Oxygen Depleted, Humans Survive


Image Source: Boston.com, Dolphins Swim Under Oily Ocean Waters,
http://inapcache.boston.com/universal/site_graphics/blogs/bigpicture/oilspill_05_12/o06_23298053.jpg


The number of ocean dead zones has grown from 44 areas reported in 1995 to more than 400, with some of the worst oxygen-starved areas extending over 22,000sqkm.
Recent figures from the United Nations Environment Program estimate fertilisers, sewage and other other pollutants, combined with the impact of climate change, have led to a doubling in the number of oxygen-deficient dead zones every decade since the 1960s.

The growing list of dead zones includes waters in the Gulf of Mexico, South China Sea, Gulf of Finland, Adriatic Sea and areas of the Caribbean. The Black Sea between south-eastern Europe and Turkey which has one of the largest dead zones in the world, had 26 commercial fish species in the 1960s but now has only five.
Source: Oxygen Starved Oceans Are Rapidly Dying, 2006


You know, the date on that report cited above bothers me. 2006. 4 years ago.

Like lots of other folks, I've been following the news about the oil disaster ongoing in the Gulf. And, like a lot of other folks, I'm watching sci-fi movies. I finally started to connect it all in my head. It's not hard to imagine the story line for a tale that would end up on the SyFy channel, right? It might start with something as simple as a news story....
Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick. . .The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes. (Source: New York Times)
With such a news story online, you start to feel a bit surreal. It's the end of the world, the Gulf of Mexico yet another casualty in man's casual destruction of Mother Earth as he struggles to forfeit long-term rewards for short-term monetary gains.

I can easily imagine a series of events that start with the depletion of oxygen in the ocean and then lead to greater catastrophe, especially in light of information like the following:
Atmospheric oxygen is an important part of the Earth's atmosphere and of the conditions that allow for life on Earth. The atmosphere is composed of approximately 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen, with trace amounts of other elements. The air we breathe has atmospheric oxygen in it, but the atmosphere also helps to make a protective envelope for the planet.
Yes, you see where I'm going with this, right? Where does that oxygen come from? Well, here's the fun part:
The sources of atmospheric oxygen through photosynthesis are cyanobacteria and plankton in the ocean, and trees on land...some scientists suggest that over half of the world's atmospheric oxygen comes from oceans, for example, while others put the number at closer to one third.
Perhaps it's not a new idea. Oxygen depletion in the ocean results in the loss of half, or even a third of atmospheric oxygen. At that point, the world begins it's final journey through 1) Atmosphere burns away without sufficient oxygen; 2) We slowly asphyxiate due to lack of oxygen.

The question is, how toxic is oil in the quantities in the Gulf to algae and marine life? How long before the effects are irreversible? And, what about the giant squids threatening California's coastline (source1 | Source 2) ?


Yes, it's like being in a SyFy movie. Makes me wish I'd not been turned off to math and science as much.

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Comments

Thank you for this timely post. I'm trying not to go off on this whole thing, but with new estimates of how much oil is gushing and the President sending a group including a nuclear expert to the scene, it is really troubling.
Anonymous said…
i recently made the 20 minute trip from Pensacola to Orange Beach, AL. the air seems to have changed. it has a heavy feel to it. you have to breathe a little deeper. you can feel the chemicals on your skin, and in the air. this is not just "fumes". this is lack of OXYGEN. it is suffocating. after getting a bad headache [fumes or anoxia?] i drive back to Pensacola [stopping for aspirin]. there is a heavy wooded area, i pull over and immediatly feel a little better thanks to all the life giving trees. it is in this moment that i realize we are in trouble, big trouble.

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