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Earths atmosphere, oceans, and seas

Razor-Thin Surface Films

This presentation is a courtesy of

The Wecskaop Project

It is entirely free for non-commercial use by scientists, students, and educators anywhere in the world

What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet


Copyright 2011, The Wecskaop Project. All rights reserved.

Is our planet fragile or robust?

If the functioning of natural systems is robust and if the earth's water, seas, and atmosphere are immense

then pollution and other human abuses might be viewed as relatively minor insults to an otherwise robust and pristine system

If we assume that the earth and its atmosphere and seas are so immense as to be beyond harm from human activities,

then we may treat these critical systems with complacency

But is such a worldview justified?

or do earths atmosphere and seas simply SEEM immense as a result of our own diminutive size?

As a planet, earth has several characteristics that allow life as we know it to exist

First, earth has immense quantities of water, so that we could call ourselves The Water Planet"

Compared to other known planets, for example, earth has immense quantities of water

Approximately 77% of its surface is covered with some form of water

(such as oceans, lakes, glaciers, and snow)

Secondly, it orbits the sun at a distance that allows most of its water to exist in its liquid state

If we were a little further from the sun, all our water would freeze and exist as ice

If we were a little closer to the sun, our water would exist primarily in its gaseous state

The Pacific Ocean alone, for example, covers more of the earth's surface than all of our land masses combined

In addition, water covers 60% of the northern hemisphere and approximately 80% of the southern hemisphere

International Oceanographic Foundation (1977)

Furthermore, if we were to use all earth's mountains and land masses to fill in the deepest parts of the sea, we would end up with no land at all

Instead, earth would be covered with a layer of water 2.5 kilometers deep

In addition to these immense reservoirs of water, earth also has hidden reservoirs of water

Its atmosphere is filled with clouds, rain, water vapor, fog, and humidity

Our farms and cities rely on dwindling underground aquifers containing fossil water that fell as rain thousands of years ago

Lettuce and celery are good diet foods because they are composed mostly of water.

And even the cells, tissues, and bodies of living things constitute rich reservoirs of water

Living cells, for example, are up to 98% salt water

International Oceanographic Foundation (1977)

In these respects, then, we can think of the earth as an "Unlikely Planet

In one way, therefore, the numbers cited so far underscore an abundance of water

In reality, however, this seeming enormity and abundance is simply an illusion

Because as living organisms, each of us is so tiny compared to the size of our planet

that earth's oceans only seem large if they are compared to our own diminutive body size

After International Oceanographic Foundation (1977)

If we assess earth's oceans, however, as simply a surface feature of our planet, an entirely different perspective emerges

Mathematically speaking, 99.94% of our planet consists of its crust, mantle, and its molten interior

The thin layer of water that we refer to as an ocean


After International Oceanographic Foundation (1977)

exists only as an inexpressibly thin and precarious surface film that is only 6/100 ths of 1% as thick as the earth itself

See appendix two For supporting mathematics

To proportionally illustrate such a depth to scale on a classroom globe, we would need a thin film of water

approximately 12/1000 ths of one inch deep

to correctly depict the proportional depth of the earth's oceans

After International Oceanographic Foundation (1977)

If we were to wipe a wet paper towel across a twenty-inch globe

the film it leaves behind would be too deep

to properly characterize the depth of earth's oceans

After International Oceanographic Foundation (1977)

Thus viewed from a planetary perspective, our oceans exist as a thin and precarious surface film with greater vulnerability than we might intuitively suppose

Thus, the seeming immensity of our oceans is actually an illusion

for we have seen that, in planetary terms, our oceans are THIN surface films that are just 6/100ths of 1% as thick as the earth itself

See appendix two for supporting mathematics

Part Two

Earths Atmosphere
as another thin and fragile surface film

It turns out that our ocean of air, earth's atmosphere, can be viewed in a similar way

Part Two - Like the Skin of an Onion

If we analyze the proportional depth of earth's atmosphere, we find that earths ocean of air is also little more than another thin and fragile film

Astronauts and cosmonauts, while taking photographs from space, have likened earths atmosphere to a single layer of skin on an onion

And this onion-skin-thin surface film of air may exhibit far greater vulnerability than we commonly imagine

Seen from this perspective, our collective individual impacts could contribute seriously to potentially-calamitous outcomes

The fact that earths atmosphere and oceans are razor-thin surface films requires us to consider the implications of our current worldwide levels of pollution, disruption, and environmental damage

Part Three
What outbreaks of dinoflagellate red-tide in marine environments may tell us about ourselves

In the ocean, one-celled dinoflagellates such as Karenia brevis release small amounts of toxin into their surroundings

During such outbreaks of red-tide, a one-liter water sample can contain 1,000,000 or more dinoflagellate cells per liter

One of the most striking characteristics of red-tide outbreaks is that, taken together, all one million dinoflagellate cells per liter in a red-tide outbreak physically-occupy less than 2/1000 ths of 1% of the one-liter sample in which they reside

See appendix one for supporting mathematics

What the white dot in this image shows most dramatically is one of earths classical realworld examples of populationenvironment calamities

What the white dot in this image shows most dramatically is one of earths classical realworld examples of populationenvironment calamities that routinely take place in environments that visually appear to be ALMOST

entirely

EMPTY

In addition, dinoflagellate red-tides are one of natures quintessential examples of calamities that arise from population explosions accompanied by the release of wastes

Dinoflagellate red-tide calamities, however, arise from their release of cellular and metabolic wastes into their surroundings

Because our own species also releases wastes into its surroundings, we may be following a trajectory that is provocatively similar to that of an outbreak of dinoflagellate red-tide

Except, of course, our own species supplements its biological and cellular wastes with a daily worldwide avalanche of industrial and societal wastes

So that, from at least one point of view, we may actually be on a trajectory that is considerably worse than that of the dinoflagellates and multiple orders of magnitude worse at that

for each dinoflagellate cell releases ONLY its metabolic and biological wastes into its surroundings

See appendix one for supporting mathematics

Part Four No Other Animals Do This

vast amounts of open space

may be well on its way, via an ongoing release of an assortment of industrial and societal wastes, to a significant alteration of the entire gaseous environment in which we live

Not to mention the catastrophic PHYSICAL damage that we inflict everywhere else

It is provocative to consider that today our own species, surrounded by a seemingly enormous atmosphere and seemingly

As a test of this last observation, envision an individual animal of any species other than our own

In virtually all of these cases, the organisms daily pollution of its environment is limited to its daily production of its bodily wastes

Photos courtesy of life.nbii.gove fox = Mosesso; Others - Hermann

All of the organisms below, for example, limit themselves to the Continuing, however, envision release of their biological, cellular, and metabolic wastesin an this same human being automobile, backed up in crowded traffic on a busy eightlane highway

All around in every direction are hundreds of other cars and trucks and buses, each spewing exhaust from an internal combustion engine

This indicates that each of us as individuals are contributing much more than our body wastes to our surroundings

Photos courtesy of life.nbii.gove fox = Mosesso; Others - Hermann

Continuing, however, envision this same human being in an automobile, backed up in In virtually all of on a busy eightcrowded traffic these cases, each organisms daily pollution of its lane highway environment is limited to daily production of its bodily wastes All around in every direction are hundreds of other cars and trucks and buses, each spewing exhaust from an internal combustion engine

This indicates that each of us as individuals are contributing much more than our body wastes to our surroundings

Next, however, envision an ordinary human being living in an industrialized country

Ones daily body wastes are again a factor, of course,

but humanitys collective biological wastes are natural productions that have, in a planetary sense, little impact on global systems

Continuing, however, envision this same human being in an automobile, backed up in crowded traffic on a busy eight-lane highway. All around in every direction are hundreds of other cars and trucks and buses, each spewing exhaust from an internal combustion engine.

This indicates that each of us as individuals are contributing much more than our body wastes to our surroundings

And we repeat this behavior every day - again and again and again in Beijing, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Tokyo, Cairo, Karachi, Jakarta, Paris, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, and New York City

releasing more multiple millions of tons of waste, without fail, relentlessly into the onion-skin-thin layer of air that makes up earths atmosphere

Imagine you are driving your car and every mile you drive you throw a pound of trash out your window. And everyone else on the freeway in their cars and trucks are doing the exact same thing, and people driving Hummers are throwing two bags out at a time one out the driver-side window and one out the passenger-side window. How would you feel? Not so good. Well, that is exactly what we are doing; you just cant see it. Only what we are throwing out is a pound of CO2 thats what goes into the atmosphere, on average, every mile we drive
Chemist Nate Lewis
As quoted by Friedman, 2008 - HOT, FLAT, AND CROWDED -

If world population did not grow at all, all of these impacts would likely double

as the worlds poorest nations industrialize and seek to emulate our own standard of living

We are the only animals on earth that do this

and we are not even at home or at work yet

Now we switch on:  our heating or air-conditioning units  run a dishwasher and clothes drier  run our lawnmowers and weed-trimmers     our refrigerators freezers street lights fluorescent lights     toaster-ovens microwaves hair-dryers steel mills

shopping malls motor-boats televisions, computers and  hot-water heaters    

For further information, see our book Wecskaop III and/or other PowerPoints and PDFs in this series

And we still have not included all the wastes generated by

 unwanted catalogue mailings  tons of disposable, throw-away containers


and all the items

 that we ship halfway around the world

Every day, from all of those tailpipes on each and every bumper-tobumper interstate, boulevard, and highway, we spew molecules of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide and other noxious fumes

We are the only animals on earth that do this, and we do so during each and every rush hour,

on every grocery run, on every holiday trip to visit family, and during every postal delivery

without fail, relentlessly and endlessly, into the onion-skin-thin layer of air that constitutes earths atmosphere

so that our power plants, on our behalf, release still more tons of wastes and fumes

Notice also that these additional wastes do not constitute a once-in-a-lifetime contribution by each of us

Instead, we repeat these assaults again and again and again, day after day after day, throughout our lives

We are the only animals on earth that do this For further information, see our book Wecskaop III and/or other PowerPoints and PDFs in this series

How can we imagine that endless billions of us can endlessly behave in this way without calamitous repercussions?

If we intend to enjoy such extravagance, our populations must be smaller

No other animal species supplements its cellular and biological wastes with a planet-wide avalanche of industrial and societal wastes the way that we do

Elephant photo courtesy of Thomas Hermann; life.nbii.gov

No other animal species in the history of the earth has EVER supplemented its biological wastes in this way

We are the only animals on earth that have EVER done this

And no population explosions of red-tide dinoflagellates (which poison their environments by the release of wastes) have ever supplemented their cellular and biological wastes with a daily avalanche of industrial and societal wastes the way that we do

And these behaviors are NOT a minimal or incidental footnote to the biology of our species

Instead, they are one of our most distinctive and all-encompassing characteristics

Knowing that earths atmosphere is not responding to our assaults very well right now,

consider that the U.N.s newest world population projections show that we are nevertheless on-track to ADD at least our 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th BILLIONS to our numbers by 2100

And their high-fertility projections show us reaching 15.8 BILLION by centurys end

Because three-quarters of the earth's surface is covered with lakes, rivers, oceans, seas, and ice, it is both easy and descriptive to picture our home as "a water planet so that we could easily call ourselves "Planet Ocean
(IOF, 1978; Anson, 1991, 1996, 2007)

On the other hand, if we consider earth's oceans and atmosphere as strictly surface features of our planet an entirely different assessment presents itself

However, it is at least provocative to consider that today our own species, surrounded by a seemingly enormous atmosphere and seemingly vast amounts of open space

also appears to be well on its way, via an ongoing release of an assortment of industrial and societal wastes, to a significant alteration of the entire gaseous environment in which we live

(not to mention the catastrophic physical damage that we inflict everywhere else)

Review of Key Concepts

Review of Key Concepts


 climb and collapse really happen and we are not immune  collapse routinely occurs in environments that can appear to be almost entirely empty  calamities can arise from wastes and damage (as opposed to running out of things)  earths atmosphere and seas as onion-skin-thin surface films  dinoflagellate red-tides as quintessential examples of population explosions that induce calamity by the release of wastes  a thin-film of water on a globe

 collapse with 99% mortality is a biological reality  we are not immune to collapse, and compared to any other animals or dinoflagellates that have ever lived, we are behaving comparatively badly  by our release of wastes, we exhibit a behavioral similarity with population explosions of red-tide dinoflagellates  we may well be on a trajectory that is far worse than outbreaks of dinoflagellate red-tide because we supplement our biological and metabolic wastes with daily onslaughts of industrial and societal wastes  while outbreaks of dinoflagellate red-tide can be categorized as localized events, the impacts of our own species are global in nature

Review of Key Concepts


We are dangerously misled by our prevailing open-space suppositions for it is a misperception to presume that human population growth and overpopulation cannot be truly serious so long as vast amounts of open space remain First, earths atmosphere and oceans are onion-skin-thin surface films And climb and collapse really do occur and they do so in environments that can appear almost entirely empty
When less than 2/1000ths of one percent of seemingly-available space is occupied

In addition, the supposition that running out of things


such as space, food, resources, or anything else

are necessarily the first or only factors that could threaten us is an incomplete assessment of our current condition

Review of Key Concepts

and we are the only animals that do this, or that have ever done this and are doing so on a worldwide scale so that we are not a localized phenomenon

and our behaviors in this respects are not a minimal or incidental footnote to the biology of our species but are instead one of our most distinguishing and all-encompassing characteristics of our

Appendix 1

Supporting math Red-tides

Supporting Math Red-tides


Severe red-tide conditions are common when Karenia brevis populations reach concentrations ranging between 100,000 to 1,000,000 or more cells per liter. Secondly, approximate dimensions of a typical K. brevis cell: (1) Volume of 1 liter = 61.024 cubic inches (2) The approximate dimensions of a single cell of K. brevis are: L: ~30 um (= 0.03 mm) = ~ 0.0012 inches ** W: ~ 0.0014 inches (a little wider than it is long") * D: ~ 10 15 um deep (10 um = .0004; 15 um = .0006), so average = ~ .0005 in
** Nierenberg, personal communication, 2008 ** Floridamarine.org, 2008

inches remaining unoccupied. In other words, one million dinoflagellate cells in a one-liter sample still have approximately 61.023 16 cubic inches of unoccupied volume that would appear to remain theoretically-available to them. Percentage Unoccupied Therefore, the percentage unoccupied equals (61.023 16) divided by (61.024 00) so that about .999 987 2 or about 99.998 72% of the available volume remains unoccupied. This means that such a K. brevis population manages to routinely visit calamity upon itself and the environment in which it resides, even as the cells themselves physically-occupy less than 2/1000ths of 1% of the total volume that appears to remain seemingly-available. Thus, (100%) (99.998 72%) = .001 28 %, or less than 2/1000ths of one percent of the volume that appears to remain theoretically-available. Thus, even though the K. brevis cells occupy a volumetrically-insignificant portion of the "openspace" that visually appears to remain almost entirely empty, they manage, by their combined overpopulation and production of invisible and calamitous wastes, to catastrophically-alter the aqueous surroundings in which they live.

Using the above: Volume of a typical cell of K. brevis = (L) x (W) x (D) = (.0012) x (.0014) x (.0005) = ~ .000 000 000 840 cubic inches Thus one million Karenia brevis cells occupy approximately (1,000,000) times (.000 000 000 840) or a physical volume of about 0.000 84 cubic inches. Recalling that one liter equals 61.024 cubic inches, subtracting 00.000 84 occupied cubic inches leaves (61.024) (00.000 84) or about 61.023 16 cubic

Supporting Math
The image shown left depicts the physical amount of space that constitutes two one-thousandths of one percent. Note that the dot in the image denotes two one-thousandths of one percent of the dark rectangle. The step-by-step mathematics outlined below permits preparation of a two-dimensional illustration like the one shown here that visually depicts the proportional amount of area occupied by two one-thousandths of one percent. (1) Use imaging software to open a rectangle 500 pixels high by 350 pixels wide = 175,000 square pixels (Here: dark rectangle without frame) (2) Thus, one percent of this area = (175,000) x (.01) equals 1750 square pixels (3) In addition, 1/1000ths of one percent = (1750) times (.001) equals1.750 square pixels (4) And two1000ths of one percent = (1750) x (.002) equals 3.5 square pixels (5) Calculating the square root of 3.5 square pixels equals1.87 pixels, so that a square of (1.87 pixels) by (1.87 pixels) equals 3.5 square pixels

2/1000ths of one percent

Real-world population calamities in nearly empty environments

Thus beginning with a rectangle of 500 x 350 pixels, a small square of 1.87 pixels by 1.87 pixels (length times width) would visually depict a physical region of two one-thousandths of one percent.

Supporting Math Reindeer of St. Paul Island


Concerning V. B. Scheffers classic reindeer climband-collapse study on St. Paul Island, Alaska, our estimate that the reindeer of St. Paul Island, Alaska physically-occupied less than 2/1000ths of 1% of the islands total area at the time of collapse is derived as follows. L: Assume an average reindeer is approximately 44 long
(Female reindeer ~ 38 long; males ~ 46 long; . so for our purposes, assume an average of 44)

bodies of an entire herd of 2000 animals would physically-occupy a total of 14,667 square feet. If the area of St. Paul Island, Alaska is about 41 square miles, then if one square mile is equal to 27,878,400 square feet, then the total square footage of the island would equal ( (27,878,400) x (41) or approximately 1,143,014,400 square feet. Next, we can subtract the14,667 square feet that are physically-occupied by the entire herd from the total square footage of the island so that (1,143,014,400) minus (14,667) results in a total unoccupied square footage of 1,142,999,733 square feet. Lastly, dividing the islands total unoccupied space (1,142,999,733) by the total area of the island (1,143,014,400) gives the percentage of total unoccupied space at the time of the peak reindeer population, which was 0.999 987 168. Notice then that the collapse (and 99% die-off) of the St. Paul Island reindeer population began at a time when 99.999% of the islands total area appeared to remain theoretically-available. Notice, therefore, that the herds collapse and 99% die-off both began (and proceeded to devastation) in surroundings that visually appeared to be almost entirely empty.

W: Assume that the width of an average reindeer is approximately 24 wide


Girth will vary with time of year; food, pregnant . . . females, etc., so for our purposes assume 24

Thus the area physically-occupied by an average member of the population would equal (44 inches) x (24) or approximately 1056 square inches each Given a peak reindeer population of St. Paul island of slightly more than 2000 animals, (2000) times (1056) equals a combined area that is physically occupied by reindeer bodies of approximately 2,112,000 square inches (by the entire herd). One square foot = (12) x (12) = 144 square inches, so that 2,112,000 divided by 144 means that the

Supporting Math Reindeer of St. Matthew Island


We can apply the same approach to D.R. Kleins classic reindeer climb-and-collapse study on St. Matthew Island, Alaska (1968). Our estimate that the reindeer of St. Matthew Island physically-occupied less than 2/1000ths of 1% of the islands total area at the time of collapse is derived as follows. L: Assume an average reindeer is approximately 44 long
(Female reindeer ~ 38 long; males ~ 46 long; . so for our purposes, assume an average of 44)

bodies of an entire herd of 2000 animals would physically-occupy a total of 44,000 square feet. If the area of St. Matthew Island, Alaska is about 138 square miles, then if one square mile is equal to 27,878,400 square feet, then the total square footage of the island would equal ( (27,878,400) x (138) or approximately 3,847,219,200 square feet. Next, we subtract the 44,000 square feet that are physically-occupied by the entire herd from the total square footage of the island so that 3,847,219,200 minus (44,000) results in a total unoccupied square footage of 3,847,175,200 square feet. Lastly, dividing the islands total unoccupied space (3,847,175,200) by the total area of the island (3,847,219,200) gives the percentage of total unoccupied space at the time of the peak reindeer population, which was 0.999 988 Notice then that the collapse (and 99% die-off) of the St. Paul Island reindeer population began at a time when 99.999% of the islands total area appeared , visually-speaking, to remain theoretically-available. Notice, therefore, that the herds collapse and 99% die-off both BEGAN (and proceeded to devastation) in surroundings that visually appeared to be almost entirely empty.

W: Assume that the width of an average reindeer is approximately 24 wide


Girth will vary with time of year; food, pregnant . . . females, etc., so for our purposes assume 24

Thus the area physically-occupied by an average member of the population would equal (44 inches) x (24) or approximately 1056 square inches each Given a peak reindeer population of St. Matthew island (1963) of slightly more than 6000 animals, (6000) times (1056) equals a combined area that is physically occupied by reindeer bodies of approximately 6,336,000 square inches (by the entire herd). One square foot = (12) x (12) = 144 square inches, so that 6,336,000 divided by 144 means that the

Appendix 2

Supporting math Thin Films

Here is the supporting mathematics: (i) Earth's oceans are, on average, approximately 3.6 kilometers deep. If we have 3.6 kilometers of water on one side of our planet and another 3.6 kilometers on the opposite side, this represents an addition of 7.2 kilometers added to earth's overall diameter.

(ii) Earth's overall diameter (including its molten interior, rocky mantle, crustal plates, and covering of oceans) is approximately 12,740 kilometers. (iii) Thus, without the 7.2 kilometers of ocean, the earth's diameter would only be 12,732.8 km.

(iv) This means that 12,732.8 km out of 12,740 km (99.94%) of earth's diameter consists of its molten interior, rocky mantle, and crustal plates. (v) Thus, the math shows that the average depth of the oceans accounts for only six one-hundredths of one percent of earth's diameter an inexpressibly thin film indeed.
(12,732.8 divided by 12,740 = 0.9994) and (100 minus 0.9994 = .0006)

(For a twenty-inch classroom globe, .0006 times 20 inches would equal oceans, so that the classroom scale model would need a layer of water that is 12/1000ths of an inch deep to represent the ocean's depth in proportionally correct terms.)
( 20 times .0006 = .012 )

This presentation is a courtesy of

The Wecskaop Project

It is entirely free for non-commercial use by scientists, students, and educators anywhere in the world

What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet


Copyright 2011, The Wecskaop Project. All rights reserved.

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What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet


ISBN 978-0-933078-18-5

The Wecskaop Project

What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet

Wecskaop

Earths atmosphere, oceans, and seas

Razor-Thin Surface Films