Chris McKitterick (mckitterick) wrote,
Chris McKitterick

End-of-the-world scenario: Gulf of Mexico seabed eruption

With the CSSF Workshops consuming most of my time, I had no idea just how bad things have gotten in the BP Gulf oil spill.

First off, apparently the seabed - not just the ruined well - is leaking 65,000 barrels of crude oil daily: That's 2,700,000 gallons of oil every day.

Microbes that love to eat oil need oxygen to do so; the Gulf waters are becoming oxygen-deprived dead zones.

The stuff spilling from this well is only 60% oil; the 40% remainder is methane, compared with 5% found in typical oil deposits. So along with each barrel of oil, 2,900 cubic feet of natural gas (mostly methane) is being released into the Gulf waters. That's more than 188,000,000 (188 million) cubic feet of methane every day. So far, about 13 billion cubic feet have been released, making it one of the hugest methane eruptions in history. Methane is probably the worst greenhouse gas around.

Along with methane, vast amounts of toxic benzene are being released into the region; benzene levels in New Orleans have risen to 3,000 parts per billion (0-5 ppb are considered acceptible).

The ocean floor is fracturing, and a vast ocean of methane seems to have been disturbed and is rising. If it fully erupts, we're talking utter devastation. Geologists estimate that this methane pocket is 20 miles across and tens of feet deep, probably frozen. If it turns to gas... wow. First you get a bubble that sinks every boat working the spill (can't float on gas). Then huge tsunamis blast the shorelines. If there's an ignition source, you get a ball of fire like we've never seen, consuming all the oxygen. Speaking of which, you also get utter dead zones across the Gulf, because there's no oxygen left in the water. Worst-case scenarios describe global extinction-level events....

Here's the article that got me researching this so late tonight. It's pretty alarmist, but seems to be based on more-sensible sources.

Here's a more level-headed report.

And here's one with more sources.

Might this be the coming of the end for modern civilization? For most of life on Earth? Or maybe just a major killing-off of life in the Gulf?

What a thing to say, what options. Even if massive tsunamis don't end up ravaging the Gulf Coast; even if all life isn't extinguished in that body of water; even if the seabed collapse doesn't trigger global mass-extinction, we're facing the worst catastrophe in human history.

And here I thought my little problems were a big deal. Woof.

Tags: decline of civilization, future of the earth

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