A new computer model has indicated that the parting of the Red Sea could really have taken place – if the winds were right.
Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado at Boulder have created a reconstruction of the likely locations and depths of Nile delta waterways 3,000 years ago.
The modeling shows that a strong east wind, blowing overnight, could have pushed water back at a bend where an ancient river is believed to have run into a lagoon by the Mediterranean Sea.
This would have opened up a land bridge at the bend, enabling people to walk across exposed mud flats to safety. As soon as the wind died down, the waters would have rushed back in.
The study doesn’t leave much room for participation from Moses – unless, of course, he blew very, very hard.
But, says lead author Carl Drews of NCAR, “The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus. The parting of the waters can be understood through fluid dynamics. The wind moves the water in a way that’s in accordance with physical laws, creating a safe passage with water on two sides and then abruptly allowing the water to rush back in.”
The team found a possible site for the crossing where an ancient branch of the Nile River flowed into a coastal lagoon. Analyzing archeological records, satellite measurements and maps enabled them to estimate the water flow and depth that might have existed 3,000 years ago. They then used a specialized ocean computer model to simulate the impact of an overnight wind at that site.
They found that a wind of 63 miles an hour, lasting for 12 hours, would have pushed back waters about six feet deep. This would have exposed mud flats for four hours, creating a dry passage about two to 2.5 miles long and three miles wide.
As soon as the winds stopped, the waters would come rushing back.
It’s not the first time that scientists have come up with a possible explanation for the parting of the Red Sea. Several have suggested a tsunami – but, says the team, this would not have caused the gradual overnight divide of the waters as described in the Bible, nor would it necessarily have been associated with the winds which are also mentioned.
While others have suggested wind set-down as a cause, previous studies have concluded that the winds would have needed to be of hurricane force.
“People have always been fascinated by this Exodus story, wondering if it comes from historical facts,” Drews says. “What this study shows is that the description of the waters parting indeed has a basis in physical laws.”