How Fast Can Coal Form?

The peat layer in Spirit Lake demonstrates that peat can form rapidly

Noah's Flood would have uprooted trees and probably deposited broken woody material and bark in strata on the earth. Could such a process be responsible for depositing coal beds? Geologists from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) believe so and are developing a model for the origin of coal that uses Mount St. Helens as an example.

As a result of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, about one million logs were uprooted and formed a floating log mat occupying an area of some two square miles (three square kilometres) on the surface of Spirit Lake just north of the volcano. Creationist scientists have investigated the floating logs using both scuba and sonar.

The logs floating on Spirit Lake have lost their bark and branches because of the abrasive interaction of logs, wind and waves. Scuba investigations of the lake bottom have shown that water-saturated sheets of tree bark are especially abundant on the bottom of the lake where, in areas removed from volcanic sediment added from the lake shore, a layer of peat several inches thick has accumulated. Both compositionally and texturally, the Spirit Lake peat resembles certain coal beds of the eastern United States, which also are dominated by tree bark and also could have accumulated beneath floating log mats.

Conventionally, coal is supposed to have accumulated from organic material accumulated in swamps by growth in place of plants with later burial. Because the accumulation of peat in swamps is a slow
process, most geologists have supposed that coal beds required about 1,000 years to form each inch of coal.

The peat layer in Spirit Lake demonstrates that peat can accumulate rapidly. In this example, it had been deposited within three years. Swamp peats, however, very rarely have bark-sheet material because the intrusive action of tree roots disintegrates and homogenises the peat. The Spirit Lake peat, in contrast, is texturally very similar to coal. All that is needed is burial and slight heating to transform the Spirit Lake peat into coal.

Thus, at Spirit Lake, we may be seeing the first stage in the formation of coal.

by Steven A. Austin, Ph.D.

(Steve Austin, Ph.D., is a geologist from the United States who has done major research on the effects of the Mount St. Helens volcano catastrophe. He has also done much research on coal. Dr. Austin works with the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, California.)

Source: 'Creation Ex-Nihilo', Vol.12, No.1