For generations, most geologists have assumed without question that the present is the key to understanding the past. It isn’t. In fact there has been no hint in modern history of the level of violence in the Earth’s geologically recent past.
But modern, high resolution, satellite imagery has revealed the pristine planetary scarring of a large, catastrophic airburst event too violent, and terrible, to imagine, from the naive, 19th century, uniformitarian-assumptive, view of the world. That unquestioned viewpoint has been the foundation of the Earth sciences for more than 150 years.
21st century satellite imagery allows us to study the surface of the Earth at a level of detail our fathers could never have imagined. And in the past five years, the publically available image data has really come into its own.
More than a century ago, Harlan Bretz noticed, and tried to point out, the evidence for the mega-floods that sculpted the Grande Coulee, and the ‘Channeled Scablands’ of eastern Washington. What he had noticed was empirical, conclusive, evidence, of a major catastrophic event that the standard theorists of his day thought was impossible.
The aerial views allowed him (and anyone who looked where he was pointing) a perspective from which large catastrophic material movements could be perceived on a scale that had been unimaginable until he described them.
Harlan Bretz was the first to use Aerial photographs to detect, and map, catastrophic mass movement of the Earth’s surface. Most of the academic community of his time thought he was nuts. After all most geologists agreed that sudden, catastrophic, geologic changes just don’t happen anymore. And that all geomorphology is the result of slow processes requiring millions of years. They believed that “The present is the key to the past”, and that the rocks of that area were all ‘well defined’. They were mistaken.
The satellites of today have upped the ante. Mr. Bretz could see evidence of material movement on a statewide scale. With the imagery now available through Google Earth we can detect, and read patterns of catastrophic material movements on a continental, and even global, scale. The event Bretz perceived was only implausible from a standard theory viewpoint because of its size. And yet, by comparison, it will be seen that his mega flood was only a minor little footnote in the events of the early Holocene.
The truth is faithfully, and legibly, written in stone. In a new language of fluid motion. And in the explosive emplacement motions of thousands cubic miles of wind-driven rivers of flash melted stone.
This blog is not an attempt to read that catastrophic geo-history for anyone. I’m afraid this is one the world needs to read for themselves.
I seek only to direct the attention of others to the first legible characters in a new kind of language; one of flash melted, wind-driven, rivers of stone. A language in which the empirically true geo-history, and recent catastrophic geomorphology, of North America is recorded in intricate detail.