One of the difficulties that a supporter of the global flood theory faces is that there is seemingly not enough water in the world today to flood the entire planet. To explain this, a canopy of water is sometimes proposed. This canopy has been proposed to take one of three forms: vapour, liquid or ice. The idea is that this canopy once surrounded the entire world prior to the flood during the days of Noah. This theory is said to have the following explanatory power:
- It explains where all the flood water came from.
- It explains how people lived to many hundreds of years old (see Genesis 5) as damaging solar and cosmic radiation such as UV rays (that can be harmful to DNA) would have been prevented from entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
- This then further explains why the long lifespans dropped following the flood of Noah as the canopy came crashing down leading to a drop in lifespans from around 900 years down to less than 120 years.
However, there are a number of issues with this idea:
- A passage commonly referred to is:
o ‘And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.’[i]
Some interpret this as meaning that there was a second layer of water above the oceans and that this must have been a water canopy. However, contrary to the suggestion that this canopy collapsed during the flood of Noah, what we instead see is that the waters above the heavens were still being discussed by the Psalmist:
o ‘Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.’[ii]
The waters above the heavens could not have still existed in the time of David or later if it was the key to the source of the rain in Noah’s flood and destroyed during the deluge. Therefore, the expression must be referring to something other than a vapour canopy.
- In order for the canopy of water to hold all the water needed to flood the world, it would need to be at least a kilometre thick. At this thickness, it would be impossible for any sunlight to penetrate the canopy at all. It would not just block out ‘harmful UV rays’, but would also block out sunlight: one of the essential ingredients needed for photosynthesis to occur. Without sunlight, all plants and animals on Earth would die. Studies have found the following with regards to light penetration of the oceans:
o only 73% of the surface light reaches a depth of 1 centimeter (less than a half inch)
o only 44.5% of the surface light reaches a depth of 1 meter (3.3 feet)
o 22.2% of the surface light reaches a depth of 10 meters (33 feet)
o 0.53% of the surface light reaches a depth of 100 meters (330 feet)
o 0.0062% of the surface light reaches a depth of 200 meters[iii]
According to this, even a thickness of 10 meters of a water canopy would be enough to reduce light penetration from the Sun by more than 75% of what it is now. Assuming a conservative estimate of 100 metres (bearing in mind that one that was a few km thick would be more suitable for holding the water needed for Noah’s flood) would be enough to reduce light penetration by more than 99%, which would have an enormous impact on the ability of plants to photosynthesise. And the vapour canopy would not have been a temporary structure either: using an entirely literal chronology, the flood of Noah takes place around 1,300 years after the date of creation. Life would have been unsustainable in this form for so long and nor would creatures and people on the ark be able to casually live out their existences after the flood in environmental conditions so drastically different to those that they were born in to.
- Continuing the point raised above, the stars would not be visible through a dense vapour or water canopy, despite Genesis 1:14 stating that the stars were placed in the heavens for the purpose of being for signs and seasons:
o ‘And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.”’[iv]
- If the lack of a water canopy was responsible for the decrease in the lifespans of the patriarchs, due to lack of filtering of harmful UV rays, then you would expect an instantaneous decrease in ages. But this is not what we see:
Even for people born after the flood, when the canopy is said to have been destroyed, lifespans still stretched over as many as 464 years (Eber). A better explanation is that the ages of the patriarchs followed a quantitative number system rather than the qualitative system that we use in the modern era.[vi] In other words, the ages were used to represent the quality of a person’s life rather than the length of their existence.
- A water canopy would not have simply been suspended there of its own accord. This would be equivalent to holding an anvil in the air and expecting it to not fall. This canopy would have fallen down almost instantly after its construction. The only possible way for a canopy like this to be supported would be if the atmospheric pressure and temperature at the Earth’s surface was significantly higher than it is now. So much higher in fact that all life on Earth would be burnt up and pulverised by extreme temperatures and air pressures, which would lead to all of the oceans being boiled off. In turn, the high temperatures would themselves cause the vapour canopy to disintegrate and collapse down to Earth, again, crushing all life on Earth.
o ‘There would have to be enough vapor to form 9km of liquid, when condensed, and, therefore the vapor would weigh as much as 9km of water. The pressure at the earth’s surface, where Noah and family lived, would be equal to one atmosphere PLUS the weight of a 9km column of water of unit area. This is equivalent to the pressure 9km deep in the ocean. What is this pressure? Well, each 10m of water is roughly equivalent to one atmosphere, so the pressure would be 900 atmospheres. The atmosphere would also have a composition of about 900 parts water vapor to one part of what we call air today. How could an atmosphere almost 100% water vapor not condense? The temperature would have to be raised to the point where the partial pressure of water equals 900 atmospheres, i.e. the boiling point at that pressure. So we find Noah et al. living in a 13,000psi boiler. Is this credible?’ [vii]
- Sometimes supporters of the vapour canopy theory will refer to ‘rapid plate tectonics’ to explain why the canopy only needed to be a few hundred metres thick, rather than a number of km thick, in order to explain where the flood water came from. The idea behind this is that prior to the flood, it is suggested that there were no mountains and that the world had much more smooth low-lying terrain and that therefore only a small amount of water was needed to flood the whole planet up to its maximum altitude. However, as mentioned previously, even a low thickness of water in the canopy would prevent most sunlight from penetrating through to the Earth’s surface. In addition, the energy generated by rapid tectonic plate movements would have been enormously devastating to the entire planet:
o ‘Baumgardner estimated a release of 10^28 joules from the subduction process. This is more than enough to boil off all the oceans. In addition, Baumgardner postulated that the mantle was much hotter before the Flood (giving it less viscosity); that heat would have to go somewhere, too.’[viii]
Once again, the problems caused by these facts are insurmountable. Having all the oceans boiled off and all life on Earth dying is not just a ‘minor problem’ for the theory, rather it is not unreasonable to state that they are entirely devastating to the entire theory and that the theory should therefore be abandoned.
- There is no precedent for this kind of structure elsewhere in the observable universe.
- As a result of the problems listed above, even a number of young-Earth creation science organisations including ‘Answers in Genesis’ and the ‘Institute for Creation Research’ have since abandoned the theory:
o ‘Currently, the pitfalls of the canopy model have grown to such an extent that most researchers have abandoned the model. For example, if a canopy existed and collapsed at the time of the Flood to supply the rainfall, the latent heat of condensation would have boiled the atmosphere! And a viable canopy would not have had enough water vapor in it to sustain 40 days and nights of torrential global rain.’[ix]
o ‘We actually promoted the canopy theory in an earlier Answers Book many years ago, but have had to face up to the combined weight of arguments from the Bible and science that the best one can say is that there could have been a mild canopy but all those ‘secondary’ things (high pressure, no rainfall, etc. etc.) that are attributed to it, when examined one by one, seem to be largely unsustainable.’[x]
[i] Genesis 1:6-7, KJV
[ii] Psalm 148:4, KJV
[iv] Genesis 1:14, KJV