• James Tam

Noah’s Flood: A Hydrological Calculation


In (Genesis chapters 6–9) the Patriarch Noah saves himself, his family, and a remnant of all the world's animals when God decides to destroy the world because of evil mankind. God gives Noah detailed instructions, down to the construction material, probably to ensure that the epic penalty won’t be explained away as being merely “symbolic” when future humans become more knowledgeable yet no less superstitious, something that He no doubt had foreseen.

I wondered about the magnitude of God’s hydrodynamic wrath, so I did a little calculation, and discovered that the biggest mystery in the whole flood thing is the number 40.

I asked myself how much water was needed to kill everything on Earth, and where had the water gone to? The calculation is very simple. It shouldn’t deter even those who are allergic to mathematics.

To drown everything (including fish and sea slugs etc.) on earth, He had to fill the planet with enough water to submerge Mount Everest. He would have also added, say, 3m of nominal freeboard lest the Ark crash into it by accident, prematurely drowning family Noah and the animal collection; but let’s forget the significant detail of freeboard for now.

Even a 3m would be significant because the Earth approximates a sphere. When you add a layer to the outside, the percentage increase in volume would be much greater than what it might seem because the outside surface gets bigger very quickly. Just for information, the 3m freeboard would have come to about one and a half million cubic kilometres of water. Note that we are talking about cubic kilometre, not cubic metre.

Therefore, neglecting freeboard consideration, the numbers are as follows:

So it took quite a bit of water — 4.3 BILLION cubic kilometres of H20 — to submerged the Everest. The flood finally receded, thank God, but where to? The oceans? All the world’s oceans poured together make 1310 million cubic kilometres of water. Noah’s flood was three times that (or seven times the Pacific Ocean). The flood couldn’t have receded to the oceans.

Some learned religionist such as Bush might say: “Simple, it was locked up in ice. Look at Antarctica you idiot: So much ice, no end in sight.” But all the ice in this world, including Antarctica and the ice cubes in all the Scotches on the rocks only amounts to 24 million cubic kilometres. The Flood contained 182 times more water. For the benefit of those who think like Bush, water doesn’t shrink when frozen.

Clouds! It all turned into clouds, half way back up heaven. Good thinking. Water cycle: high school science. On an average day, we have 12,900 cubic kilometres of water drifting above. The Flood was 339,073 times greater.

Looks like we would need someone from the 911 Commission to explain the hydrological phenomena of Noah’s Flood in more understandable terms to the general public.

One alternative is that the Flood only submerged Mount Ararat where the Ark supposedly landed. Anything living at an altitude above Ararat’s 5.14 km stature could have been gassed or beheaded by Archangels instead. Noah was not informed of this detail because it was none of his business. God would have needed to keep the Ark away from the Himalayan region but that wouldn’t have been such a big deal given His power.

But a similar calculation would show that the Flood would still have been 4.19 times the Pacific Ocean, or 1.99 times all the water on planet Earth.

My brief calculations have confirmed that the religionists are right. God is beyond everything, including hydrological calculations. There is no point mixing the two.

To me, the only remaining puzzle in Noah’s Flood is in fact the number forty.

Why forty days and forty nights of incessant downpour at the precipitation rate of a waterfall? Why not five days, for example (since it would have made no difference to the Ark. If it could survive the 40-day waterfall, it would have survived anything), just to demonstrate that flushing out God’s faulty creations was nominally easier than manufacturing the universe, which took Him six? Or just an instantaneous flash flood to save time?

“Why Forty” seems to me a significant question that someone working on a PhD in theology could apply for research funding and immerse the rest of his life in. It might just take the authority of the Bible to a new milestone. Above is an illustration to the calculation exercise. In case you can't read the labelling of the floating debris clearly, it says: "Plants, animals, sinful men and babies died of punitive drowning."

Guo Du 12.09.2012

中文:“诺亚方舟” 的水文计算

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