Confirming the Bible: Using Computer Technology to Part the Red Sea
10/11/2010 by: Darleen Hartley
A research team from the National Center for Atmospheric Research [NCAR] and the University of Colorado [CU] at Boulder is parting the Biblical Red Sea using computer modeling. Wind movement is blamed for letting Moses and his crew escape the clutches of the Pharaoh’s minions. A bend in an ancient river might have been the escape route.
The team reconstructed likely locations and depths of Nile delta waterways which have shifted quite a bit since the miraculous phenomena took place. A strong east wind blowing all night could have pushed water into the river and a coastal lagoon along the Mediterranean Sea leaving exposed mud flats that could be traversed on foot. As the wind ceased, the waters would have quickly returned to their normal depth closing the opening, drowning pursuers not lucky enough to have caught up with their prey.
The Exodus which took place more than 3,000 years ago is still an event that experts of the Doubting Thomas genre are still uncertain of. Archeologists and Egyptologists have found little direct evidence to substantiate many of the events described in the Bible, although Charleton Heston made it look pretty believable.
Carl Drews, lead author from NCAR whose master's thesis in atmospheric and oceanic sciences at CU inspired the study, says: "The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus. The parting of the waters can be understood through fluid dynamics. The wind moves the water in a way that's in accordance with physical laws, creating a safe passage with water on two sides and then abruptly allowing the water to rush back in." The research project includes looking into the impacts of winds on water depths, including the extent to which Pacific Ocean typhoons can drive storm surges.
Other natural events have been studied, attempting to explain the miracle as described in the Bible that a mighty east wind blew all night, splitting the waters and leaving a passage of dry land with walls of water on both sides. A tsunami would not have been a gradual parting of the waters, nor is wind associated with the destructive tidal wave. The opposite of a storm surge, a "wind setdown," is where a strong and persistent wind lowers water levels in one area while piling up water downwind. Such an event in the Nile delta in the 19th century has been documented when a powerful wind pushed away about five feet of water and exposed dry land.
Oceanographers Doron Nof of Florida State University and Nathan Paldor of Hebrew University of Jerusalem looked at the possible role of wind setdown. Later, Russian researchers, Naum Voltzinger and Alexei Androsov, found that winds blowing from the northwest at minimal hurricane force [74 miles per hour] theoretically could have exposed an underwater reef near the modern-day Suez Canal. However, Drews and CU oceanographer Weiqing Han, found that such a reef needs to be entirely flat for the water to drain off in 12 hours. More realistically, a reef with lower and deeper sections would have retained channels making wading across it difficult, not to mention the escapees would have been challenged by hurricane-force winds.
This research study places the crossing site about 75 miles north of the Suez reef and just south of the Mediterranean Sea, where it is thought to have had an ancient branch of the Nile River which flowed into a coastal lagoon, then known as the Lake of Tanis. Drews and Han completed an extensive analysis of archeological records, satellite measurements, and current-day maps. This helped them estimate the water flow and depth that may have existed 3,000 years ago.
The team went with a specialized ocean computer model to simulate the impact of wind at that site. What they discovered was that a 63 mile an hour wind, with an overnight duration of 12 hours would have pushed back waters probably six feet deep. Water pushed into both the lake and channel of the river would have created a barrier of water on both sides of the exposed mud flats about 2 to 2.5 miles long and 3 miles wide.
Fourteen computer model simulations found two nearby sites that might have been similarly affected, but the water would have been pushed to only one side, not two. Drews says: "What this study shows is that the description of the waters parting indeed has a basis in physical laws."
Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Nile River, Lake of Tanis, National Center for Atmospheric Research, NCAR, University of Colorado, CU, Carl Drews, Bible, Doron Nof, Florida State University, Exodus, wind setdown, tsunami, Nathan Paldor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Naum Voltzinger, Alexei Androsov, Suez Canal, Weiqing Han
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