Salt in the sea

Glenn Morton (
Sat, 15 Jun 1996 22:10:27

This is an extract of a letter I sent to Steve Austin and Russ
Humphreys. Steve and Russ did not like what I said in my book about their
1990 article. They both challenged me to come up with a numerical solution
to the salt in the sea problem. I did. It is so quiet on the reflector,
it is time to shake things up.

Glenn R. Morton
16075 Longvista Dr.
Dallas, Texas 75248
June 4, 1996

Dr. Steve Austin Dr. Russell Humphreys
10946 Woodside Ave. N. 9301 Gutierrez, N.E.
Santee, CA 92071 Albuquerque, NM 87111

Dear Sirs:


This will become an open letter to both of you. I do not want the
information contained here to be hidden away. The first draft was written
on May 11, 1996 but it was reviewed and revised between May 14th and June
4th after the arrival of a second letter from Steve dated May 10th.

The Background

Your 1990 paper lists 11 input processes to the ocean. These are

Rivers: sea spray 5 x 10^10 kg/yr
Rivers: weathering 6.2 x 10^10 kg/yr
Rivers: Chloride solution 7.5 x 10^10 kg/yr
Ocean Floor Sediments 6.2 x 10^10 kg/yr
Glacial Silicates 0 kg/yr
Atmospheric and Volcanic Dust 0.1 x 10^10 kg/yr
Marine Coastal erosion .074 x 10^10 kg/yr
Glacier Ice 0 kg/yr
Volcanic Aerosols 0.09 x 10^10 kg/yr
Ground water continents 9.3 x 10^10 kg/yr
Hydrothermal vents 1.1 x 10^10 kg/yr Total 35.6 x 10^10 kg/yr

The 7 outputs

Sea spray 6.7 x 10^10 kg/yr
Cation Exchange 5.2 x 10^10 kg/yr
Burial of pore water 3.9 x 10^10 kg/yr
Halite deposition 4.0 x 10^10 kg/yr
Alteration of Basalt .4 x 10^10 kg/yr
Albite formation 0 kg/yr
Zeolite Formation .2 x 10^10 kg/yr Total 20.6 x 10^10 kg/yr

Obviously if you are correct there is a major problem with current
cosmology. But you are not correct.

First in reply to Steve's letter of April 8, 1996.

Steve, you said that my book (Morton, 1995, p. 16) implied that there
was a sodium removal process that you all had ignored in your 1990 ICC
paper (Austin and Humphreys, 1990). Actually I hope I did more than imply
that. I wrote (Morton, 1995, p. 16):

" Austin and Humphreys update with more detail Whitcomb's and Morris's
argument and conclude that the earth's oceans could be no older than 62
million years old. Table 2 (p. 19) shows that plankton concentrate sodium
in their bodies and when they die, salt is removed from the ocean. Austin
and Humphreys do not mention this mechanism!"

That seems to be more than an implication to me. And as shown below there
are actually 16 other processes you ignore in your calculations.

In your letter of April 8, 1996 you asked to know the technical details
including my quantitative estimate of the mass of sodium removed each year
by biological processes. This is a fair request and I apologize for the
time it took for me to get back to you but as I mentioned, I was awaiting
a check from your organization.

The technical details:

Arx (1962 p. 121) states that seawater contains 1.06 percent by weight
(you cite a figure 1.07 percent) sodium. Turekian (1976, p. 130) cite a
work by Martin and Knauer (1973) which shows that phytoplankton have 1.10
percent by weight sodium. This is a concentration of sodium in the bodies
of the phytoplankton. (In answer to Russ's question in his letter of
April 12, 1996, this is where I got the idea about plankton) It is a well
known fact that plankton are eaten by other organisms, their remains are
concentrated in fecal pellets and drop to the ocean floor. In fact the
article (Goldberg, 1965) that Morris (1974, p. 238-246) cites to support
his original contention that the elements in the oceans prove that the
oceans are young actually discusses the amazing ability of organisms to
concentrate metals in their bodies. Morris makes no mention of this
ability in his 1974 Impact article and yet he had to have read the article
he cited.

I will examine the salt balance of the Miocene epoch. I do this because
it is long enough for an imbalance to be found, I have the data for this
epoch and it will push your 62 Myr age of the oceans back to 80 Myr when
another solution to the problem can take over. What I have done is examine
the deposits of diatomaceous earth in the Monterey formation. Chemical
analysis of various diatomaceous earth deposits, including the Monterey
shows that diatomite contains an average of 2% Na2O by weight (Hein,
Morgenson and Sliney, 1987, p. 151). This means that 1.5% of the weight
of the Monterey formation is sodium. Since this sodium is found in a
marine deposit, it is quite reasonable to consider that it came from the
sea. There are no saliferous sediments nearby to source this sodium.
Other diatomites from around the world range from .5-7.0 percent Na2O. So
how much Monterey formation is there? Isaacs and Petersen (1987, p. 86)

"The term Monterey is generally applied to Miocene strata in California
that are unusually siliceous (Bramlette, 1946). Monterey strata are
widespread in coastal California, presently extending 1,200 km north to
south and originally deposited in most of the Neogene marine basins in
California. The formation is typically about 300-500 m thick, although it
is locally thinner and in some areas - such as the San Joaquin Basin-
thicker. Strata were deposited in the late early Miocene and throughout
the middle Miocene, but upper Miocene (11-5.5 Ma) deposits are areally
most extensive and are of principal economic importance."

According to the map on page 87 of above, the width of the Monterey belt
is 241 km. Thus 1200 km x 241 km x .5 km = 1.44 x 10^20 cc.

There is even a larger diatomaceous deposit. This is the Kurasian suite
which is a Miocene diatomaceous deposit which extends from Karaginsky
Island off Kamchatka, Russia, to Sakhalin Island. is is about 3600 km
long by 1200 km wide and is .6 km thick. (Gladenkov, 1980, p. 1089;
Nalivkin, 1973, p. 769). This represents 2.5 x 10^21 cc. There are 31
other Miocene diatomaceous deposits (Hein and Parrish, 1987, p. 44-48).
Assuming that they are 25% of the volume of the Monterey formation, adds
another 1.1 x 1021 cc of diatomaceous deposits. This gives a total of 3.6
x 10^21 cc of diatomites. Allow that 70% of this volume is diatoms gives
2.52 x 10^21 cc of diatomaceous earth.

Given a density range for diatomaceous siliceous deposits from .12 g/cc -
2.16 g/cc (Barron, 1987, p.164;Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 48th
edition, p. b281) a good average value would be around 1.5 g/cc since much
of this is now in the form of chert (density 2.1). This means that there

2.52 x 10^21 cc x 1.5 g/cc=3.78 x 10^21 gm = 3.78 x 10^18 kg.

Multiplying by .015 yields 5.67 x 10^16 kg of sodium.

The Miocene lasted about 17.5 million years. Dividing

5.67 x 10^16 kg/ 17.5 x 10^6 = 3.24 x 10^9 Kg/yr removed.

This figure does not include the dispersed diatoms.

Steve, you said in your unpublished paper you sent me that there is
no evidence of biological removal of sodium from the sea. The diatomaceous
sediments above is certainly a process you overlooked. Your 1990 paper
refers to Holland (1984). You should look on page 509 of that book. On
that page he shows a chart of the sodium/carbonate ratio in fossilized
Tertiary foraminifera. The interesting thing is that for the past 10
million years the six one-thousandths of the atoms deposited with
carbonate has been sodium. By weight this calculates to .0016 of carbonate
is sodium. The lack of sodium in the forams prior to 10 million years ago
is believed to be due to the diagenesis of the rocks leaching the sodium
out of them. Lorens and Bender (1980, p. 1270) shows that the shell fish
Mytilus edulis incorporates 15 atoms of sodium for every thousand atoms of
calcium. By weight this is .4% of the calcium carbonate. There are 10^12
kilograms of calcium carbonate deposited each year in the ocean (Goody and
Walker, 1972, p. 127). If the sodium/calcium atom ratio of that is .015
(.41% by weight) as it is in the case of edulis, then this is another
4.1 x 10^9 kilograms of sodium removed from the oceans.

Thus the total biogenic removal of sodium is 7.3 x 10^9 kg/yr. Since this
is larger than some of the input processes you cite (.09 x 10^10), it
seems only fair that you should also cite output processes which are of a
similar magnitude. Or do we only mention small inputs without mentioning
small outputs.

Steve, you put a lot of emphasis on the fact that Holland doesn't
mention a given output in his 1978 table. (Holland, 1978, p. 234/235.) A
dash in his table can mean a lot of things, such as unmeasured/unexamined.
It does not necessarily mean ZERO! There are 16 nonbiogenic dashes in
Holland's output table which may represent minor output pathways. The way
he defines things in his table a dash means a pathway with less than 5% of
the input rate. Assume that each of these 16 processes individually
output only 1.25% of what you say rivers contribute (18 x 10^10 kg/yr) and
one quarter of Holland's definition for the dash, then each process
outputs .225 x 10^9 kg/yr. But when multiplied by 16 of these processes,
you collectively remove quite a bit of salt, 3.6 x 10^10 kg/yr. I will
call this the collective small outputs category. This is quite fair since
the total biogenic output of sodium is three times what I am going to use
in my calculations for each of the other processes.

You state that the alteration of basalt by hydrothermal activity only
removes .4 x 10^10 kg/yr of sodium. You must have missed the table in
Holland (1978,p. 199). He says that the removal of sodium by the
Mid-Oceanic ridge basalts is 14 x 10^10 kg/yr. According to Holland, this
is 23% of the sodium input. This is significantly higher than what you
claim. Since your paper refers to this book and fails to discuss that
value, it would seem that you might have ignored Holland's data and
shopped around for values which support your thesis. One thing is
certain, there is a lot of uncertainty about the values for all of these
processes and shopping for values can be easily done.

You state (Austin and Humphreys p. 26) that there are 1.47 X 10^19 kg of
sodium in the oceans. In the Miocene 4% was deposited in the
Mediterranean basin according to calculations I made from data in (Hsu,
1974, p 140). This represents an additional 5.88 x 10^17 kg. Spread over
the entire Miocene this is 3.3 x 10^10 kg/yr. There is additional Miocene
salt to be found in Jordan, Syria, Turfan basin of China and the
Carpathian range in Bulgaria. Thus the 4.0 x 10^10 kg/yr value is not too
far wrong.

To revise your output table:

Sea spray 6.7 x 10^10 kg/yr
Cation Exchange 5.2 x 10^10 kg/yr
Burial of pore water 3.9 x 10^10 kg/yr
Halite deposition 4.0 x 10^10 kg/yr
Alteration of Basalt 14 x 10^10 kg/yr
Albite formation 0 kg/yr
Zeolite Formation .2 x 10^10 kg/yr
Biogenic output .5 x 10^10 kg/yr
Collective Small outputs 3.6 x 10^10 kg/yr Total 38.1 x 10^10 kg/yr.

Given that the influx of sodium that you use is 35.6 x 10^10 kg/yr. and
that these two figures are so close and within the range of experimental
error, it is quite reasonable to believe that the Miocene was a period of
balance for sodium in the oceans. But if you want to believe the numbers,
then the Miocene was a time of sodium removal from the seas to the tune of
2.5 x 10^10 kg/yr. This would mean that the oceans were 4% lower in salt
content at the end of the Miocene than at the beginning.

One output process you discounted because a 1988 article indicated it
wasn't working has now been restored. I refer to the high temperature
basalt alteration. In a recent Geology article (Hardie 1996, p. 280):

"Seawater-basalt interaction at greenschist and amphibolite facies
temperatures generates the hot calcium chloride hydrothermal brines that
well up at mid-ocean ridges in today's ocean basins. The conversion of
oceanic basalt to spilitic greenstone or amphibolite involves the net
transfer of Na+Mg+SO4 from seawater to rock and Ca+K from rock to
seawater. The resulting MOR hydrothermal brine thus becomes enriched in
Ca Cl2-KCl and impoverished in MgSO4 compared to the parent seawater."
[MOR is mid oceanic ridge] This would more than balance the equation.

Russ, you say I devote only a few sentences to your article and err when I

"Austin and Humphreys also ignore the existence of bedded salt deposits in
the middle of the sedimentary column and its implications for the
evaporative removal of salt from the sea." (Morton 1995, p. 16).

You say that I should make a change to my book and remove that statement.
I have made two changes to my book because of valid criticism. But yours
is not a valid criticism. I would like to quote your paragraph from your
1990 paper,

"Many have assumed that the major pathway for Na+ removal from today's
ocean is the deposition of the mineral halite. However, the major halite
deposits accumulate currently from concentrated river water on the
continents, not from the ocean. Modern marine sedimentary deposits are
nearly devoid of halite. Recent marine salt flats and coastal lagoons
occur along the Persian Gulf, along the Gulf of California, and on the
west coast of Australia, but they have very meager deposits of halite.
When halite is deposited in marine salt flats and coastal lagoons,
freshening of the brine after deposition often redissolves the halite.
Solution of halite in seawater occurs because seawater is very
undersaturated in both Na+ and Cl-. In fact seawater could
contain 20 times its present concentration of Na+ before deposition of
halite would occur. Thus, modern sedimentary conditions seem to prevent
large permanent accumulation of halite in marine environments. The world
inventory of modern marine halite deposits must be accumulating today at a
rate of less than 1 x 10^8 kg/yr. Thus, the flux of Na+ in modern marine
halite deposition is : B4< 4 X 10^7 kg/yr. Today's oceanic output of Na+
as halite is trivial when compared to the modern river input." (Austin and
Humphreys 1990, p. 22

Where in your discussion here do you include the Mediterranean salts, the
Zechstein salt of Germany, the Louann Salt of the Gulf of Mexico, the
Osprey Salt of Offshore Canada, or the Salina salt of New York? All of
these are bedded in the middle of the geologic column and represent huge
episodic removals of salt from the oceans by evaporation. No one believes
that similar deposits are being laid down today. These occurrences are
episodic, not continuous. Since you do not include them in your
calculation of the outflow of salt from the oceans, I am correct in my

On page 25 you vastly underestimate the amount of salt in the earth's
crust. You say,

"The present inventory of rock salt in the earth's strata is contains
about 4.4 x 10^18 kg of Na+" (Austin and Humphreys 1990, p. 25)

However, Hay et al (1982, p. 511) note:

"In its early history, the Gulf of Mexico was a major site of salt
deposition accumulating about 4 x 10^6 km^3 of halite. In contrast, the
early central North Atlantic was areally larger but accumulated less than
1 X 10^6 km^3 of halite. Salt extraction in the Gulf of Mexico occurred
during the Callovian (160 Ma) at paleolatitudes between about 8 [deg] N
and 20 [deg] N; salt extraction in the central North Atlantic occurred
earlier between 210 and 180 my, centered on the zone of present-day
highest aridity between paleolatitudes of 15 [deg] N and 30 [deg] N."

These two deposits represent 5 x 10^6 km^3 of salt. This represents 9 x
10^18 kg of salt. Since 39% is sodium this represents 3.51 X 10^18 kg of
salt. These two deposits nearly contain all the salt you say is in the
world! This does not take into account the Zechstein, the Mediterranean,
the Muskeg of Canada, The Salina Group of New York and Michigan and many
others around the world.

Hsu, (1972, p. 391) has a map that shows the Permian Zechstein of Germany
is 1500 km long and 500 km wide. It has an average thickness of .6 km.
Thus the North Sea Zechstein contains 4.5 X 10^5 Km^3. Converting this to
cubic meters and multiplying by the density of salt (1800 kg/m3) yields
8.1 X 10^17 kg of salt. Since 39% of this mass is sodium this means that
3.1 X 10^17 kg of sodium is in the Zechstein deposit. Added to that
above, gives 3.8 x 10^18 kg of sodium for only 3 deposits of salt. This is
86% of what you say is in the whole world.

However, I was pleased to see Steve (in his letter of May 10th) allow that
the world-wide resource of sodium was 1.47 x 10^19 kg in rock salt. This
is a much more reasonable figure and much larger than the value cited in
your paper of 4.4 x 10^18 kg. (Austin and Humphreys 1990, p. 25.)

Since the Miocene was a period of balance, you should add 17.5
million years to your 62 million year age calculated on page 27 of your
article. This would make an age of nearly 80 million years. A look at
any paleogeographic map from 80 million years ago, will show, as you are
well aware Steve, that the oceans covered a much larger proportion of the
earth at that time. With less land area, the influxes from rivers and
groundwater of the continents would be significantly reduced. A reduction
of nearly 50% in the inputs would almost balance the sodium equations even
in your table. This would mean that large parts of the Cretaceous and
Jurassic eras would also be in balance as far as sodium is concerned.

Steve, you said you have a Missouri attitude. "Show me the numbers".
I think I just did. Being the honorable men that you and Russ are, I
would expect that you will retract your contention that the oceans are
young based upon sodium influx.



Glenn R. Morton



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