Re: coal again! (was asteroids and energy)

Jonathan Clarke (
Mon, 22 Mar 1999 17:39:41 +1100

Hi Bill

This conversation is getting both complicated and fragmented! Here goes.....

Bill Payne wrote in part:

> Thought you'd never ask. :-) This isn't exactly what I'd remembered
> (there's another post somewhere in addition to this but I can't find it
> now), but it's close (from the ASA archives, Re: Coal and the YEC
> position, Mon, 20 Apr 1998 22:37:05 -0600):

This is followed by a long discussion between yourself and Glenn, which I cut
out for brevity. As I read it Glenn agrees that there puzzling features about
the Pittsburgh coal. That's fine.

> >I recall that you were "backed into a corner" over rootlets beneath
> coal. No doubt you >recall that differently as well.
> Maybe not. I don't have a clear recollection of the rootlets discussion,
> but I have recently come to recognize what the rootlets actually look
> like, and yes, there are rootlets beneath most coals, including the coals
> at the construction site where I got the big stump (but the rootlets are
> not connected to stumps and are what I would term as "juvenile" - they're
> not big enough to support 30 meter tall trees, and they appear to be 1st
> generation, not what I would expect to see in a swamp paleosol which
> supported trees for thousands of years). I have reversed my position
> from last year over the presence of rootlets.

Good! We are all learning here, which is why this discussion exists.
However lack of numerous large roots can also suggest that there were few
large trees in that particular deposit (which is the point I have been trying
to make), and the peat forming vegetation was largely stunted, or small, with
very small roots. Also note that in swamps the roots of even large tress may
not penetrated deep into the substratum, but spread horizontally at shallow
depths. These are all possibilities that you would need to consider and
exclude in applying your model to a particular seam. You also need to
consider what specific features would be could be looked for in coal formed
by a floating mat of vegetation which would unique to that mode of origin.

> >Careful of allegations of smugness. The real reasons might be quite
> >different!
> You're right; I was on my high horse last night. My apologies.

Perhaps we should all stick to low ponies?-

> >This means addressing the real core issues. So let me ask you a
> question.
> >What is the real reason you reject the overwhelming majority opinion of
> your
> >profession? Is it the evidence?
> I freely admit to being very sympathetic to the YEC position (although
> that's not the hill I would want to live or die over), so I do approach
> the data with a different view than I used to as an agnostic
> evolutionist, and yes, I do look for data that supports the YEC position.
> Having said that, I still maintain that the evidence of coal seams makes
> a more comfortable fit with the "Floating Mat" model than the "Swamp"
> model.

You seem to keep proposing these two as diametrically opposed alternatives.
Why? They are really end members on a spectrum, and you will find examples
of both. Most coals will fall somewhere between the two, with both
transported and in situ components don't you think?

Why are you sympathetic to the YEC position? Because you believe that the
bulk of geological data (not just one coal seam) is better explained by it
(against the bulk of geologists in the last 200 years)? or because your
Biblical hermeneutic favours it?

> >Is it because to do so would undermine your faith? Or something else?
> No, it would strain credulity.

What is it that strains your credulity? That the Pittsburgh coal seam might
be in situ or that all coals might be in situ?

You then give a quote from Glenn's post to the ASA of Sat, 04 Apr 1998
-0600, Re: Coal and the YEC position. This used an 1894 source which
describes the 15,000 square mile Pittsburgh seam. You then go on to say:

> I maintain that the Pittsburg can be explained only within the Floating
> Mat model, and cannot be explained as a swamp deposit. If anyone
> disagrees with me on this, then I would like to hear the explanation. I
> don't want to rehash the same discussion we've already had, but I have
> yet to hear a rational explanation for these questions I am raising.
> Glenn Morton certainly never came up with one for the Pittsburg Coal.

Are there any references on the Pittsburgh coal more up to date than 1894? I
am some distance from the nearest georef CD and can't find out what is
available. We have learned a lot about coal facies and palaeoecology in the
last 105 years. The description that Glenn quotes sounds hard to fit into my
mental image of a floating mat, but maybe that is a lack of imagination on
my part! More germane is the question as to what observations would be
required to falsify the model in your mind?

> >I have seen stumps in coal in the Eocene and Miocene lignites of Western
> >Australia and Victoria, respectively. So they do exist, although are
> not very common.
> I would actually expect to find stumps in coal within the Floating Mat
> model, so the rare occurrence doesn;t surprise me, it's just that I have
> never actually seen any stumps in coal. Above and below coal seams, yes,
> but never in the coal.

So, again please, what evidence would lead you to abandon your floating mat
model? Also, could you remind me in which of last year's posts did you
outline your model?

> >Interestingly, studies of modern peat mounds and the ecological
> >succusion of ancient ones shows that the climax community of such
> ombrogenous >bogs (wonderful word!) is often dominated by mosses, with few
> trees.
> "Swamp forest" occurs only in the the early stages of development.
> If you are suggesting that model for the eastern US Carboniferous coals,
> then microscopic examination should reveal the transition from "swamp
> forest" to "ombrogenous bogs". I don't know (maybe others such as James
> Mahafee do), but I suspect this is not the case - which may be another
> indication that Carboniferous coals are not swamp deposits.

James has already enlightened us. There are a range of hydroseral
possibilities for peat bogs. The one I mentioned is common is some bogs and
coal deposits. Other possibilities also exist. It is something that has to
be determined seam by seam, bog by bog. However there are a lot of studies,
some very detailed, which indicate that Carboniferous coals of the northern
hemisphere are predominantly in situ. For the sake of argument, even if the
floating mat model is applicable for the Pittsburgh coal, this would have to
be demonstrated for quite a few deposits before you could argue that it is
generally applicable. There are more Carboniferous coals that just the
Pittsburgh seam and there is more to coal geology than the Carboniferous.

> Darn data. :-)

Keeps us honest!

> Bill

God Bless