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Thursday, July 28, 2011


This is part 2 of the Ocean as our next frontier.  Much of this information can be found in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.  

From the beginning of time, our lands have supported humanity.  In many parts of the world, we have now reached the limits of terrestrial applications.  Whether it's pollution or lack of freshwater or the ire of society, the resources to support more than 7 billion people are about to be exceeded.

With Sputnik in 1957 came the Space War between the Soviet Union and the USA.  In 1969 Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon, and the romance of outer space became contagious.  Even I was so infected, as I once worked for NASA on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.  There was huge value to our space program because, with Soviet overspending on this, but also on defense, the country went bankrupt in 1989, ending the Cold War, the closest mankind came to extinction.  

However, there continued to be some hysteresis about space, as the International Space Station (ISS) began orbiting in 1998 and various companies are only now beginning to invest in orbital tourism.  With the end of the Space Shuttle Program, however, the current discussion is when the ISS will crash into the Pacific Ocean.  This ambitious effort spent $150 billion to essentially produce nothing.  Space tourism will only be an option for the very rich, and if there is any terminal accident, that will be it for another century.
The real unknown is the ocean around us.  Ninety nine percent of ocean microorganisms cannot be grown in a typical laboratory.  There is more bacteria and archaea (left, a new microbe type just discovered in 1977) mass in our seas than the total of whatever (you, me, trees, everything) lives on land.  Worse, there are more marine viruses than bacteria.  Then, there are seafood, algae, etc.  The point is, there is a lot of life in the ocean.

Seventy one percent of our globe at the surface is water, with our seas having an average depth of more than two miles (13,124 feet).   Only 3% is fresh, half being ice, and if this all melts, the sea level will rise by around 250 feet.  Even with accelerated global warming, though, it will take a very long time for this to unfold, and the maximum increase projected for 2100 by the International Panel on Climate Change is 6 feet.  

Ocean surface temperatures do not change that much, as most locations only vary by approximately 20 degrees F, compared to land, which ranges from minus 126 F to plus 136 F.  However, in the tropics, the difference between surface and 3000 feet deep fluid temperatures can be more than 20 F.  This temperature gap can be used by an ocean thermal energy conversion  (OTEC) device to produce electricity and freshwater, with the nutrient rich effluent being particularly favorable for marine biomass growth.

Why?  Marine life expires, drops to lower depths, and decomposes into the elements of new life, with nitrogen 78 times higher in concentration at 600 feet than at the surface, and phosphorous 15 times  higher at that depth.  However, sunlight can only penetrate to this depth, so natural upwelling  brings nutrient rich fluids into this euphotic zone.  Unfortunately, this only occurs in limited portions of the seas, where most of the fish is harvested, but worse, is undependable.   In any case, OTEC effluents are equivalent to free fertilizer for biomass growth, with free irrigation water tossed into the system,and can freely be provided by grazing OTEC plantships. 

Ocean developers have long favored this particular marine pathway for economic development because the result is a cornucopia of products:  electricity and freshwater, certainly, but also renewable biofuels, green chemicals, marine biopharmaceuticals, next generation fisheries and the potential to remediate global warming and prevent the formation of hurricanes.  All this can lead to Disney at Sea, Wynn Marine Casinos, floating cities, and more.  Wavepower, offshore windpower and current power only can generate electricity.

After looking good for much of the day, the Dow Jones Industrials suddenly fell in the final two hours, minus 62 to 12,240, with world markets mixed, although the Japan Nikkei sunk 146 to 9901.  Gold increased $2/toz to $1617, while oil slid a tad, the NYMEX at $97/barrel and the Brent Spot at $117/barrel.

Tropical Storm in the Gulf will not attain hurricane strength, but will bring much rain and some winds to southern Texas, while of the two storms in the West Pacific, Tropical Storm Nock-Ten will crash into Hainan at 65 MPH, but Tropical Storm Muifa, east of the Philippines, is showing signs of moving north and becoming a typhoon heading towards Japan:


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