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Pre-Flood water cycle and first rains



Mist on Blessington Lake in Ireland. This is a good model of the pre-Flood water cycle.

The pre-Flood water cycle on earth confuses many students of the Bible. How could plants thrive without rain for 1,656 years? When did the first rain fall? When one understands what pre-Flood earth was like, one can answer these questions.

Pre-Flood water as mist

The Annals of Adam (Genesis 2:5-5:1a) begins like this:

Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth; and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. [Genesis 2:5-6, NASB]

Note the choice of words: used to rise. This was not a one-off event. This passage describes how the land got its regular ration of water. But where did that mist come from?

Walter T. Brown (In the Beginning) reminds his readers how rain and dew form. Water vapor does not condense out of the air into nothing but fluid. Water vapor can only condense onto something solid. Dew forms in this way on the ground. But rain also needs something solid at the core of every raindrop, unless the “rain” is an ocean spray or other spray.

That solid need not be large. It need not even be large enough to see. But if you have ever seen the body of a car or truck after a rain, you know that rain water is not “pure.” When rain dries, it leaves a fine dust. That dust contains the cores of raindrops that fell on the surface. The core of any raindrop can be a speck of very fine dust (typically a micron, or even a tenth of that, across), or even a bacterium. (See also here.) Fog forms closer to the ground in the same way.

A droplet, while forming, will warm slightly. When water strikes one of these tiny cores (condensation nuclei), it gives up its energy to the core as heat. That heat will make the core rise, and take the water with it. The core will gather more water until it grows too heavy to stay aloft, and it falls to earth.

Pre-Flood topography

Mist on Blessington Lake. This is a good model of the pre-Flood water cycle.

Mist rises over Blessington Lake in Ireland, early in the morning. © Copyright IrishFlyFisher and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-alike 2.0 Generic License

Topography influences the water cycle. To understand the pre-Flood water cycle, one must understand pre-Flood topography. Simply put, pre-Flood earth did not have the high mountains that it has today. It did not have mountains high enough to collect ice and snow. These are the sources of modern fast-flowing rivers. Furthermore, because the earth did not have mountains in those days, temperatures were more uniform. So the high winds (and hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, cold fronts, etc.) of today did not blow before the Flood. Winds were far more gentle.

Pre-Flood water gathered into rivers, and the Bible mentions four of them. (They include two rivers named Tigris and Euphrates. These are not the same as the modern Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq. Post-Flood man named those two rivers after two of the most prominent rivers that Noah and his sons remembered.) But those rivers did not flow as fast, or run as deep, as rivers flow and run today.

Rivers would flow very slowly, and sometimes would encircle a large body of land. The mist would settle into valleys to form these first rivers. They would evaporate during the day and re-condense by night. The land would get a daily ration of water.

Recall also that pre-Flood earth did not have the sedimentary rock and rock strata of today. So the heavy mist would seep into the ground and form springs. These would be the sources of rivers in low-lying areas.

So the pre-Flood water cycle would have some of the same features of the modern water cycle, but not all.

The first rain

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Pre-Flood water never fell as rain. So the first rain would have been frightening enough to those caught out in it. Worse yet, this rain was violent. The Hebrew word that all Bible translators render as rain in Genesis chapter 7 is geshem. This is no ordinary rain. It is a hard, pounding rain, hard enough to destroy a mortar wall. (See Ezekiel 13:11-13. Ezekiel uses that word geshem again. Modern translators render this as “flooding rain.”)

This kind of rain did not form as gentle condensation around tiny solids. This was a spray from a jet that came through the earth’s crust, from a sub-crustal ocean under pressure. This is the rain that fell for forty days and forty nights. It marked the end of the pre-Flood water cycle. After that, rain and snow would form in high-level clouds, something new in human experience.

No pre-Flood water vapor canopy

The pre-Flood water cycle makes a pre-Flood water vapor canopy unnecessary. Isaac Vail, in 1874, first suggested such a canopy. He read the account of Creation Day Two, about the “expanse in the middle of the waters.” But he completely misread that. That expanse is not a canopy. It is the earth’s crust itself, that separated the pre-Flood water on the surface from the subcrustal ocean that later, and disastrously, broke through.

Brown summarizes, and refutes, all the arguments for a pre-Flood water canopy. No such canopy could hold all the water for the Flood. (If it did, it would crush pre-Flood man and all the animals from atmospheric pressure alone, and probably bake them from the heat, like the atmosphere of Venus.) Nor did man need the canopy to shield him from radiation. The radiation came from the earth itself, from the carbon-14 that formed from cluster decay during the great earthquakes (magnitude 10 to 12) that happened during the Flood. (The human lifespan might also have fallen because Noah and his family formed an extreme population bottleneck.) Nor do we need a canopy to explain a uniformly warm climate, or the first rain.


The pre-Flood water cycle was a simple cycle for a simple world. It gave abundant water to all the land, and produced lush growth and plenty of food for humans and animals. The theory behind it is also simple enough to explain the difference between pre- and post-Flood water cycles without a water vapor canopy.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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Either science is credible or it isn’t. If it is, the bible is full of lies. If not, then you can’t use it to support your fairy tales.


HOW does science NOT align with the Bible, unless you adhere to metaphysical naturalism?

Fergus Mason

“HOW does science NOT align with the Bible, unless you adhere to metaphysical naturalism?”

Science doesn’t deal with metaphysics at all. However it does adhere very strictly to the principle of methodological naturalism, otherwise it isn’t science.

Fergus Mason

“science, as you define it”

But Terry, that’s not science as I define it; it’s science as all scientists define it. Science must be testable, reproducible and falsifiable. As soon as you start adding in non-naturalistic factors that goes out the wndow and you are no longer doing science.

Fergus Mason

“Trouble is, the all-naturalistic explanations end up failing the very tests you put to it.”

No, I don’t think so.

“it can certainly tell us that Someone had to intervene in the course of “nature.””

It certainly can. But it never does.

Fergus Mason

“Do you deny, then, that the uniformitarian/abiogenetic/common descending paradigm insists on the null hypothesis, though the odds against same are a lot longer than the nineteen-to-one that is the conventional limit?”

Uh what?

Fergus Mason

“Water vapor can only condense onto something solid.”

Uh, no. The presence of condensation nuclei assists the condensation of water from vapour, but is not essential to it. Even without something solid to condense onto, water vapour will eventually become so saturated that condensation happens anyway.

Fergus Mason

“Not under typical ambient atmospheric conditions.”

Depends on the temperature.

Anyway, as you’re talking about a mythical Earth with no mountains or weather, typical conditions hardly seem relevant.


“though the odds against same are a lot longer than the nineteen-to-one that is the conventional limit?”

Such a strange statement – do you mean to claim that if the odds of a particular outcome are less than 5%, and that outcome then occurs, that methodological naturalism is disproven? That supernatural intervention is required for such outcomes?


The odds of any particular individual winning a lottery are much less than 19 to 1 against, and yet individuals win lotteries all the time. Does that invalidate methodological naturalism?

The odds of flipping a fair coin and getting five heads in a row is only ~3%. Does getting five heads in a row require supernatural intervention?



Your whole “against all odds” logic ignores a very basic factor – scale. When you have a whole planet to work with, not just a test tube, the total number of interactions taking place at any given moment on a planetary scale are staggering. Even when the odds are low, the sheer number of events taking place over billions of years makes it entirely possible for unlikely events to occur in sufficient numbers to support a naturalistic explanation.

As for this statement:

“The Alternative Hypothesis: God is here, and He jolly well does intervene.”

I’ve already pointed out that if the Genesis narrative was literally true, then an omnipotent, omniscient God would “jolly well have intervened” to set up the so-called fall of man with deliberate intent, making any premise of original “sin” meaningless since this was all by design.

Fergus Mason

“Precisely! If the odds against the null hypothesis get longer than nineteen to one, any statistician will tell you: reject the null hypothesis.”

You do know what “null hypothesis” actually means, right?

Anyway. If my hypothesis is that pixies assist us in randomly drawing a playing card from a deck, and that those pixies prefer the Ace of Spades, the null hypothesis is that pixies don’t assist and that what card is drawn is random. If I then randomly draw a card and it’s the Ace of Spades, what does that do to the null hypothesis?

Fergus Mason

“You haven’t shown the billions of years.”

Terry, that the Earth is billions of years old is universally accepted in the scientific community. To come out with statements like that is exactly akin to saying “You haven’t shown an attractive force between masses” or “You haven’t shown that germs cause disease.” If you’re going to challenge such a solid piece of science the burden of proof is on YOU.


I’ll pass on taking this forum off track into a re-opened debate on the age of the universe, which has been covered in multiple essays and discussion threads on CNaV. Suffice it to say that the natural sciences have many independently-correlating methods of showing that the universe is in the order of billions of years old. By contrast, the YEC requirement to make any observation fit a preset age leads to many unprovable assertions and assumptions, which is not science at all.

It’s as simple as the difference between letting objective rulers measure reality for what it is, versus tinkering with the meaning and definition of the rulers until their measurements fit a predetermined answer.

To the other point, God may not have designed humans as robots, but He designed them with such an inadequate level of wisdom and reasoning ability that they followed the suggestion of a talking animal over the rule of their Creator in exercising free will. That’s not only a case of being designed for failure, but God created the talking animal as well.

Unless you’re going to argue that God is not omniscient, the final point is that the outcome was as apparent to God as putting two trains on the same track headed towards each other, and then blaming the trains for the inevitable crash.


Your single example of a bad correlation has been addressed many times before – different techniques are used for different presumed age ranges, and submitting a recent sample to be tested by a technique intended for very old samples was a bad-faith gimmick, not objective science.

Continuing to present that case after it’s been discredited, while failing to address the many, many examples that do correlate is willful ignorance. Correlation is about plotting data trends through clouds of independent measurements that may include outliers, and the fact that such outliers can exist doesn’t invalidate the correlation itself.

Fergus Mason

“The scientific community once “universally suggested” phlogiston until Antoine Lavoisier showed his colleagues how wrong they were.”

It also once universally accepted an Earth that was thousands of years old. However it slowly and reluctantly changed its views as evidence piled up, and it has now been long accepted – thanks to multiple lines of evidence – that Earth is 4.6 billion years old. Lavoisier showed his colleagues how wrong they were about phlogiston – and let’s remember that rather than start a huge conspiracy to push his findings under the carpet and maintain orthodoxy they accepted them and moved on – but nobody has come up with ANY evidence for a young Earth that isn’t explained at least as well by the existing paradigm. If you want to challenge that paradigm you’re going to have to do a lot better than Walt Brown’s rubbish or petty carping about dishonestly conducted “tests” of radiometric dating.

Fergus Mason

“Your “existing paradigm” relies on a lot of assumptions that turn out to be unsafe and unwarranted.”

OK, name an unsafe assumption that I make.

Then compare it with Walt Brown’s apparent assumption that heat doesn’t exist. You do know that his “theory” involves an energy release equivalent to detonating a hydrogen bomb (yield unspecified, but let’s assume it’s the theoretical minimum of about 40Kt) on EVERY SQUARE METRE of the Earth’s surface?

I can tell you from personal experience that one pound of TNT is fully capable of devastating a square metre of ground, and by “devastating” I mean scything it clean of all plant matter, digging out a fairly impressive crater and killing everything larger than a microbe. Well, Brown is postulating dumping at least FORTY MILLION TIMES as much energy on every square metre of the planet, then asking us to believe in Noah’s Ark. I’ve been on the USS Iowa, Terry, and as magnificent as she is, she would have been reduced to quarks by that kind of energy budget. Just how strong do you think gopher wood is?

Fergus Mason

“That radioactive materials decay at the same rate”

That’s known and has been thoroughly verified, and it can also be easily determined through basic principles of atomic theory – which I assume you don’t dispute…

“(except for minor seasonal variations that average out over time—and were I not a Christian, I would wager you didn’t even know about those.)”

Oh yes, I know about the one somewhat controversial paper that suggests very minor seasonal variations in a few isotopes that aren’t used for radiometric dating. Nobody thinks it’s an issue.

“That the initial concentration of all daughter nuclides in all radiometric dating schemes were all known, and were all zero.”

That’s not an assumption. Dating methods use isotopes chosen precisely because we can work out initial ratios based on well understood principles. K-Ar dating, for example, uses a daughter isotope that is a gas.

“That nothing adds to or takes away from the concentrations of daughter nuclide except for radioactive decay.”

If you can sugges something else that would produce daughter isotopes I’d be genuinely fascinated.

“after Steven A. Austin obtained that remarkable result that makes you cry “FOUL!” so.”

Yes, because Austin knowingly submitted a contaminated sample for an inappropriate dating method. The only thing remarkable about his result is that he had the bare-faced cheek to publish it. It was the equivalent of a man turning his camera flash off, taking pictures in a dark room then claiming that the developer was incompetent because the photos came out black.

“He observes that any fluid, suddenly decompressed and rapidly expanding, cools as it expands.”

And, in cooling, releases heat. Brown’s “theory” is ludicrous on the subject of heat. That’s probably why he doesn’t want to debate it.

“Oh, yes, you’re probably a global warming alarmist, in addition to all your other progressive-inspired theories, are you not?”

Not really. Global warming is occurring – that’s obvious from the data – but I’m far from convinced that CO2 can entirely account for it. I’m also far from convinced that it’s necessarily a bad thing.

Fergus Mason

“We might be able to agree that the globe has been warmer than it is now”

It certainly has been. It’s had both higher and lower CO2 levels, too.

“and nothing more serious is happening than that we are coming out of the Little Ice Age.”

No, there’s more going on than that. It’s definitely an oft-overlooked factor though.

“I would advise anyone who still wants to press the charge that Dr. Austin sent a contaminated sample to Geochron Laboratories (and not just one, but five), to try pressing it in a court of law. I would be very interested to see how quickly we could settle that canard, if those bringing it forward were prepared to adhere to the rather rigid requirements of pre-trial discovery.”

I’d simply hand over a copy of Austin’s own paper, in which he admits that his samples were contaminated with volcanic glass, xenoliths and ferrous debris from his crushing plant. We’ve been over this before, Terry. There’s no doubt that Austin’s samples were contaminated, because Austin admitted it quite openly.

Science isn’t done in court, by the way.

Fergus Mason

“Yes, I have noticed that you don’t accept all parts of The Package.”

Does that mean you’re going to stop claiming that I want to confiscate privately owned firearms?

Fergus Mason

“If the private evidence you shared with me is accurate, the answer is yes.”

Thank you.


I’m sorry that you haven’t seen fit to flesh out your claims about the lack of rain or general geography pre-Flood.

But your contrail statement caught my eye – are you (and by you I mean Walt, since he seems to be the idea guy) claiming that contrails are formed because jet exhaust is colder than the surrounding air, therefore causing the water in the air to condense into visible clouds? That’s a claim that is contrary to the accepted science of contrail formation, which states that as hot, humid jet exhaust cools to local lower ambient temperature the mix of exhaust and air becomes supersaturated with respect to liquid water and ice crystals. The mathematics have been worked out to some degree since the 1940’s and 1950’s, although more recent advances have been made. The Air Force has long been interested in the phenomenon because contrail formation tends to make planes easier to spot and intercept. See for some of the history and theory. The jet exhaust is cooled by the trophospheric air, not the other way around.

If surface air is cold enough and has the correct humidity, contrails will form at ground level as well – in fact automobile exhaust will leave a contrail. I have personally experienced -40 F conditions in which human breath formed a persistent cloud of ice crystals in a calm declivity. If Walt’s model were true, why would contrails only form when the surrounding air is very cold and fairly humid (relatively speaking)?

I’m unaware of anyone who claims that the heat of jet exhaust is a significant contributing factor to climate change. The climatic effects of contrails are difficult to predict, since they both block incoming sunlight (tend to cool) and reflect IR radiation from the ground (tend to warm). Thick contrails cool, thin contrails heat. The net effect seems to be one of very minor warming, but this is not because of the heat of the exhaust.


“Not under typical ambient atmospheric conditions.”

Well, let’s find out more about the conditions you claim were in place pre-Flood so we can work on the model a bit more.

(As an aside, I’m wondering what your evidence is for the lack of mountains/high winds/cold fronts/hurricanes, etc. prior to the Flood. Scriptural or otherwise.)

To start with, what is the upper bound for windspeed in your model? What mechanism prevents the formation of clouds and rain as we know them today? Does a version of the Jet Stream (or other high-altitude high-speed winds) exist, and if not why not? Can mist travel at high altitudes and descend to water the earth, or is the mist-evaporation cycle strictly a local phenomenon? Are there any current-epoch regions on Earth that demonstrate this effect?

You describe rivers that are shallower and slower than current-epoch rivers. What kind of flow rates are you suggesting? What mechanism brings moisture upstream in quantities large enough to compensate for the losses from river flow? Over the course of a day, how much time is taken up by deposition of moisture and how much by evaporation? Evaporative losses from river surfaces is quite low compared to evaporation from seas or oceans. Current-day examples of rivers running through deserts abound, in which water evaporating from the river provides essentially no moisture to the surrounding lands. Similarly, even regions composed of many interlinked surface lakes, like the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, are dependent on rainfall, and topsoil there dries out quickly in the absence of rain even with open water only a few dozen yards away. So, are ocean mists transported in from longer distances a major contributor to local moisture? Was the Earth more like a swamp or archipelago of many small islands, such that any land area was only a short distance from a large body of water? Was the relative humidity constantly close to 100%?

I confess I have difficulty seeing how local mist transport, over a few hours of the day, can provide adequate hydration for any plant growth, much less replace the daily regional losses to stream and river flow.


Take, for example, our local small river which currently has a flow rate of 990 cf/sec. That’s 100,000,000 liters/hr or 2.4×9 liters/day. Every day (on average) 2.4 billion liters of water must enter the watershed just to replace this flow.

The watershed for this smallish river upstream of the flow station is ~2,000,000 acres or 8.1×9 m2. 2.4×9 liters over 8.1×9 m2 is 290 cc/m2, or 2.9mm of water deposited per day. As a reality check, this comes out to 1058 mm of water per year which is a close match to our actual average rainfall of 980 mm/year.

Given an average cloud water content of 1 cm3/m3, this requires that a fogbank 290 meters thick roll in over this watershed every day and deposit all of its moisture. None of this water can come from within the watershed, mind you, or there would be a net loss of water. And it must settle out in such a way that it is not considered ‘rain’, and it must do so in less than 24 hours.

Let’s make this watershed a square, 90km by 90km, lying right on a coastline. This way the block of mist only has to travel 90 km at most to reach the far back edge of the watershed. With a nice 24 kph breeze to push it it can cover the whole area in 3.7 hours, at which point it starts to fall, not as rain, but as dew or mist. I don’t know. Maybe that could work, but not at typical cloud droplet fall rates of 10 cm/hr. And for distances more than say 100 km from a major body of water it’s going to be hard to transport the fog there fast enough. In real life my watershed is narrow and long; more like 40 km by 200 km. It would require some high winds to keep the far end watered.

It might be a fun exercise to start with a no-flow scenario in which there are no rivers, just lakes. Pick a water deposition rate that seems reasonable, like 2mm/day per m2, then determine by trial and error what percentage of surface area must be water in order for evaporation and deposition to provide that rate, taking into account that mist comes from the water surface area only but falls on the water and land alike. For my watershed, open water and wetland together represent about 1% of the total surface area, so to get 2mm of mist deposited over the whole watershed would require 2cm of evaporation from the open water and wetland every day. I haven’t checked what the average pan evaporation rates are around here, so I can’t offhand say whether that’s unreasonable, but I suspect that that is too high.


typo in that last paragraph – make it 20 cm of evaporation from the water surface, not 2 cm.


“But He did choose out some people whom He would steer to the right choices.”

So, then, you worship a jerk who plays favorites.

Fergus Mason

“Romans 8:28 and following. Look it up. I didn’t make the call. He did.”

Yes, where “He=Saul of Tarsus.” Because you see, we know who wrote Romans and it wasn’t any god.

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