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(Mother Jones)   Why this year's Gulf dead zone is twice as big as last year's   ( divider line
    More: Interesting, gulf, Gulf dead zone, Mississippi Delta, water body, severe storm, U.S. Geological Survey  
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8078 clicks; posted to Main » on 15 Aug 2013 at 8:11 AM (4 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2013-08-15 11:15:28 AM  

This text is now purple: snocone: Replace that toxic corn culture with say, hemp, and watch what happens.

Food prices will rise and people will starve?

Corn is a calorie crop; hemp isn't. You'd get the same effect by replacing corn with cotton.

\Hell, corn is basically the premier calorie crop. It's the dominant foodstuff on three continents. It's why it's so wildly popular. It's also easier on the environment than rice, alfalfa, sorghum, etc.

You say this all like it's a bad thing.
2013-08-15 11:15:45 AM  

This text is now purple: snocone: "Corn" of today has little or nuttin to do with "native species".

Maize is two gene substitutions away from its native small bushy plant form. It still freely hybridizes with it.

Good for Maize, not our problem.
Our problem is the good ole' "profit at any cost" thingie.
2013-08-15 11:16:26 AM  

IdBeCrazyIf: HAMMERTOE: It's a byproduct of the very thing that allows big-city liberals to use condescending terms like "fly-over country," which translates to, "the part of the country that keeps us from having to resort to cannibalism, in our quest for fresh food."

With the increase in urban farming, utilization of rooftops, and a general cooling effect this have you may want to rethink your statement.

Just saying

Urban farming as a replacement for the real thing? Are you sure that you have a proportional view of the scale required?
2013-08-15 11:25:59 AM  

J. Frank Parnell: ikanreed: Also, christ, phytoplankton that produce O2 are mostly found in the first 10 meters of water. Basic biology too, duder.

Explain to me why an oil spill isn't also a threat to phytoplankton.

Phyto-plankton (phyto means plant) are photo-synthesizers and thus inhabit the upper layers of the water column. That's the key take-away point in answer to your question.

The oil and natural gas that leaked from BP's blowouts (and which leaks to some extent from all oil operations) tends to disperse through a sort of very slow cracking and through mixture with water. It may be toxic to some phyto-plankton, but there is so much plankton in the water where ever there are nutrients for plants, that it can't do much damage, at least once it is dispersed. The algae and other plant or plant-like plankton springs back fast. Most of the gunk that doesn't get dispersed over large areas and volumnes (which by now includes much of the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic Ocean, I imagine) sinks or washes up on beach as tar balls. It is concentrated and doesn't affect the upper water column much. Thus the phyto-plankton does not get seriously hurt by an oil spill. It can spring back as soon as the petroleum is "gone".

The dead zone is produced by a different type of mechanism. Rather than crude petroleum or natural gas, the problem is fertilizer. Plants love the stuff. Too much will burn them but as long as they can absorb it, it makes them grow. And grow, and grow, and grow. The dead zone is deprived of oxygen by plant growth, mainly green algae. If you have seen a badly cleaned aquarium, you know too much fertilizer (fish food, fish poo) will turn lovely clear water into bright green goo (algae) which takes up the oxygen and kills everything that breathes (or sends them to the surface to gasp for air).

The dead zone is a giant over-fed fish tank. Too much of a good thing means death.

Each year as the farmers fertilizer their fields, the excess fertilizer washes down the Mississippi drainage basin (over 7,000 rivers, as shown in a graphic posted within the last few days on Fark). Ever year, a giant dead zone forms at the mouth of each of the world's great agricultural-industrial basin outlets--the Mississippi, the Rhine, the Bramaputra, the Ganges, etc.

These dead zones are the result of too much of a good thing just as much as the current Carbon cycle problem (aka climate change or global warming). There is a Nitrogen cycle problem and it produces not only a sizeable chunk of global warming gas but the dead zones.

The same thing happens in many lakes and streams throughout North America and the world.

Green algae is toxic and when you swim in it, you get nasty dermatological side effects. Some kinds of algal bloom (such as the infamous red tide) are toxic enough to kill fish and even humans without depriving them of oxygen.
2013-08-15 11:42:58 AM  
Because hurricanes go around in a circle.
2013-08-15 11:43:41 AM  
Droughts are one of the things you expect from climate change, even if the area affected by the drought is not warming, which might be the case in a few regions due to change in wind and water currents.

You can't attribute any one event directly to climate change (just as you can't attribute any particular roll of the dice to the fact the dice are loaded without the control of the roller or inadvertantly unbalanced). But you can find the fingerprints of man all over climate change in other ways. For example, the CO2 put into the atmosphere by various kinds of plants, or various kinds of fuel, can be detected by comparing isotopes with natural-source isotopes.

Plants and other living things preferentially use lighter carbon atoms, taking up more C12 than C13 or C14. Nonethess, the two radioactive isotopes of Carbon get taken up by living things. Thus it becomes possible to date biological organics with C14 dating, and also to tell many things about fossils and living organisms, such as what kind of food they ate. Different kinds of plants consume different amounts of C13 and C14, which means you can tell a grass-eater from a tree-leaf eater, a meat-eater from a vegetarian, and a long-dead tree from a living tree.

The longest dead living organisms on Earth are called fossil fuels. You can tell how long these dead forests, swamps, bogs and sediment deposits full of dead microorganisms have been dead by examining the ratios of isotopes of Carbon and other radioactive isotopes in them. Over time, there is less radioactive material in rocks, fossil fuels, fossils and organic remains.

You can thus finger Man rather than Nature for the CO2 in the atmosphere. Man's CO2 is older and "deader" in the radioactive sense than Nature's CO2 output.

If droughts mean fewer and smaller dead zones, good. That's a plus for somebody. It's an externality for everybody, because the person who pays is not the person who profits.

Climate change is an externality also. The people who profit from burning the fossil fuel are not the people who suffer the full price of burning it. The atmosphere is breathed by all, but owned by no one. We all pay for damage to it, but we do not all benefit from damage to it.

In case you think being an American makes you immune to the consequences of your actions, I remind you that the pollution from China, Japan, Korea, and South East Asia not only hangs over those countries in a brown smog cloud that can be seen from space, but blows over the Pacific and falls out over (mostly Western) USA and Canada.

If you are asthmatic and live here (I'm in Ottawa), the pollution that makes you gag comes from Chicago, but also from Shanghai and Tokyo.

Karma, dude. Karma. What goes around, comes around. This proves the Earth is a sphere and not a table top, because things fall off of table tops and nothing falls off of the Earth except things light enough to escape into space, like Hydrogen and Helium.

So the net effect of too much carbon (oxydized) and too much nitrogen (oxidized) is death and destruction, even if there are temporary and local benefits to be obtained from the production or consumption of these.

Plants breathe air. Idiots think this is some kind of answer to climate change science and they repeat it endlessly, even after you point out the fallacy of their implicit failed attempt to think.

But there is too much of a good thing--oxygen is a toxin in the right dosage, so are CO2 and NO2 and carbon monoxide and the poison of the Fugo fish.

The poison is in the dose, said Doctor Paracelsus, who was a genius and a jackass.

We need to change the way we do business and everything else, or we are ultimately poisoning ourselves with our own waste, even if some innocent people and organisms suffer early, hard and without profit or blame.
2013-08-15 11:44:38 AM  

ur14me: Global warming!


Natural processes! Junk science!  Jeebus!
2013-08-15 11:57:53 AM  

Elegy: BMFPitt: J. Frank Parnell: FTA: Why such massive annual dead zones? It's a matter of geography and concentration and intensification of fertilizer-dependent agriculture.

Are you farking kidding me? Is this sponsored by BP?

The Deepwater Horizon spill was so bad, it created Gulf Dead Zone decades before it happened?

Sounds like the work of Obama's time machine. GULFDEADZONEGATE!

Beat me to it.

Oh well, just for fun:


[ image 250x365]

Yes, it is going forward.

If you'd like to read a science fiction story with a time travel element and a climate change element, I recommend Benford's 1980 SF novel, Timescape.

Scientists in the future (1998) are facing ecological disaster on a global scale. The Earth is warming (but that's not the real problem--the real problem is that the dead zones, which are by then are humungous, have become air-borne killers because a certain fertilizer has mutated toxic algae in such a way they put out a toxic gas rather than just sucking up all the oxygen in the water. Mankind is for the trashheap of history if something is not done, and the future's only hope is tachyons (which at the time of writing were fashionable and believe to be able to travel back in time).

The Scientists have to get a message back to other scientists who are performing an experiment in the 1960s. If they fail, snake eyes, baby! That's all she wrote.

I don't want to give you too many spoilers, but one of the things I love about this novel is that it is one of the most realistic time travel novels in that there is no time travel, only communication, and that very limited.

You see, from the point of view of scientists in the 1960s, the message from the 1990s comes from a point in space on the path the solar system is following through space. It looks like a message from nowhere, and from space aliens, perhaps some kind of "lost in space" type of ship or satellite.

If you have ever thought deeply about time travel, you would know that not only does it involve travelling through time, it involves travelling through space because the Earth rotates on its axis, revolves around the Sun, which is plowing through space dragging the solar system with it, and which is also revolving around the Galactic core. All those spirals within spirals mean that even a time travel trip of one second would have to be calibrated carefully or you would end up inside a mountain or dropping into the Ocean when you blipped into existence at the destination time.


And note how I managed to work global warming and time travel together with the original post about Obama's time machine.


And kick Viscount Monckton's ass while you are there.
2013-08-15 11:58:24 AM  
Because... people?

/didn't need to....
2013-08-15 12:13:20 PM  

Speaker2Animals: J. Frank Parnell: ikanreed: No, this is scientifically accurate. The BP spill caused some wildlife harm, but it tended to mostly be the much hire organisms on the food chain like birds.

Those are just the only ones visible to us which they couldn't deny. The oil didn't just disappear because they sunk it. It's still down there, on the bottom. How do you think all the microorganisms and plants on the bottom are doing? You know, the ones which put oxygen into the water and stop places from becoming dead zones.

Do yourself a favor and RTFA and you won't sound ignorant. This was going on long before the BP spill. And it's also happening in the Chesepeake and Lake Erie.

THIS.  Also...
2013-08-15 12:56:34 PM  
I've seen the misinterpretation a few times in this thread so I thought I'd point it out. The algae and phytoplankton aren't consuming all the O2, it's when they die and decay (oxidize) that uses up the O2 in the water.
2013-08-15 02:51:48 PM  

Faraday's Child: I've seen the misinterpretation a few times in this thread so I thought I'd point it out. The algae and phytoplankton aren't consuming all the O2, it's when they die and decay (oxidize) that uses up the O2 in the water.

Well, the decay is caused by zoo-plankton.  Which makes it all seems very samey to use macro-organisms.
2013-08-15 03:06:39 PM  

Threadslayer: ur14me: Global warming!


Natural processes! Junk science!  Jeebus!

My God, this is the most retarded Eco-disaster thread Fark has had in a long time.
2013-08-15 05:57:23 PM  

J. Frank Parnell: The oil didn't just disappear because they sunk it. It's still down there, on the bottom

Really?!? I thought I was stupid.
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