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Two South African research scientists have documented a phenomenon that indicates a particular type of soil erosion might have taken place in a split second rather than eons, as mainstream scientists have believed.

The conclusion could upset widely accepted estimates for the age of the Earth.

The research by Professors Jasper Knight and Stefan Grab of the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg has been published in the journal Geomorphology.

The scientists concluded that “lightning strikes causing rocks to explode have for the first time been shown to play a huge role in shaping mountain landscapes.”

The previous assumption was that cold temperatures, in combination with water freezing and thawing, were responsible for a series of angular rock formations in the Drakensberg Range in South Africa.

The scientists used a compass to document their thesis.

“A compass needle always points to the magnetic north. But when you pass a compass over a land’s surface, if the minerals in the rock have a strong enough magnetic field, the compass will read the magnetic field of the rock, which corresponds to when it was formed. In the Drakensburg, there are a lot of basalt rocks which contain a lot of magnetic minerals, so they’ve got a very strong magnetic signal,” Knight explained.

Passing a compass over the target of a lightning strike will cause the needle suddenly to swing around 360 degrees.

That’s because a 54,000-degree lightning strike, “can, for a short time, partially melt the rock and when the rock cools down again, it takes on the magnetic imprint of today’s magnetic field, not the magnetic field of millions of years ago when the rock was originally formed,” he explained.

The drift of continents over the years has caused the magnetic north pole to shift.

As a result, there are two superimposed geomagnetic signatures.

It’s a very useful indicator for identifying the precise location of where the lightning struck,” Knight said.

The report said the research indicates that the assumption that mountains are affected only by cold, wind and water “is completely wrong.”

“African mountain landscapes sometimes evolve very quickly and very dramatically over short periods of time,” Knight said.

Brian Thomas, the science writer for the Institute for Creation Research, said the new research findings make “earth’s old age assignment even less credible.”

Most scientists long have estimated the earth is more than 4 billion years old, while many who believe the Genesis account of creation took place in a literal six days believe it’s only thousands of years old.

The finding that lightning can accomplish in a millisecond what previously was thought to take generations calls into question “old age assignments for earth’s land features,” Thomas wrote.

“How might this finding affect overall erosion rates estimated for entire continents? Geologists have studied erosion rates worldwide for decades. A 2011 meta study collated hundreds of data points, finding that land erodes on average at 40 feet every million years. At this rate, all continents reduce to sea level in only 50 million years – far too fast to accommodate the billion-year age assignments of so many exposed earth rocks,” he explained.

He said those estimates don’t even  account for lightning strikes.

“Lightning-generated cracks may not be a well-known erosional process, but earth scientists are generally more familiar with fulgarites – long, branched tubes of quickly melted and re-solidified materials created when lightning strikes sand and other ground debris. Yet, Earth’s surface does not display billions or even millions of years’ worth of fulgarites.”

He said a prominent physicist noted through the “alleged 4.6 billion years of earth history, ” there should be hundreds of such marks per square meter of land.

“Where are all the missing fulgarites? Why are continents and high mountains still standing despite dramatic lightning damage and relatively fast erosion rates. The answers to these questions are the same – the world is only thousands, not billions, of years old.”

Geomorphologist Bob Anderson, in a report at LiveScience, said he once saw a lightning bolt carve a trench 165 feet long and four inches deep while hiking along Colorado’s Front Range of mountains.

“One thing I’ve seen on summits in the West is a boulder whose original site was a meter away from where the block rests on the surface, a flat bedrock surface. There’s no other surface process (than lightning) that we know of that could do that,” he said.

Thomas, only a few weeks before, had raised questions about the results of a Geological Society of America study that concluded the average erosion rate for rocky outcrops is 40 feet every million years.

“The average thickness of continental crust above sea level can be estimated at about 634 meters, or 2,044 feet. To erode 2,000 feet of crust at 40 feet per 1 million years would require only 50 million years. So, if the earth is billions of years old, why is its surface not complete flat?”

“The fact that mountains and even continents still exist is testimony to the young age of the earth. It looks as though the continents cannot be billions of years old, because they would all have eroded in a fraction of that time. And yet they still stand tall,” he wrote.

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