Geologic Rate Change in Yellowstone Valley

on November 10, 2007

Geologists working in Yellowstone National Park have discovered that the Yellowstone Valley is rising more than three times faster than “usual,” reports ScienceNOW on research published in the journal Science.

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Yellowstone sits above a giant volcano, the Yellowstone caldera, whose last eruption left a 2,400 sq. km. crater that contains Yellowstone Lake. The geological “hot spot” deep inside the earth that fuels the volcano is still active, which has scientists wondering what’s up. This activity is evidenced by the three-fold increased rate at which the valley is rising.

Three times faster than usual isn’t actually that fast, though; the jump has been from two centimeters per year (the average from 1923 to 2004) up to seven centimeters over the past three years. The rate intrigues scientists, though other signs indicate there is no need to worry about an eruption.

Somewhat dramatic changes of the valley’s growth rate should remind us that nature is fickle and far from uniform. The idea of mostly uniform rates of change—including both erosion and formation of geologic structures—is central to secular science’s methods of dating canyons, mountain ranges, and the like. Secular scientists generally extrapolate backward into the past using present rates to help them derive such ages.

But what does it tell you about the accuracy of such extrapolations when measurements can triple (or more) unexpectedly and without explanation? As humans, we only have a very limited understanding of geological processes—which is, for example, why scientists are puzzled about Yellowstone’s current growth phase. This is all in addition to the wrench that catastrophes, such as floods, throw in the works of geological uniformitarianism.

The past is, ultimately, inaccessible to us. Extrapolations into the past must be based on presuppositions. For naturalists, the presupposition is that geological processes must have functioned basically the same, and at similar rates, since earth’s early history. For creationists, the presupposition is that God’s account of earth history—as presented in Genesis—shapes (pardon the pun) our understanding of geology.

A trickle of water may take millions of years to carve a canyon—but only if that trickle of water never became a raging torrent.

Furthermore, when we creationists—time and time again—observe catastrophic geological processes that reform the earth’s exterior in a short period of time, and when we creationists see rates of change in nature fluctuate dramatically, we conclude that such data makes sense in light of the timeline of history the Bible gives us. A trickle of water may take millions of years to carve a canyon—but only if that trickle of water never became a raging torrent. It’s not that the idea of catastrophic formation is so unthinkable; it’s that the presuppositions of naturalists close their minds to the possibility of a worldwide catastrophe (Flood) that can account for much of earth’s geology without needing millions of years.

For a fully documented account of catastrophic canyon formation (up to 80 ft [24 m] deep in three days), see “Texas’s Miniature Grand Canyon.”

Oh, and if you would like to learn more about the accuracy of dating the earth using radioisotopes, take a look at “RATE: Overturning Millions of Years.”

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