Is There a Paleolimnological Explanation for ‘Walking on Water’ in the Sea of Galilee?
- 104 Downloads
Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) is a small freshwater lake (148 km2 and a mean depth of 20 m) situated in northern Israel. Throughout recent history there have been no known records of a total ice formation on its top. Furthermore, given that convection requires an initial cooling of the entire lake down to 4 °C, it is difficult to imagine how such a low-latitude lake, presently subject to two-digit temperatures during the winter, could ever freeze. Lake Kinneret is, however, unique in the sense that there are dense (warm and salty) springs along its western shore. The dynamics of the regions adjacent to these springs are investigated using a one-dimensional nonlinear analytical ice model, a paleoceanographic record of the sea surface temperature of the Mediterranean Sea, and a statistical model. We show that, because the water directly above the plume created by the salty springs does not convect when it is cooled down to 4 °C, freezing of the region directly above the salty springs was possible during periods when the climate in the region was somewhat cooler than it is today. We refer to this localized freezing situation as ‘springs ice’.
The analytical ice-model involves a slowly varying approach where the ice is part of a thin fresh and cold layer floating on top of the salty and warm spring water below. During the ice formation process, the ice is cooled by the atmosphere above and warmed by the spring water below. The plumes created by the springs have a length scale of 30 m, and it is argued that, during the Younger Dryas when the air temperature in the region was probably 7 °C or more cooler than today, ‘springs ice’ (thick enough to support human weight) was formed once every 27 years or less. During the cold events 1500 and 2500 years ago (when the atmospheric temperature was 3 °C or more lower than today) springs ice occurred about once in 160 years or less. Since the duration of these cold events is of the same order as the springs ice recurrence time, there is a substantial chance that at least one springs ice occurred during these cooler periods. With today's climate, the likelihood of a springs ice is virtually zero (i.e., once in more than 10,000 years).
One set of those springs associated with the freezing is situated in Tabgha, an area where many archeological features associated with Jesus Christ have been found. On this basis, it is proposed that the unusual local freezing process might have provided an origin to the story that Christ walked on water. Since the springs ice is relatively small, a person standing or walking on it may appear to an observer situated some distance away to be ‘walking on water’. This is particularly true if it rained after the ice was formed (because rain smoothes out the ice’s surface). Whether this happened or not is an issue for religion scholars, archeologists, anthropologists, and believers to decide on. As natural scientists, we merely point out that unique freezing processes probably happened in that region several times during the last 12,000 years.
Keywords‘Walking on water’ Air–lake interaction Convection Lake freezing Salty springs
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Anderson, D.L. 1961Growth rate of sea iceJ. Glaciol.311701172Google Scholar
- Antenucci, J.P., Imberger, J. 2003The seasonal wind/internal wave resonance in Lake KinneretLimnol. Oceanogr.4820552061Google Scholar
- Bard, E. 2002Climate shock: abrupt changes over millennial time scalesPhys. Today553238Google Scholar
- Bar-Matthews, M., Ayalon, A., Gilmour, M., Matthews, A., Hawkesworth, C.J. 2003Sea–land oxygen isotopic relationships from planktonic foraminifera and speleotherms in the Eastern Mediterranean region and their implication for paleorainfall during interglacial intervalsGeochim. Cosmochim. Acta6731813199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Bryson, R.U., Bryson, R.A. 1998
Application of a global volcanicity time-series on high-resolution paleoclimatic modeling of the Eastern MediterraneanIssar, A.S.Brown, N. eds. Times of Climatic ChangeKluwer Academic PublishersLondon119Google Scholar
- Csanady G.T. 1982. Circulation in the Coastal Ocean. D. Reidel.Google Scholar
- Rijk, S., Hayes, A., Rohling, E.J. 1997Eastern Mediterranean sapropel SI interruption: an expression of the onset of climatic deterioration around 7 ka BPMar. Geol.153337343Google Scholar
- Dutton, J.A., Bryson, R.A. 1962Heat flux in Lake MendotaLimnol. Oceanogr.78097Google Scholar
- Emeis, K.C., Struck, U., Schulz, H.M., Rosenberg, R., Basconi, S., Erlenkeuser, H., Sakamoto, T., Martinez-Ruiz, F. 2000Temperature and salinity variations of Mediterranean Sea surface waters over the last 16000 years from records of planktonic stable oxygen isotopes and alkenone unsaturation ratiosPalaegeogr. Palaeocl.158259280Google Scholar
- Guilderson, T.P., Fairbanks, R.G., Rubenstone, J.L. 1994Tropical temperature variations since 20000 years ago: modulating interhemispheric climate changesScience263663665Google Scholar
- Hakkinen, S. 1995Seasonal simulation of the southern ocean coupled ice-ocean systemJ. Geophys. Res.1002273322748Google Scholar
- Kantha, L., Mellor, G.L. 1989A two-dimensional coupled ice-ocean model of the Bering Sea marginal ice zoneJ. Geophys. Res.91092110936Google Scholar
- Lepparanta, M. 1993A review of analytical models of sea-ice growthAtmos.–Ocean31123138Google Scholar
- Mellor, G.L., Kantha, L. 1989An ice-ocean coupled modelJ. Geophys. Res.91093710954Google Scholar
- Neuman G. and Pierson W.J. 1966. Principles of Physical Oceanography. Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Nof, D., Paldor, N. 1992Are there oceanographic explanations for the Israelites' crossing of the Red-Sea??Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc.73305314Google Scholar
- Omstedt, A. 1998Freezing Estuaries and Semi-Enclosed Basins. Physics of Ice-Covered SeasHelsinki University Press2483516Google Scholar
- Omstedt, A. 1999Forecasting ice on lakes estuaries and shelf seasIce Phys. Nat. Environ.1185207Google Scholar
- Pixner, B. 1985The miracle church of Tabgha on the Sea of GalileeBiblical Archaeol.46196206Google Scholar
- Reale, O., Dirmeye, P. 2000Modeling the effects of vegetation on Mediterranean climate during the Roman Classical Period Part I: climate history and model sensitivityGlobal Planet. Change25163184Google Scholar
- Rimmer, A., Hurwitz, S., Gvirtzman, H. 1999Spatial and temporal characteristics of saline springs: Sea of Galilee IsraelGroundWater37663673Google Scholar
- Ryan, W., Pitman, W. 1998Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed HistorySimon & SchusterNew YorkGoogle Scholar
- Serruya, S. 1974The mixing patterns of the Jordan River in Lake KinneretLimnol. Oceanogr.19175181Google Scholar
- Shin, S.I., Liu, Z., Otto-Bliesner, B., Brady, E., Kutzbach, J., Harrison, S. 2003A simulation of the last glacial maximum climate using the NCAR-CCSMClim. Dyn.20127151Google Scholar
- Stefan, J. 1890Über die Theorie der Eisbildung in Spesondere über Eisbilding im Polarmeer StizBer. Kais. Akad. Wiss. Wein98965Google Scholar
- Stute, M., Forster, M., Frischkorn, H., Serejo, A., Clarke, J.F., Schlosser, P., Broecker, W.S., Bonani, G. 1995Cooling of Tropical Brazil (5°C) during the last glacial periodScience269379383Google Scholar
- Thorndike, A.S. 1992A toy model linking atmospheric thermal-radiation and sea ice growthJ. Geophys. Res.9794019410Google Scholar
- Venables W.N. and Ripley B.D. 2002. Modern Applied Statistics with S (4th ed.). Springer.Google Scholar
- Welander, P. 1977Thermal Oscillations in a fluid heated from below and cooled to freezing from aboveDyn. Atmos. Ocean.1215223Google Scholar