Parting the Red Sea

Contents: The Paper, Media Coverage, Funding, Weatherwise.

The Scientific Paper

On August 30, 2010 I published a scientific paper in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, with my thesis advisor Dr. Weiqing Han.

"Dynamics of Wind Setdown at Suez and the Eastern Nile Delta", by Carl Drews and Weiqing Han, PLoS ONE, 2010 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012481. link OpenSky
This modeling study applies to the biblical Moses parting the Red Sea, as described in Exodus 14.

Coverage by the News Media

Although the paper was about air-sea dynamics in coastal regions, the historical and biblical connection sparked great interest and international media coverage. The UCAR press release was issued on September 21, 2010, and most of the publicity followed during that same week. Some of the news stories, videos, audios, and blogs are listed below.

UCAR Communications
http://www2.ucar.edu/news/parting-waters-computer-modeling-applies-physics-red-sea-escape-route
Boulder Daily Camera
http://www.dailycamera.com/news/ci_16128420
ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/science-religion-moses-part-sea-wind-part-red-dan-harris-11703802
New Scientist
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19489-how-wind-may-have-parted-the-sea-for-moses.html
Fox 31 Denver - KDVR
http://www.kdvr.com/videobeta/bccbe130-64ba-48d2-bc84-f64f8338cc86/News/Scientists-part-the-Red-Sea-again
Discovery News
http://news.discovery.com/history/moses-red-sea-parting.html
CNN - Cable News Network
http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2010/09/21/where-did-waters-part-for-moses-not-where-you-think/
BBC - British Broadcasting Company
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11383620
MSNBC - Microsoft National Broadcasting Corporation
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39286909
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39291941/
Los Angeles Times
http://articles.latimes.com/2010/sep/21/science/la-sci-red-sea-20100921
NPR - National Public Radio
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130112925
Sydney Morning Herald
http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/moses-had-help-parting-the-red-sea-20100923-15npa.html
Radio New Zealand
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons September 28th.
Ilsussidiario.net - Italian Daily
http://www.ilsussidiario.net/News/Curiosita/2010/9/23/RICERCA-USA-Mose-divise-davvero-le-acque-il-miracolo-possibile-grazie-a-un-forte-vento/1/114793/
YouTube
Parting the waters, Part 1: The physics of a land bridge
Parting the waters, Part 2: Carl Drews on wind setdown research
GetReligion blog
http://www.getreligion.org/2010/09/moses-mighty-wind/
Wired
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/09/red-sea-parting
TV and radio news clips
Aired 09/22/2010 - 09/23/2010 - http://media.vmsnews.com/MonitoringReports/092310/575702/T036809268/
Aired 09/23/2010 - 09/24/2010 - http://media.vmsnews.com/MonitoringReports/092410/575702/O037118855/
Aired 09/24/2010 - 09/27/2010 - http://media.vmsnews.com/MonitoringReports/092710/575702/A037747052/
Posted 09/20/2010 - 09/23/2010 - http://media.vmsnews.com/MonitoringReports/092810/575702/U038128897/
Ingeniøren (in Danish)
http://ing.dk/artikel/112236-computersimulation-afsloerer-saadan-skilte-moses-vandene
Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/sciencetech/article/864252--wind-could-have-parted-red-sea-for-moses-report
Daily Telegraph (United Kingdom)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8015908/Biblical-parting-of-the-Red-Sea-could-have-happened.html
Science 2.0
http://www.science20.com/news_articles/parting_red_sea_could_it_have_happened_wind_setdown_model_says_yes
AolNews
http://www.aolnews.com/science/article/holy-moses-science-may-explain-parting-of-sea/19643722
France 24 - AFP
http://www.france24.com/en/20100923-moses-had-help-parting-red-sea-study
Infoniac (in Russian)
http://www.infoniac.ru/news/Moisei-pereshel-ne-Krasnoe-more.html
UCAR Staff Notes
http://www2.ucar.edu/staffnotes/news/modeling-study-probes-biblical-mystery
Guardian Weekly
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/sep/21/moses-red-sea-exodus
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/sep/22/moses-parting-red-sea-research
Edmonton Sun
http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/columnists/thane_burnett/2010/09/21/15429931.html

Funding for This Research

Some correspondents have inquired how this research was funded. The Red Sea study was part of my master's thesis research at the University of Colorado. My primary research interest is typhoon-driven storm surge. The Red Sea investigation was an interesting case study within the larger project. Wind setdown is the opposite of storm surge, but is less well known because it usually poses no danger to lives and property.

My master's thesis research was conducted on my own time, in accordance with the educational assistance policy of my employer, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). "My own time" means evenings, weekends, and lunch hours. You may access the full thesis here: http://gradworks.umi.com/14/68/1468999.html

The PLoS ONE paper acknowledges funding for "tuition and computational support." UCAR pays the tuition for graduate students on full-time staff, and provides computer time for running complex models.

The University of Colorado believes in academic freedom. The faculty encourage graduate students to pick a topic of interest, so long as it requires knowledge and skills within atmospheric and oceanic sciences. I picked storm surge because it interests me, and the Red Sea/Sea of Reeds/Tanis case for the same reason.

The other half of my thesis research was studying typhoon-driven storm surge in the Philippines. I modeled hurricane-force winds striking the greater Manila area, for the purpose of determining which areas of the metro area were in danger of inundation. Saving lives and property is an important part of UCAR's mission. The same data sets, models, scripts, analysis tools, and research techniques were used for all the study cases (Tanis, Manila, Erie, etc.). The Office of Naval Research paid my travel costs to a workshop at UCLA to learn the ROMS model, and to Chicago to present my research on Manila Bay the next summer. I took vacation time for those days. Now that I have earned my master's degree, I hope to obtain funding to calculate storm surge potential in the Philippines, Bangladesh, and the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Weatherwise magazine

In the January/February 2011 issue of Weatherwise magazine I published a follow-up article intended for a general audience. Citation: Drews, Carl (2011) "Could Wind Have Parted the Red Sea?", Weatherwise, Volume 64: Issue 1, pages 30-35, DOI: 10.1080/00431672.2011.536122 .

Return to my Staff page.

Last update: June 12, 2012.