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Hydrological sorting

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Hydrological sorting is the process by which objects settle in a fluid, often water based on factors such as size and density.


The following experiment shows the basic concept in action; however this only represents the simplest case.





Put some soil in a glass. Pour water into the glass. Stir the contents of the glass. It will settle in to layers.

The quality of the results depends on the soil that is used. Soil from several different places produces better results.

The case represented by this experiment has a fixed amount of sediment. In such cases each type of sediment produces only one layer. However this is not the case with a continual influx of sediment.



Sediment continually coming in from above. Sediment continually coming in horizontally.

When sediment is continually coming in then the sediment forms repeating layers, between the different types of sediment. When sediment is coming in from above the Principle of superposition may be valid but there is no reason why one layer must be totally formed before the next begins. However when sediment is coming in horizontally the Principle of superposition does not apply since all of the layers are forming simultaneously.

In both cases the thickness of layers is determined by the differences in the size and density of the particles, and the disposition rate is determined by the rate of influx of material. This means the thickness of the layers is not related to the disposition rate, but only to the nature of the particles being deposited.

Hydrological sorting readily explains the layered pattern found in rocks within the context of a Global flood, but it is difficult to tell exactly how it would affect fossil order, since the buoyancy of an organism is not apparent from fossils (because fossils seldom contain any soft tissue, or internal organs). A study using modern animal carcasses would be a help in this area, but hydrological sorting would be just one of several factors affecting the sorting of fossils.


Often, questions arise to the validity of the model based on known scientific principals. However, hydrological sorting in the context of a global flood would only play a small role in the reformation and deposition of the earth.

Hydrological sorting does not follow the same principals as centrifuging. Though similar, there are a great deal of factors that are excluded from centrifuge techniques that lend to a great number of principal differences.

  • High levels of water create a large pressure to grain size ratio, which does not occur in centrifuging
  • Small organic substances, such as flowers, stick to minerals and can be transported to many different layers. Not all substances will be sorted based on boyency, density, size, etc
  • Centrifuging uses high speeds that would not be attainable on that large of a scale
  • Environmental factors do not effect centrifuging. Hydrological sorting is readily effected

While hydrological sorting is a major part of Flood geology, it is often a greatly misunderstood part. When properly understood it readily explains the sedimentary rock layers seen in the Earth, when placed in the context of a Global flood.

Related Reference

  • Berthault, G., 1986. Sedimentology-experiments on lamination of sediments. C.R. Academie or Science (Paris), 303 (Series II, no. 17):1569-1574 (EN Tech. J., 3, 1988, pp. 25-29).
  • Berthault, G., 1988. Sedimentation of a heterogranular mixture-experimental lamination in still and running water. C.R. Academie of Science (Paris), 306 (Series II):717-724 (EN Tech. J., 4, 1990, pp.95- 102).
  • Berthault, G., 1986. Experiments on lamination of sediments, resulting from a periodic graded-bedding subsequent to deposition—a contribution to the explanation of lamination of various sediments and sedimentary rocks. Compte Rendus Académie des Sciences, Paris, 303 (Série II, no. 17):1569–1574.

See Also