Tree Rings, Varves, and Carbon 14 Dates Refute Young-Earth Creationism

(C) Glen J. Kuban, 2012 - 2019


Most young-earth creationists (YECs) hold that the earth was created about 6,000 years ago, and that the "Genesis Flood" was a violent global deluge that took place only a few thousands years ago. However, many studies involving tree rings, varves (fine sedimentary layers in lakes), coral growth, and carbon dating yield far older dates. Even more problematic for YECs, these and other independent methods correlate well with each other, confirming their general accuracy, and dramatically refuting the YEC viewpoint. YEC ojections to each of the methods are found to be ill-founded or minor. None are effective in explaining overall patterns in any of the individual methods, let alone the essential correlation among the different dating methods.
Tree Rings, Varves, C14 Calibrations

Tree Rings

Dendrochronology, the study of tree rings, has been a thorn in the side of young-earth creationists. A number of thorough, extensive tree ring studies involving thousands of trees (of overlapping ages) at multiple sites and different tree species have doumented reliable chronologies extending beyond 10,000 years (Aardsma, 1993), with some extending beyond 12,400 years (Friedrich et all, 2004).

Some YECs have suggested these figures may be inflated because some years can show multiple rings. However, Gerald Aardsma (1990, 1993), carefully reviewed the scientific literature on the subject, which included extensive ring data from multiple sites and multiple tree types (overlapping semi-fossilized trees). He found that reliable and cross-checked tree ring series extend back to at least 11,300 ago. He further found that these results were strongly correlated with C14 dates (providing good confirmation that both were sound), and that the occassional missing or extra rings in some series were well accounted for, and did not apprciably affect the results. He concluded that the Flood (presuming there was a global flood) must have occurred over 10,000 years ago, and challenged his fellow YECs to frankly face this evidence. Instead most have ignored or dismissed it. Some heavily criticized Aardsma for his candor, but none were able to show any significant errors in his analysis or the original studies.


Varves are annual layers of fine sediment that often accumulate in large lakes, and which can be counted in ancient sediment from prehistoric lakes. Where varves include additional layering from storms or other irregular events, they can generally be recognized as such. A paper by Kitagawa and Plicht (1998) described cores taken of a lake in Japan. The varves in these cores were counted back to 45,000 years before present. The plant fragments in the sediments were also analyzed for C14 dating. Young-earth creationists have argued that neither C14 dating nor varves are valid geologic dating methods. However, Fig. 1 from their paper, displaying the number of varves on the x-axis and C14 dates oon the y-axiz, shows a near-perfect correlation between the two methods, back to the limit of the 14C method. The grey points (Calico Basin) show the varve data. Even more troubling for YECs, both sets of data corrrelate well with tree-ring data and data from coral growth, which are the green data points and red points respectively. Further explanations on the nature of varves, why they provide concludive evidence against YECism, and why YEC arguments against them are flawed, see Neyman (2004) and Morton (2003).


Aardsma, G. E. 1993. Tree-ring dating and multiple ring growth per year. Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 29, March 1993, p. 184-189,

Aardsma, G. E. 1990. Radiocarbon, Dendrochronology, and the Date of the Flood. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism Vol. II (Pittsburgh: Creation Science Fellowship, p. 1-10.

Friedrich, Michael et al, 2004. "The 12,460-Year Hohenheim Oak and Pine Tree-Ring Chronology from Central Europe." Radiocarbon, Vol. 46, No. 3, p 1111-1122.

Kitagawa, H. and J. van der Plicht. 1998 (Frb. 20). "Atmospheric radiocarbon calibration to 45,000 yr B.P.: Late glacial fluctuations and cosmogenic isotope production" Science, v. 279, p. 1187-90,

Morton, G. 2004. Varves and the Global Flood. Web article at:

Neyman, G. 2004. Truth in Geology Series: The Truth About Varves. Old Earth Ministries. Web article at: