- ScienceDaily: “New Technique Unlocks Secrets of Ancient Ocean”
The most massive of the “mass-extinction events” recorded in the geologic column is the Permian-Triassic. Evolutionary paleontologists estimate that the end-Permian extinction 252 million years ago resulted in the demise of 90% of marine species.1 While the cause of this extinction event has eluded secular geologists, hypotheses have generally held that millions of years of oceanic oxygen depletion preceded the deaths. A new technique, however, has produced data indicative of a much more abrupt global event affecting earth’s oceans.
This new technique uses the ratio of uranium isotopes trapped in Permian carbonate rock to estimate the oxygenation of the ocean water in which the carbonate sediment was deposited.
This new technique uses the ratio of uranium isotopes trapped in Permian carbonate rock to estimate the oxygenation of the ocean water in which the carbonate sediment was deposited. Carbonate is the mineral found in seashells and therefore is typical of rocks made of oceanic sediment. Under low-oxygen conditions, dissolved uranium tends to precipitate out of water. And uranium-238 tends to precipitate faster than uranium-235.
Researchers from Arizona and Cincinnati examined the uranium content of Permian carbonate rock collected from Dawan in southern China. Rather than finding a gradual change in the uranium content and isotope ratios, they found an abrupt change suggestive of a sudden change in conditions.
“Our study shows that the ocean was anoxic for at most tens of thousands of years before the extinction event. That's much shorter than prior estimates,” says Gregory Brennecka, the lead author of the study published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The timing for the onset of widespread oceanic anoxia implied by our results from Dawen is difficult to reconcile with previous hypotheses of persistent anoxia for hundreds of thousands or millions of years prior to the end-Permian extinction event,” the authors conclude, adding, “The abruptness of the shifts . . . was the result . . . of a rapid and sustained change in oceanographic conditions.”2
Because uranium tends to have a homogeneous concentration and isotope ratio in today’s seawater worldwide, they suspect the findings represent a sudden global deoxygenation event. Of course, having developed this new technique, the team hopes to confirm that suspicion by studying “ancient anoxic events in many more places and times,” according to Ariel Anbar. “Over the past decade,” he explains, ”my research group has worked with many collaborators to develop new techniques to study changes in oxygen in the Earth's ocean through time. We are especially interested in the connections between ocean oxygenation and biological evolution. The uranium isotope technique is the newest method.”
The paper lists certain assumptions on which the team’s interpretation depends. They assumed that there was an “isotopically constant U input from rivers [the largest source of U to the oceans] over geologic time” as well as “a constant isotope fractionation between seawater”3 and the various places where precipitated uranium gets deposited. In other words, their interpretation that sudden global depletion of oceanic oxygen caused mass extinction assumes that nothing happened to suddenly change the amount of water flowing into the sea or to stir up the oceans more than usual.
The global Flood not only sends all the stated assumptions by which the investigators have interpreted their data out the window but actually explains their findings.
The biblical record however tells of a sudden global change in the oceans—the Flood. The global Flood not only sends all the stated assumptions by which the investigators have interpreted their data out the window but actually explains their findings. The Permian layers are at the top of the Paleozoic rock sequence, a sequence dominated by marine invertebrate fossils. In the upper layers of these Paleozoic rocks, amphibians and land animals do make their appearance. These layers represent not slow deposition and mass extinctions over millions of years but rather the order of rapid burial associated with the Flood.
The Paleozoic represents the lowest layers in the geologic record of the Flood and they are dominated by marine creatures because those would have been the first buried by oceanic upheavals as the earth’s crust cracked as described in Genesis 7:11.
The distribution of fossils in the higher layers would have depended in part upon animals’ abilities to flee the rising waters. Many tracks in the Permian layers even show the footprints of animals apparently scrambling uphill. Above those rocks, the Triassic and other layers preserve fossils of creatures that were engulfed as the waters finally prevailed over the whole earth, and then those buried later in post-Flood events.
The sudden change in uranium content and isotopes in Permian rock is consistent with the deposition of sediment swept away as the rising waters reached terrestrial ecosystems. No scientist can literally measure “other times,” but we can make educated guesses about the past based on the materials that remain. If these abrupt changes in Permian uranium are a snapshot of abrupt global changes at the time those Permian rock layers were laid down, then those changes are a snapshot of the turbulent conditions of a part of the Flood year, perhaps even related volcanic outpourings of lavas and chemical-laden hot waters at the time. The Bible explains these sudden catastrophic changes to the earth’s surface, the resulting massive death toll, and apparently some significant geochemical changes as well.
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