Hydrogen Sulfide,

As you know, methane and CO2 are greenhouse gasses that increase the temperature of the ocean. This is where the most important threat is going to come from.
Scientists have been trying to figure out for years what caused the Permian Mass Extinction 251 million years ago. This was the big one. They have probably pinned it down now. When the ocean heats up it quits giving off oxygen and gives off hydrogen sulfide, "sewer gas" instead. The animals probably died of suffocation, direct results, (lungs dissolved from battery acid) and/or long term stress. This has dire implications for our future because it could happen again. People don't seem to care about the temperature going up but I think it will hit home when they find out that death from sewer gas may result.
We are in an emergency situation right now . How are we going to lower the temperature of the Arctic 9 degrees Fahrenheit and how are we going to prevent the temperature of the ocean from going up or try to lower it after it has gone up?
Does anyone know what the temperature of the ocean would have to be to start giving off hydrogen sulfide?
I don't want to wait for the atmosphere to turn green to find out.


4 replies

Here is the first sign. The oxygen levels are going down in the Pascific ocean now. This article describes how it works as well as the last one. This article does not say what happens next.

Written in December 2008

The Southern Ocean is near it's tipping point for acidification. "Hellish results" predicted. Natational Academy of Science moved up tipping point by 30 years.

Written in December 2008

Charles M. 110°

To blame mass extinctions on hydrogen sulfide is a bit premature. Why should some species have died and others not? Do the tougher species have special lungs or something? There are many flavor-of-the-month theories, not many of which hold water on their own.

Hydrogen sulfide is commonly found in areas where the H2S bacteria thrive (and others struggle to live). These are typically low oxygen environments, but can also include relatively high oxygen environments too. For example a tidal swamp can get to high H2S because the regular bacteria struggle to survive in the mix of sea and fresh waters. Once other bacteria build up again, the H2S bacteria get overrun and the H2S levels drop off.

Changing oxygen levels does not change the bacteria to H2S for good. Instead, changing temperatures can kill off one bacterium and a new one can come in to replace it. H2S bacteria might be able to take up a foothold in the transition.

Written in December 2008

Charles M. 110°

Re: http://www.motherjones.com/blue_marble_blog/arc...

The problem with most of these reports is that the models they are based on are far too simplistic to be at all meaningful.

Models of acidification of the ocean is based on a large number of assumptions such as:
* There are no other variables.
* The system model is well known. For example, the model might assume a linear relationship.

The major reason for these simplifications in these models is twofold:
1) We have very limited knowledge of natural processes and don't have a full appreciation for how they work.
2) Modelling is very hard and simplification is the only way we can make sense of anything.

Of course in the real world, these models very seldom stack up because these assumptions are ill founded. For example, as acidification kicks in, other processes start up, and the variables change.

Thus, when scientists make predictions from these models, they say things like: "If the current rate of acidification continues then we might see result xxx".

That's all very well except that the simplifications have stripped out any meaning from the exercise.

As an analogy: remember your high school physics... You'd have learnt a whole lot of things about momentum and acceleration and had to solve problems where you could assume that gravity is constant (it is not) or that there is no friction (there always is). Those simplifications are done because the calculations get too complicated when you add in friction and changing gravity. For example, consider a problem of a person jumping out of a plane. If you ignore friction, then it is a trivial calculation to figure out how fast the person is going when they hit the ground. Add in friction and you need to consider terminal velocity, their parachute and other real world factors. When you consider these other factors you see that it is perfectly possible for a person to jump out of a plane at 10,000 ft and survive.

In most cases, natural processes are self correcting. That is, balance is found between supply and demand. When an environment starts generating more of xxx, then processes that consume xxx tend to thrive thus reducing xxx. For example, in the case of CO2, plants love the stuff so increasing CO2 levels stimulates plant growth.

These factors are very difficult to understand, let along characterise and model, which is why they are typically left out.

Written in December 2008

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