The title of this article may look like a joke, but it is very serious.
Hopefully you’ve been paying attention to the news and you’ve heard about or read about the huge dead zones in the oceans. These are caused by nutrients from fertilizers and animal and human waste entering the oceans causing huge algae blooms near the surface blocking light preventing any plants below from receiving oxygen thus causing the water to be depleted of oxygen resulting in the death of everything in it.
It’s not just dead zones which can result in oxygen depleted waters. Mixing of deep ocean water with shallow waters can also do this.
Not quite everything and here is where the big problem lie. You see there is one life form that thrives. There exists a form of bacteria in the ocean that dies in the presence of oxygen but thrives in it’s absence. These bacterias obtain energy to drive their biological processes by combining sulfur and hydrogen into hydrogen-sulfide.
Hydrogen-sulfide is what gives rotting cabbage and farts their wonderful odor. At levels of about 100 times that at which you can smell it, it is toxic. If you’ve ever been locked in a small room with someone that had burritos for dinner the night before you know this.
A positive feedback cycle is possible where as these bacteria thrive, the hydrogen sulfide they produce can kill more oxygen producing life forms, resulting in more oxygen depleted water, and more anaerobic bacteria.
A mass extinction that occurred 250 million years ago in which 95% of the species died, is believed to be tied to just such a global bloom of this type of anaerobic hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria.
There are some indications that it is beginning to happen again:
- Bad Smell Raises New Yorker’s Anxieties
- Blame Game for Mystery Odor Stinks
- Bad Smell Foxes New York Emergency Services
So far people can only speculate on the smell, but I think it’s no coincidence that it’s happening first in the most populous region of the United States. Dump huge quantities of sewage into the Ocean, feed the bacteria, cause a large bacteria bloom, anaerobic bacteria thrive and when the wind blows the right way New York gets to enjoy it.
This time it only sent 12 people to the hospital. It’s a problem that is going to get worse if we don’t take action to stop it.