Many a happy hour can be spent chewing the fat with friends over a cool glass, or two, of the old amber nectar.
However, one of the side effects associated with this form of entertainment is that the quality [and accuracy] of the conversation usually deteriorates as the evening progresses.
Unfortunately, this amber nectar effect seems to be endemic in chemistry where, for example, a reference to “hydrogen” may mean either “atomic hydrogen” [H], “molecular hydrogen” [H2] or whatever the orator wants it to mean.
This situation is fine and dandy for the speaker because [one hopes] they know what they are talking about.
However, this lack of precision is a problem for the listener because, for example, they don’t know for certain whether the pronounced words of wisdom relate to “atomic hydrogen” [H], “molecular hydrogen” [H2] or something else altogether.
The same amber nectar effect frequently infests conversations relating to “oxygen” because the speaker may be referring to “atomic oxygen” [O] or “molecular oxygen” [O2].
This lack of precision particularly comes into play when the conversation turns towards atmospheric chemistry because some people need more than a few amber nectars before they can swallow the mainstream doctrines on atmospheric chemistry.
A classic example of this imprecision in atmospheric chemistry was recently reported by the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies.
A team of scientists have analysed modern and fossil resins and the results seem to suggest there was less oxygen in the atmosphere in the geological past than previously imagined.
The evolution of the atmosphere of the Earth
The suggestion that atmospheric “oxygen” levels have varied in the past is nothing new as this refreshingly honest “broad overview” diagram of historic O2 [see small print] levels demonstrates.
This graph represents the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere over the last 1000 million years. As a reference, the dashed red line shows the present concentration of 21%.
It should be noted that the O2 concentration variation which occurred in past periods can often be estimated only relatively coarsely.
Therefore, the chart makes no claim to accuracy, but can only give a broad overview of change at the level of geological periods.
This chart is based on the averaged data of several publications.
Now let’s take a look at the science underlying the new insight that there “was less oxygen in the atmosphere in the geological past than previously imagined”.
First, we get an overview of how they sampled amber from around the world.
Atmospheric oxygen between 10 and 15 percent
The research team analyzed a total of 538 amber samples from well-known amber deposits worldwide, with the oldest samples being approximately 220 million years old and recovered from the Dolomites in Italy. The team also compared fossil amber with modern resins to test the validity of the data.
Next up we get the conclusions about low atmospheric “oxygen” [where “oxygen” probably means molecule oxygen – O2].
The results of this comprehensive study suggest that atmospheric oxygen during most of the past 220 million years was considerably lower than today’s 21 percent.
“We suggest numbers between 10 and 15 percent,” says Tappert.
These oxygen concentrations are not only lower than today but also considerably lower than the majority of previous investigations propose for the same time period.
For the Cretaceous period (65 – 145 million years ago), for example, up to 30 percent atmospheric oxygen has been suggested previously.
They then throw it always be saying “low oxygen levels” [O2] coincided with “high carbon dioxide concentrations” [CO2].
The researchers also relate this low atmospheric oxygen to climatic developments in the Earth’s history.
“We found that particularly low oxygen levels coincided with intervals of elevated global temperatures and high carbon dioxide concentrations,” explains Tappert.
The mineralogist suggests that oxygen may influence carbon dioxide levels and, under certain circumstances, might even accelerate the influx of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Notice the spooky fact that molecular oxygen [O2] and carbon dioxide [CO2] both contain two atoms of oxygen [O].
Therefore, the number of oxygen atoms in the atmosphere might not have changed at all.
This is actually acknowledged when they state they are dealing with “simple oxidation reactions”.
“Basically, we are dealing here with simple oxidation reactions that are amplified particularly during intervals of high temperatures such as during the Cretaceous period.”
However, the Oxygen Paradox really kicks into overdrive when the scientists conclude the “increase in carbon dioxide levels” is “caused by extremely strong vulcanism”.
The researchers, thus, conclude that an increase in carbon dioxide levels caused by extremely strong vulcanism was accompanied by a decrease of atmospheric oxygen.
The Oxygen Paradox relates to that observation that volcanoes emit a lot of oxygen atoms in the form of H2O, CO2, SO2, CO and NOx.
The principal components of volcanic gases are water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur either as sulfur dioxide (SO2) (high-temperature volcanic gases) or hydrogen sulfide (H2S) (low-temperature volcanic gases), nitrogen, argon, helium, neon, methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen.
Other compounds detected in volcanic gases are oxygen (meteoric), hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen bromide, nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur hexafluoride, carbonyl sulfide, and organic compounds. Exotic trace compounds include mercury, halocarbons (including CFCs), and halogen oxide radicals.
Therefore, when volcanism is active the paradoxical situation arises where the level of molecular oxygen [O2] decreased while the overall level of atomic oxygen [O] in the atmosphere increases.
Unfortunately, the Oxygen Paradox [driven by planetary outgassing] is neatly sidestepped in the mainstream.
This becomes particularly apparent when looking at the last 50 million years of geological history. Following the results of this study, the comparably low temperatures of the more recent past (i.e. the Ice Ages) may be attributed to the absence of large scale vulcanism events and an increase in atmospheric oxygen.
Unfortunately, the volcanic activity caused by the peak in seafloor spreading during the Cretaceous period [circa 145 to 66 million years ago] is also neatly sidestepped in the mainstream.
The Inflating Earth: 1 – Seafloor Stretching
Unfortunately, the natural processes that cleanse and transform the Earth’s atmosphere are still being significantly sidestepped in the mainstream.