Historical Genesis

From Adam To Abraham

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Chapter 11 - Geological Flood Evidence

Although there is no evidence for a global flood, the climatological and geographical conditions in Mesopotamia are excellent for local, annual inundations. Some of these floods have reached historical proportions, and one of them is renowned.

Southern Mesopotamia has an annual rainfall of less than ten inches making it one of the driest lands on Earth. Cyclonic disturbances from the Mediterranean pass through Iraq in winter and spring providing nearly the only rain this area receives in an entire year, and even this can be capricious. Virtually no rain at all falls some years while other years receive ample amounts. As we move north, Baghdad has an annual rainfall averaging about thirty inches per year; Mosul sees some eighty-five inches; Cizre, about one hundred inches per year; and Diyarbekir (near the headwaters of both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers), enjoys over 150 inches of rain per year. In the mountainous areas of Iraq, annual precipitation reaches 175 inches and there are places where 250 inches per year is not uncommon.

The alluvial plain of Mesopotamia is bounded on the east by the Zagros Mountain range, on the north and northeast by the Taurus Mountains, and the Amanus Mountains lie to the northwest. Rain and snowmelt from these mountainous areas feed the Euphrates and Tigris river basins in spring. The mountains of Armenia and Kurdistan in the northeastern Taurus range may endure severe winters up to eight months in duration, and snow can reach depths of six feet. The Zagros Mountains in the eastern part of Mesopotamia run parallel to the Tigris, and nearly every spring, it overflows its banks from melting snow. In these areas, snow falls mainly in the winter months (January - February), while rainfall comes in spring (March - April). Spring rainfall can quickly melt mountain snow, causing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to reach their highest flood level in late spring.

The Mesopotamian alluvial plain is extremely flat. The surface of the plain 240 miles inland from the Gulf region is still less than sixty feet above sea level, and ninety-five miles north of Basra the water level of the Euphrates is only eight feet above sea level. Near to the Gulf, the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers fade into a marshy lake region where water flows slowly to the Persian Gulf. During a typical spring rainy season this whole area can become heavily inundated.

The level surface of the plain and the shallow river beds are perfect for irrigation, but also are prone to sudden, widespread flooding. And, as difficult it is to get water to the land by irrigation canals, it is just as difficult for water to drain off the land when it floods. Before any dams were built beginning in the 1920s, roughly two-thirds of the entire area of southern Mesopotamia could be underwater in the flood season from March to August.

More destructive floods and wider inundations are associated with the Tigris, which is closer to the mountains, than normally are caused by the Euphrates. Each spring the Tigris floods from snowmelt in the Taurus and Zagros Mountains. Water first begins to rise in March, reaches its peak in May, and usually recedes in July. Hardly a season passes when the desert does not flood, and after a cloudburst, archaeologists have reported standing chest deep in water. A shallow water table depth of only a few feet and the absence of vegetation cause an immediate flood response.

There are accounts of Mesopotamian floods occurring in the twentieth, eighteenth and tenth centuries BC, and seventh and eighth centuries AD. Thirty major floods were recorded in and around Baghdad from 762 AD–1906 AD. The largest of these floods occurred in 1174, when the Tigris River flooded all of Baghdad. Standing water was high enough that boats could enter through the doorways of Bamarestan Hospital, which normally sits on high ground. In 1954, a rainy spring combined with melting snow from Armenia and Kurdistan caused the Tigris to overflow, submerging the plain for hundreds of miles threatening Baghdad with destruction.