Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Were There Volcanoes Involved in the Destruction of 3 Nephi? – Part V

Continuing with the previous four posts regarding the descriptions about the three days of darkness in 3 Nephi at the time of the crucifixion, and the disagreement over volcano eruptions between Mesoamericanists and the Great Lakes/Eastern U.S./Heartland theorists.
Four images of a tornado. They are all a little different, and others can be considerably different—how would you describe one of these to someone without using known language about tornadoes, the word tornado, funnel, hurricane, etc.? In fact, how would you describe the differences between tornado, hurricane, cyclone, thunderstorm, supercell or multicell storms, tropical storm, anticyclone or a typhoon?
    We concluded the last post with a comment about the whirlwinds mentioned by Mormon: “there were some who were carried away in the whirlwind; and whither they went no man knoweth, save they know that they were carried away” (3 Nephi 8:16). Now what would a “whirlwind” of such force be called today? Certainly not a “whirlwind” for that is a child phrase of my youth for a small "dust devil." Nor would one describe it in the lengthy definition of “a weather phenomenon in which a vortex of wind, a vertically oriented rotation column of air, forms due to instabilities and turbulence created by heating and flow gradients.”
    The term “whirlwind”dates to around 1300 A.D., and probably comes from the Old Norse hvirfilvindr. In Hebrew, the word is גַּלְגַּל and pronounced galgal, literally meaning “wheels,” but is typically used to define “whirl” or “whirling” as in “the whirling wind,” though in the King James Version, it is most often translated as “wheel,” like on chariots as in Ezekiel 26:10 “of the horsemen, and of the wheels, and of the chariots.” It is also translated as “whirling dust,” “like a rolling thing.” In fact, it is translated as “whirlwind” only in the NAS and INT translations of Psalms 77:18, which the KJV translate it as “of thy thunder in the heaven.”
    The point is, this is another word that was not known by a singular term, even in the Old Testament period, therefore, a whirlwind is likely Joseph Smith’s translation of the word, i.e., a whirling wind, for the word tornado would not have been known to Mormon. On the other hand, it is written “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up” (Hosea 8:7).
    So looking further, we find in modern terminology, “whirlwinds” are called “tornadoes,” which are caused from supercell thunderstorms (the most powerful type of thunderstorm), when the storms start to spin, they react with other high altitude winds, causing a funnel to spin. A cloud forms over the funnel, making it visible.
Convective movement has built up the probable humilis and congestus clouds into a calvus cloud. If it continues to grow in the right hand portion it could turn into a capillatus cloud; Top Left: Congestus Cloud; Top Right: Cumulonimbus Capillatus (Storm) Cloud; Bottom and eventually into a tornado
    These winds develop at the base of congestus clouds and move downwards and form when a center of low air pressure develops. This low air pressure causes winds to whirl forming the waterspout. They rarely exceed 50mph and usually last less than 15 minutes. However, these waterspouts can gain a height anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand feet.
    [Footnolte: Within the outflow of air, from severe thunderstorms, Gustanadoes are sometimes formed. The top wind of this whirlwind may reach 150mph. and these storms rarely last about 5 minutes. Landspouts are whirlwinds formed the same way as gustnadoes, but are a stronger than gustnadoes and may reach 175mph and last longer than 5 minutes].
    Then there are tornadoes, which is the most damaging of whirlwinds. A Tornado is a rapid rotating column of air that comes down from the base of a cumulonimbus cloud to the ground. The color of the tornado is attributed to what substance with which the cloud is in contact. For instance, if the cloud crosses over red sand then the tornado will take on a reddish hue. These storms are the result of clashing warm and cold air currents that lead to instability of the atmosphere and great turbulence. These storms travel around 10-30mph and generally follow a Northeasterly path; the width of the vortex may range anywhere from a few yards to several hundred yards. These storms usually last less than an hour, with these unpredictable storms lasting up to several hours.
    We can use the word “tornado” to describe the whirlwind that Mormon wrote about and probably be correct, just like we can describe the events in 3 Nephi 8 as the result of volcano eruptions and probably be correct, but the trouble is, when a word inserted into a meaning does not fit someone’s pre-conceived idea of where that occurred and if you insert volcanoes into a land without mountains, you are going to draw their ire because you are destroying their model and therefore, their beliefs. Yet, the scriptural record should be the basis of any belief and model, so when a location is chosen that does not fit into the most basic definition of the scriptural record, perhaps a person ought to look for a different location and a different model. Unfortunately, to those so committed to the Great Lakes, as an example, are simply not going to do that,  though reason demands it!
Ninety-nine percent of the gas molecules emitted during a volcanic eruption at Kilauea volcano were water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2), according to College Earth and Mineral Sciences, Penn State University
    As the Disciple Nephi told it, those who had not fallen [died] “could feel the vapor of darkness” (3 Nephi 8:20). Obviously, the “vapor of darkness” kept light from shining, in fact: ”no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all” (3 Neph 8:21). The vapor kept any kind of fire from being lighted.
    It should be noted that in a volcanic eruption, the concentrations of different volcanic gases can vary considerably, but according to H. Sigurdsson, et al, “water vapor is typically the most abundant volcanic gas, normally comprising more than 60% of total emissions, with carbon dioxide accounting from 10% to 40% of emissions” (Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, San Diego, Academic Press, 2000). We can see, therefore, "ash" may not be mentioned in the scriptural record because we may be dealing with dense water vapor, not ash, in this case.
   We do not know how many died from the gasses and vapors, though “there were many of them who were slain” (3 Nephi 8:15), but those who survived, felt its presence about them, which could also be described as the volcanic ash falling around them.
“And they were not overpowered by the vapor of smoke and of darkness” (Mosiah 10:13)
    The most abundant gas expelled during a volcanic eruption is water vapor. Water vapor is not toxic and because so much is expelled during an eruption, it can actually benefit the planet by pulling water from deep within the Earth and adding it to the water cycle. However, there can be a downside to water vapor emissions. According to researchers from the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading in Britain, water vapor emitted during a volcanic eruption can impact the climate.
    Large volcanic eruptions can launch water vapor up into the stratosphere, which is a layer of the Earth's atmosphere about six to 30 miles above the Earth's surface. This is the layer that you are in when you are in a jet plane that wants to fly up high to avoid storms. The research found that increased amounts of water vapor in the stratosphere can force surface temperatures to rise, adding to the warming of the Earth's surface.
    Regarding the scriptural record, there is an interesting comment made by Mormon: “And they were spared and were not sunk and buried up in the earth; and they were not drowned in the depths of the sea; and they were not burned by fire, neither were they fallen upon and crushed to death; and they were not carried away in the whirlwind; neither were they overpowered by the vapor of smoke and of darkness”(3 Nephi 10:13), which is never mentioned by Great Lakes theorists and that is the word “vapor” associated with the smoke and darkness. A term, by the way, that is associated with volcanoes of today and the gaseous and vaporous eruptions usually referred to as volcanic “ash,” and can include water vapor.
    In addition, volcanic gases actually include a variety of substances given off by volcanoes. These include gases trapped in cavities (vesicles) in volcanic rocks, dissolved or dissociated gases in magma and lava, or gases emanating directly from lava or indirectly through ground water heated by volcanic action.
    The sources of volcanic gases on Earth include: 1) primordial and recycled constituents from the Earth’s mantle; 2) assimilated constituents from the Earth’s crust; and 3) groundwater and the Earth’s atmosphere. Substances that may become gaseous or give off gases when heated are termed volatile substances.
    Mormon also writes: “by fire, and by smoke, and by tempests, and by whirlwinds, and by the opening of the earth to receive them, and all these things are not unto the fulfilling of the prophecies of many of the holy prophets” (3 Nephi 10:14), again suggesting the results of volcanoes. And again, “because of the tempest and the whirlwinds and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth” (3 Nephi 8:12);
and also “And there were some who were carried away in the whirlwind; and whither they went no man knoweth, save they know that they were carried away” (3 Nephi 8:16), certainly one would be justified in asking, what caused the whirlwinds? What caused the vapors? What caused the fire and smoke? What caused the opening of the Earth?
    In addition, Mormon uses the word “tempest,” which defined is a storm, gale, hurricane, tornado, whirlwind, cyclone or typhoon. It is also defined as a violent windstorm, especially one with rain, hail or snow, and is associated with hurricanes, tidal waves, tsunami, and earthquake. The word originally came from tempeste, tempestãs, tempus, all words meaning “storm” with reference to violent weather and commotion.
    Thus, Mormon describes events associated in 3 Nephi 8 with a violent weather front, including hurricane-force winds, whirling tornadoes, earthquakes that shake the ground violently, and the fire and smoke associated with volcanoes. In addition, according to the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, a tempest is the result of a rushing wind of great velocity and violence—a storm of extreme violence. As an example, “a tornado blew a tempest,” and the word “tornado” is defined as “a tempest, distinguished by a whirling motion.” We also find “Tornadoes are usually accompanied with severe thunder, lightening and torrents of rain.”
    Frankly, one would be hard pressed, understanding all these weather terms and definitions not to place the word tornado to the events being described in 3 Nephi 8, and the same can be said about earthquakes and volcanoes.

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