The Case of the Missing Fulgurites | The Institute for Creation Research

The Case of the Missing Fulgurites

Fulgurites are fossilized lightning strikes. The intense energy from a lightning strike essentially melts the ground. Lightning strikes can fuse rock, clay, or sand into fulgurites shaped like irregular hollow glass tubes. Physicist Don DeYoung wrote in 2013 in the Creation Research Society Quarterly that after 4.6 billion years, at the current lightning strike rate, every square meter of land should contain far more fossilized lightning strikes than it can even hold.1 New fulgurite research updates the numbers to bring this fulgurite problem into sharper focus.

Two Florida geoscientists collected and measured over 250 recent and ancient fulgurites from Polk County, Florida.2 In the online journal Scientific Reports, they published a way to estimate a lightning strike's energy by the dimensions of the fulgurite it produces.3

DeYoung estimated about a quarter of the 100 lightning strikes per second around the earth strike land. He further estimated that only one percent of the 25% land strikes generate fulgurites.

Pasek and Hurst suggested that only 45 bolts per second occur around the earth, instead of 100.4 The coauthors apparently would agree with DeYoung about the fraction of overland strikes that hit the ground, writing, "About a quarter of these strikes occur from a cloud to the ground, and hence the number of potential fulgurite-forming events is significant, with up to 10 fulgurites formed globally per second."1

This 10-per-second estimate assumes that all cloud-to-ground strikes form fulgurites. The odds of forming a fulgurite increase when lightning strikes bare soil, rock, or sand as opposed to ground covered by vegetation—even though fulgurites do form in soils found near trees or telephone poles that get struck. However, probably not every ground strike makes a fulgurite. So in calculating the total number of fulgurites in world history, a more conservative number works best. For example, what if only half of all ground strikes make fulgurites?

First, one could cut the Pasek and Hurst strike rate in half to have five strikes per second on Earth instead of 10. Second, one could multiply that by Earth's supposed evolutionary history of 4 billion years. Finally, dividing that product by an updated5 total land surface estimate yields over 3,928.7 fulgurites per square meter of land!6

Following DeYoung's even more conservative one percent, instead of half, of ground strikes making a fulgurite would still have generated about 78.6 fulgurites per square meter—or about seven fulgurites for every square foot of earth.7

So where are all the expected fulgurites? Or how about just half, or even a quarter of them? Fulgurites are so rare that most people have never even seen one! If the world is billions of years old, its continents should be riddled with them.

Of course, shrinking the evolutionary age for Earth down to a more scientific8 and biblical age of thousands of years solves the case of the missing fulgurites.

References

  1. DeYoung, D. B. 2013. A Survey of Lightning. Creation Research Society Quarterly. 49 (4): 281-286.
  2. Study provides a new method to measure the energy of a lightning strike. University of South Florida news release, via EurekAlert. Posted on eurekalert.com August 3, 2016, accessed August 3, 2016. 
  3. Pasek, M. A. and M. Hurst. 2016. A Fossilized Energy Distribution of Lightning. Scientific Reports. 6: 30586. 
  4. Pasek and Hurst did not make this estimated percent explicit, but it was implied in the numbers they did cite. Also, DeYoung estimated that only one percent of land strikes produce fulgurites.
  5. DeYoung used 1.28 x 1014 square meters for Earth's total land surface, but Universe Today suggests a slightly larger 1.46 x 1014 m2. Coffey, J. Surface area of the earth. Posted on universetoday.com December 24, 2015, accessed August 8, 2016. 
  6. From: (45 earth strikes/sec) x (0.825 continent strikes/earth strike) x (0.25 soil strikes/continent strike) x (0.5 fulgurites/soil strike) x (3.1536x107 sec/yr) x (4x109yr) x (1/1.49e14m2)
  7. From: (45 earth strikes/sec) x (0.825 continent strikes/earth strike) x (0.25 soil strikes/continent strike) x (0.01 fulgurites/soil strike) X (3.1536x107 sec/yr) x (4x109yr) x (1/1.49e14m2)
  8. Readers can find articles and other resources summarizing scientific evidence for a relatively young world on these pages:
    ICR.org/recent-universe
    ICR.org/thermodynamics
    ICR.org/recent-creation
    ICR.org/biological-clocks
    ICR.org/RATE

*Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on August 25, 2016.

The Latest
NEWS
Human Genome 20th Anniversary—Junk DNA Hits the Trash
The first rough drafts of the human genome were reported in 2001 (one in the private sector and one in the public sector).1-2 Since then, after...

NEWS
Bacterial Proteins Use Quantum Mechanics
Researchers have found a dimmer switch inside a protein. It tunes the protein’s configuration to take advantage of quantum mechanics during photosynthesis....

NEWS
Dr. Bill Cooper, ICR’s Adjunct Professor, Now in Glory
Earlier last month on March the 9th, Dr. William R. Cooper, ICR’s Master Faculty (known to ICR-SOBA’s faculty as “Dr. Bill” since...

NEWS
Inside April 2021 Acts & Facts
How will ICR expand biblical creation education this year? How do fossilized fish and land creatures confirm Genesis history? Does recent research support...

ACTS & FACTS
Creation Kids: Bees
You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with ICR’s special Creation Kids learning...

ACTS & FACTS
Pleasure in Our Purpose
Eric Liddell was one of the most famous athletes of the 20th century and perhaps the greatest that Scotland ever produced. An international rugby player,...

APOLOGETICS
Beware Sinkholes and Other Failing Foundations
The sudden falling of some Christian schools can be compared to tiankengs, the geological term used for sinkholes that are at least 300 feet deep.1,2...

ACTS & FACTS
The Painted Desert: Fossils in Flooded Mud Flats
Brian Thomas, Ph.D., and Tim Clarey, Ph.D. The Painted Desert stretches across 120 miles of northern Arizona. Its sedimentary rocks show bright...

ACTS & FACTS
Does Recent Research Support Human Evolution?
In 1997, the Institute for Creation Research ran an Acts & Facts article on the lack of compelling evidence regarding our supposed evolution from...

ACTS & FACTS
Building a Perfectly Optimal Flying Machine
For thousands of years, people have dreamed of flying because they witnessed birds and knew it was possible. Inspired by a study of birds, the Wright...