River started carving the Grand Canyon six million years ago. But they’ve been unable to explain how, millions of years earlier, the “mostly undisturbed chunk of crust” known as the Colorado Plateau was lifted 2000 meters (6561 feet) above sea level.

The Earthscope Transportable Array measures the speed of seismic waves traveling through different substances to visualize the earth’s crust and mantle. Recent analysis has revealed an anomaly beneath the plateau.

The anomaly consists of a density 120 miles deep. Because its shape matches a discontinuity on the undersurface of the plateau’s crust, Rice University researchers believe this density “dripped” off of the undersurface six million years ago. Their theory is that molten mantle surged up to the undersurface of the crust, fused to it and increased its density, and made a chunk drop off. The molten mantle then buoyed the great plateau up above the surrounding crust. And it did so without causing the nicely layered plateau’s crust to be broken up.

That six-million-year figure has puzzled geologists. Uniformitarian calculations have demanded an uplift beginning 70 million years ago. Volcanic basalts across the plateau date at 25 and 6 million years. So “incision rates” (erosion rates calculated from radiometric dates) have suggested the canyon is only six million years old. The secular model has no explanation for the discrepancy, so the present study proposes this dripping blob and subsequent buoyant uplift.

Another researcher from the University of New Mexico, however, is skeptical. She says, “The tendency is to say we have what looks like a drip and therefore it is a drip. We need to be really careful about that interpretation.” She points out that the new theory depends upon the rock in the crust getting denser by a rearrangement of atoms such as iron into a tighter form. She argues that such “chemical changes aren’t well understood.”

“The facts” are subject to multiple interpretations, and without the ability to go back into the past to observe events first-hand, we simply must continue gathering evidence and see what interpretations fit the evidence best.

The debate over the interpretation of this geologic data illustrates an important scientific principle in the study of origins. “The facts” are subject to multiple interpretations, and without the ability to go back into the past to observe events first-hand, we simply must continue gathering evidence and see what interpretations fit the evidence best.

DiscoveryNews states, “the Colorado plateau remains an ugly mystery to geologists. They can’t figure out why and how it rose thousands of feet over the millions of years it took to carve spectacular natural wonders like the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.” The global Flood and post-Flood upheavals solve this mystery. In the wake of the Flood, the weakened mantle and crust were subjected to tectonic forces sufficient to lift up mountain chains and huge plateaus, including the layered sedimentary rock of the Colorado Plateau. Not only would the massive forces required to lift these huge portions of the earth’s surface be available at the end of the Flood, but the layered crust would be soft enough to resist cracking. In the unstable post-Flood world, a huge lake likely broke through the Kaibab Upwarp to carve the Grand Canyon.

This Flood geology model fits the evidence, and there is nothing inconsistent with it in this amazing glimpse of the invisible underside of earth’s great monument to catastrophe.

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