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Sculpturing of the earth’s surface Report


The article by Montgomery discusses the concept of flooding which is not as popular as glaciation theory. The article discusses flooding as an agent of sculpturing the earth. To make the story interesting, the author links scientific evidence to sites that are native to the folklores. This may make the reader think that ancient stories can sometimes be mixtures of fact and fiction.

The author seeks to find a semblance between biblical flooding during Noah’s times, and the evidence of flooding that he presents. However, he joins other geologists in dismissing the possibility of a global flood. The benefit of the article to learners is the clear explanation it gives on flooding and corresponding features.

Author and article’s title

The title of the article is “Biblical-Type Floods Are Real, and They’re Absolutely Enormous”. The article was published online on August 29, 2012 by Discover Magazine in the July-August special Issue. The author is David R. Montgomery who was once a lecturer of geology at the University of Washington (Montgomery 1 para. 1).

The author revisits an issue in geology that was at first considered impossible. To make the article interesting, he links mythical stories with scientific evidence from sites native to the narratives. This makes the reader believe that some of the ancient stories are a mixture of fact and fiction.

The aim of the article is to popularize the concept of flooding as an external force that acted in shaping the earth as much as glaciation. The popularity of the glaciation theory already exists in textbooks. The article identifies landforms, and shapes that only flooding is able to sculpture.

Montgomery discusses that “the valley was not U-shaped typical of glacial valley, and none of us could imagine how the wind might gouge a canyon out of hard basalt” (1 para. 2). He gives a distinction between features associated with glaciations before elaborating on features formed by flooding such high ripples in a lake, and giant potholes in areas with no river flows. The component basalt is also related to earth science.

Perception before reading

The author appears to find a semblance between the floods mentioned in the bible and the Ice Age period that shaped the earth. The semblance is that both appear to cover large parts of the earth’s surface or completely cover the earth’s surface. The topic is important because the author explains what he actually saw as evidence of land transformation through glaciation.

Importance of the article

The topic appears to be important because he finds out that in different communities there seems to be mythical stories about land that was covered by water or widespread floods. Such stories include the Tsango Gorge Flood, Noah’s times biblical flood, and the Grand Canyon flood. The impact of this article to geology is the ability to link mythical stories to scientific evidence that at first was dismissed.

Shifts in understanding the topic raised by the author

Montgomery and his associates “ruled out the wind and glaciers” in the formation of the landscape they observed (1 para. 2). From this statement, the author expected another cause of movement of boulders which he describes as catastrophic floods. According to the group, wind could not “gouge a canyon out of hard salt” (1 para. 2). The scablands are a piece evidence for the shaping being done by floods.

The article relates to earth science through its explanation of how rock particles from a source of gravel are found a long distance from the source. It relates to the sculpturing of the earth’s surface. Montgomery explains the effect of the past Ice Age to the place he visited past the Columbia River known as “Moses Coulee”. It consists of “vertical walls of layered basalt” (1 para. 2). The article includes a photo of Washington scabland which gives the reader a clear impression of what they would actually observe.

The layers of rock, and the carvings are visible. Spellman and Price-Bayer discuss that the earth has experienced several periods of glaciation.

They involve “ice-sheet covering large portions of the earth’s surface” (72). Montgomery points out the transfer of gravel through the process of glaciations from the scene he visited. Lutgens and Tarbuck describe that “glaciers can carry huge blocks that no other agent could possibly budge” (98).

Montgomery discusses the changes that have taken place over the review of glaciations and floods. Initially geologists dismissed giant floods as an agent in sculpturing the earth. He explains using the existence of a dry waterfall that is hundreds of feet high in the desert. Evidence has been found in Europe and other parts of the world that support the impact of floods in re-shaping the earth.

A geologist known as Bretz presented his findings in 1925 after studying the Columbia River Gorge (Montgomery 1 para. 5). His findings were dismissed until a confirmation came from Joe Pardee in 1940 who “described ripple marks on the bed of Lake Missoula” (Montgomery 1 para. 8). The ripples being 50 feet high could only be explained by the fast-moving currents such as those of giant floods. Similar landforms that could be as a result of flooding have been identified elsewhere around the globe.

This has been used as proof of many giant floods that must occurred long time ago. As Montgomery explains “these were not global deluges as described in the Genesis story of Noah, but were more focused catastrophic floods taking place throughout the world” (1 para. 9).

The article expresses its importance by drawing the readers’ attention to the equation of the Flood during the biblical Noah’s time. He emphasizes the changes that have taken place until the concept of floods was finally accepted as an agent of earth’s surface sculpture. The topic of flood has not received much attention as glaciations, and wind. The author mentions these two as commonly known and discussed agents.

The article uses three stories that are considered mythical to explain the possibilities of the floods being numerous during past ages. One story is that of the Tsango Gorge Flood in Tibet about Guru Rimpoche who overcame the lake demon “by draining its home to reveal fertile land” (Montgomery 2 para. 1). Montgomery found wood fragments, ancient shorelines, evidence of mud, and ice when studying the Tsango River. This confirms that part of the story could be supported by facts.

Usage of the topic raised in learning

The article can be used to help students understand that apart from glaciations and wind, gigantic floods were also involved in shaping the earth’s surface. This can also be used to study the positive effects of floods. It can be used to distinguish between features formed from glaciations, and those from flooding.

Teachers can successfully use photographs of landforms to demonstrate the concept of flooding. Photographs give students a clear view of reality without an actual visit to a site. The learning materials may include documentaries on the subject. Classroom discussions may be carried out to help increase the understanding of the subject.

Scientists study a concept at a time

The main reason why scientists study a concept at a time is because scientific factors are interrelated. Studying a wide range of factors may mean a scientist spends his/her entire life carrying out research without drawing conclusions. In this article, Montgomery links flooding in mythical stories to the evidence found about earth’s surface sculpture, and debris found on different sites. The use of different stories could match the frequency of occurrence of giant floods.

He starts by explaining that floods are the agents of some of the deepest gorges across the earth. He explains why the action of earth sculpturing in these areas is by floods rather than glaciers or wind. Montgomery gives the example of studies carried out on the Black Sea that show below the surface “ancient streambeds, river-cut canyons, and shorelines” (2 para. 6). Roots of shrubs support that once the area had vegetation from dry land.

These support stories of floods but geologist rule out the possibility of a global flood. Montgomery’s article uses three ancient stories on floods (Tsango Gorge Flood, Grand Canyon Flood, and Black Sea Flood) with supportive facts.

This is to elaborate that the stories could not just be mere coincidence. Lutgens and Tarbuck discuss a period in which materials were drifted either by “means of iceberg or perhaps simply swept across the landscape by catastrophic flood” (105). The author of the article also uses the term catastrophic floods in the same manner.

Lutgens and Tarbuck discuss the height that flood waves can reach up to “15-meter (50-foot) capable of inflicting destruction hundreds of kilometers from the source” (p. 374). This coincides with the article’s explanation of floods being the cause of debris found far from the source.

The long distance is more likely to be covered by floods. People are able to understand concepts relating to control of floods. For example, “artificial levees are not built to withstand periods of extreme flooding” (Lutgen and Tarbuck 74). They explain the Mississippi case flooding of 1993 that resulted in levee failure.

Benefits of the article to society

The article benefits learners who have been holding the concept that glaciation is the only explanation to reshaping of the earth’s surface and fossils being found in rocks. The benefits extend to communities that tell the stories as folklore that their stories may be true. These can intensify communities to study their cultural background with a connection to earth science.

The article leads to a better explanation on flooding, and their cyclical nature. The article the presence of organic matter in the midst of rock layers. It gives an explanation that the layers which “alternate in color, grain size, and composition” as evidence of cyclical flooding (Montgomery 2 para. 4).

Using computers in earth science

Manduca and Mogk discuss the use of a computer program called “STELLA” in earth system science. The program can be used to model how different forces operate in shaping the earth. Manduca and Mogk explain that it “can provide an effective means for enabling students to understand and explore the dynamics of earth systems” (171).

This is because it creates images that are closer to the real earth system. The program is able to convert information given to draw models. They point out the improved spatial visualization for students when images are created using Quick Time Virtual Reality Movies. “Interactive visualizations can improve spatial ability, lead to improved learning about the spatial aspects of geology” (Manduca and Mogk 168). This ensures that the differences in understanding geological facts across gender are eliminated.

In this article, the use of computer is analyzing collected data. It is used to compare information from secondary sources and primary source. It creates a convergence of related information. It is also used to ease access to information. This article is accessed through a website which makes it be accessed by many people easily and faster.

The problems that may be faced by researchers include the challenge of analyzing qualitative data. Special programs designed to analyze such data may be costly. New computer programs require training to be used successfully. The fact that new and better software are being invented continuously makes it necessary for researchers to upgrade their knowledge on the use of new computer systems.


The author starts by shifting attention towards flooding then he gives an explanation on mythical stories and evidence which suits the title. The title may seem discordant to earth science at first sight, but Montgomery’s use of different folklore supported by fact makes it suitable.

The article emphasizes the term “catastrophic floods” as used by Lutgens and Tarbuck in their concept about the Ice Age. The evidence shows that the catastrophic floods were huge in magnitude and coverage. The evidence shows that the flooding was either working together with glaciations or they were subsequent to glaciations. The article opens a new subject for study. A researcher will seek to explain the cyclic-nature of floods in relation to earth science. Identifying factors in the atmosphere that create the cycles.

Works Cited

Lutgens, Fredrick K. and Edward J. Tarbuck. Foundation of Earth Science. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2002. Print.

Manduca, Cathryn A., and David W. Mogk. Earth and Mind: How geologist Think and Learn About the Earth, Issue 413. Colorado: Geological Society of America, 2006. Print.

Montgomery, David R. Biblical-Type Floods Are Real, and They’re Absolutely Enormous. Discover Magazine. Aug 29. 2012. Web.

Spellman, Frank R. and Joni Price-Bayer. The Handbook of Nature. Plymouth: Government Institutes, 2012. Print.

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"Sculpturing of the earth’s surface." IvyPanda, 27 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/sculpturing-of-the-earths-surface/.

1. IvyPanda. "Sculpturing of the earth’s surface." December 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sculpturing-of-the-earths-surface/.


IvyPanda. "Sculpturing of the earth’s surface." December 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sculpturing-of-the-earths-surface/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Sculpturing of the earth’s surface." December 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sculpturing-of-the-earths-surface/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Sculpturing of the earth’s surface'. 27 December.

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