Oxygen declining from Earth’s atmosphere faster now

Driven by burning of fossil fuels, which consumes oxygen and produces carbon dioxide, the rate of oxygen decline from the Earth’s atmosphere has speeded up over the past 100 years, says a study.

Researchers from Princeton University compiled 30 years of data to construct the first ice core-based record of atmospheric oxygen concentrations spanning the past 800,000 years, according to the paper published in the journal Science.

The record showed that atmospheric oxygen has declined 0.7 per cent relative to current atmospheric-oxygen concentrations, a reasonable pace by geological standards, the researchers said.

During the past 100 years, however, atmospheric oxygen has declined by a comparatively speedy 0.10 per cent because of the burning of fossil fuels, which consumes oxygen and produces carbon dioxide.

“This record represents an important benchmark for the study of the history of atmospheric oxygen,” said Assistant Professor of Geosciences John Higgins.

“Understanding the history of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere is intimately connected to understanding the evolution of complex life,” Higgins noted.

Curiously, the decline in atmospheric oxygen over the past 800,000 years was not accompanied by any significant increase in the average amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, though carbon dioxide concentrations do vary over individual ice age cycles.

To explain this apparent paradox, the researchers called upon a theory for how the global carbon cycle, atmospheric carbon dioxide and the Earth’s temperature are linked on geologic timescales.

  • Oh my god, I’ve often said aloud “Why is everyone getting so stupid and crazy? Is the atmosphere deoxygenating or something!?” Now I know it is. This explains so much it’s creepy. I’m going to grab a few acorns from my front lawn and planet them right now to replace the two trees I recently had to have cut down; one died of old age and infection and the other got struck by lightning and pretty much exploded. I had bits of tree littering my yard AND my neighbors’ yards as well. You’d be surprised how loud thunder is when the bolt that created it was about 90 feet away. I’m thinking two trees for each one removed is at least a little bit better than doing nothing at all. Man, we really got our work cut out for us…

  • Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

    There appears to be no let up in rising temperature even in May 2017. Day time is becoming a hell and the heat is intolerable. I have been postponing my going out during day time afraid of the searing heat and you can never think of walking fast due to reduced oxygen in the atmosphere. The hot air dries up our throat and yearns for cold water. All these difficulties are directly attributable to destruction of nature around us, deforestation, urbanisation and greed for living out of the box. One grown up tree gives oxygen to a man for 134 years – if HE is alive. Present generation has an onerous job of stopping destruction of greenery and create more and more of carbon sinks by planting saplings whenever there is vacant space.

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