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The Mystery of Oregon's 'Dead Zone' 235

Posted by Zonk
from the behind-the-scary-door dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "The area off Cape Perpetua on the central Oregon coast is now a gigantic crab and fish graveyard. It was first discovered in 2002, but according to the Christian Science Monitor, researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have taken a close-up look into this coastal dead zone. And things are getting worse. A few weeks ago, the researchers measured the level of dissolved oxygen in this part of the ocean. They found that levels were 10 to 30 times lower than normal, down to 0.5 milliliters per liter, a characteristic of hypoxia. And because they have no explanations about this phenomenon, they're even envisioning a total absence of oxygen, or anoxia. Read more for additional details and pictures about this mystery."
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The Mystery of Oregon's 'Dead Zone'

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  • No explanation? (Score:4, Informative)

    by broothal (186066) <christian@fabel.dk> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @03:39AM (#15988516) Homepage Journal
    " And because they have no explanations about this phenomenon..."

    Let me help them out here a bit then. The Oregon zone appears when the wind generates strong currents carrying nutrient-rich but oxygen-poor water from the deep sea to the surface near shore, a process called upwelling. The nutrients encourage the growth of plankton, which eventually dies and falls to the ocean floor. Bacteria there consume the plankton, using up oxygen.

    No - I'm not so smart that I knew the answer, but google did - first (and several more) hit.
    • by CloudsSpaz (824168) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @03:54AM (#15988544)
      I don't want to seem like I actually read the source article, and maybe I have the wrong definition of explanation, but it seems like "the culprit may be global warming."
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by The_Wilschon (782534)
        maybe I have the wrong definition of explanation
        Yep. In order for "the culprit may be global warming" to qualify as an explanation, you'd have to detail just how you think global warming would have anything to do with this.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Y'know, maybe you should just read TFA, where this explaination is given:

          To be sure, the jury is still out on that connection, says Jane Lubchenco, a marine zoologist at Oregon State University who is heading up this day-long expedition. But, she adds, what she and her colleagues see is consistent with projections of global warming's effects on coastal winds in the spring and summer, which drive upwelling of nutrient-laden water.

          These effects - identified as early as 1990 by researcher Andrew Bakun, then wi
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by kimvette (919543)
            These effects - identified as early as 1990 by researcher Andrew Bakun, then with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries lab in Monterey, Calif. - turbocharge the upwelling. This overloads the waters with nutrients and spawns large algae blooms.


            Question: where did they install the turbochargers? If the problem is warming, may I suggest installing some intercoolers? just a thought. ;)
          • Hey, that's exactly what the OP said!

            No, the OP just said "The culprit is global warming", and deemed it an explanation. I was pointing out that that in itself, whether a fuller explanation exists in TFA or not, does not itself constitute an explanation. He could have said "RTFA: the culprit is global warming", or said exactly what you said, quoting the article, or done a study entirely his own and drawn these same conclusions, reporting them against all standard practices in a comment on slashdot. But,

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 27, 2006 @02:05PM (#15990256)

          Yep. In order for "the culprit may be global warming" to qualify as an explanation, you'd have to detail just how you think global warming would have anything to do with this.

          Well Mr. SmartyPants, think about it.

          Have you seen any large wooden ships in the area? Seen any flags with skull and crossbones? Huh? Have you?

          Still don't see it? Man, some scientist you'd make...

          No drunken songs heard in the night? No parrots? Eyepatches?

          Good God man, it's the PIRATES! There aren't any in the area, and haven't been for a while. It's scientific fact: the absence of pirates leads to global warming.

          Don't pretend they didn't teach you this in school.

          We need a *massive* pirate infusion here. I mean, invite them from madagascar or something. Just get enough pirates in there to balance the ecosystem.

          I've sent this proposal to the President many times, and he's never even given me the decency of a reply. I'm heading to the White House this weekend and getting right up on his lawn with my bullhorn so he can see me. To drive my point home, I'm going to wave a shotgun around while I say it. This will really help me get my message across.

          • Thank you, kind sir, for lightening the mood and my day. That was, for no apparent reason, hilarious.
    • Re:No explanation? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by drawfour (791912) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @04:11AM (#15988588)
      Right, because scientists in the field of study who are stumped couldn't possibly have already looked into that and discounted it? You Google'd it, that suddenly means you have all the knowledge to tell the experts what is going on?

      Right...
      • by Gnavpot (708731)
        Right, because scientists in the field of study who are stumped couldn't possibly have already looked into that and discounted it?
        Don't know. Did they tell anyone that they looked into it? Or should we just assume this?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Max Threshold (540114)
        Sadly, many (if not most) professional scientists these days are nothing but bumbling idiots chasing after research grants, repeating one another's experiments and research not for verification, but to pass them off as original.

        In an environment of such poor scientific integrity, there's nothing wrong with a layperson hitting the books and forming their own theories. They're probably just as good as any so-called expert's.

        • Ah, we finally hit that nerve. In spite of the /. Collective's iconoclastic, challange-authority, question-everything attitude (which I happen to agree with), there is still one revered pantheon which must remain sacrosanct. Max Threshold, how dare you presume that scientists are human and are therefore susceptable to greed and pride?! Sacrilage! Heresy, I say! They can do no wrong!

          And hence, poor Max, your Flamebating.

          Look, I'm as much a science junkie as the next guy, and I firmly believe that und
      • by NateTech (50881)
        Or perhaps the so-called experts NEVER really know what's going on, and like the rest of us, can't predict the future consistently?

        "Experts" are just people too. People who've studied and lived something longer than the rest of us, but have no more skill at foreseeing the future than any of the rest of us.

        They'll monitor and observe for a while, and figure out what's going on. And then likely have no idea how to change it, and it'll change on its own and do something else "unexpected".

        That's the nature of
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pipingguy (566974) *
      I recently moved a few thousand kilometers westward and a Chinook Arch [wikipedia.org] looks quite ominous and threatening to those that haven't seen it before. It's just nature, though. I always find it amusing when eco-types freak out and fret over what are natural earth processes.

      The sky is not falling, despite what the linked image above might indicate.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by evilviper (135110)
        I always find it amusing when eco-types freak out and fret over what are natural earth processes.

        Like urinating on a bald eagle...

        It's perfectly natural, guys.
        • by pipingguy (566974) *
          Is that like when Lenny blows his nose with a squirrel after talking about respecting the environment?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by nacturation (646836)
        That's clearly yet another picture of the Nexus. [mjyoung.net] You can't fool us with this Chinook nonsense.
         
        • by pipingguy (566974) *
          Thanks for that. Next time I see one sneaking over the rockies I'll have to stage such a photo. Maybe I can convince some ACs that I am a descendant of Tim the Enchanter.

          Summer lightning, thunder and nasty hailstorms here are quite impressive, especially when they happen all at once. Little kids freak out, especially the ones that are visiting from warmer climates and it's fun to watch their reactions. It's a look of true wonder and amazement.
      • I recently moved a few thousand kilometers westward and a Chinook Arch [wikipedia.org] looks quite ominous and threatening to those that haven't seen it before. It's just nature, though. I always find it amusing when eco-types freak out and fret over what are natural earth processes.

        What gets me is when I read how there's a report on how an alligator or shark attacked someone or their dog in Florida. When a gator or shark attacks all of a sudden there's a swarm of panic about how there's man eating all

    • Oh Come On (Score:5, Interesting)

      by viewtouch (1479) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @05:44AM (#15988789) Homepage Journal
      Informative, 5 ?

      I live real close to this area, am on vacation in Lincoln City at the moment, and I'd like to say that when they say they have no explanations about this phenomenon you should not take that to mean that the annual upwelling of cold water from the bottom just off the continental shelf here is either news to anybody here or is a satisfactory explanation for what is going on here.

      By the way, the part about the wind generating these currents, or currents anywhere, is wrong. Currents are generated by a combination of the earth's rotation, the uneven solar heating of the earth's surface and the underwater topologies of the world's oceans. Wind is better thought of as the atmospheric currents and the ocean current patterns clearly do NOT overlap the atmospheric currents.

      OK, now, with that out of the way, the point is, nobody yet knows why everything is dead out there. Not you, Not Google, Not me, Not anybody - yet.
      • by E++99 (880734)

        OK, now, with that out of the way, the point is, nobody yet knows why everything is dead out there. Not you, Not Google, Not me, Not anybody - yet.

        Nuh-uh, man, it's global warming. Anyone who says it's not is a right-wing fascist who can just shut up! I bet Al Gore could tell us -- we need to get him to look at it. Come on, we can draft Al to lead the world to victory against the capitalists and SUV drivers. Then we'll execute them all, and in time life will return to the oceans!

        Ok, now give me my 5 I

    • by Metex (302736)
      Ehh the article was bad at explaining the problem. What they are actually worried about is the fact that there was many yummy fish/crab in the area than they suddenly died off. They dont know why since the normal oh we dumped alot of nutrian rich X chemical in the sea cant explain it nor can a sudden surge of nutriants due to natural events. Also they discounted short term cyclical patterns since this is the first time it has happened since the area has been studied 30+ years.

      As for the lack of oxygen, tha
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Luminus (34868)
      The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had an article [ajc.com] (google cache [64.233.161.104] if needed) about georgia's dead zone about two weeks ago,
      and claimed that the solution in this case was actually quite obvious:

      Verity and other scientists who have researched similar changes worldwide say they can sum up the cause in a single word: people.

      As more homes, condominiums, marinas and businesses are built on the coast, pollution increases in tidal creeks and estuaries. Treated sewage discharges and storm water runoff carry fertilizers
    • It's a clear sign that Gozira was here -- the lack of dissolved oxygen in the water is clearly Dr.Sarazawa's handiwork. Dive more deeply to find the bones. Bring your Geiger counter.
  • by Travoltus (110240) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @03:54AM (#15988547) Journal
    If those fish that are dying out there aren't worth protection under the free market, then they aren't worthy of survival.

    Things that are truly important to humanity's survival will be preserved by market forces. Which means someone like Outback Steakhouse will take a genuine interest in their survival and will spend the money to stop these dead zones and prevent hypoxia/anoxia from happening.

    If you really want to save the fish off of Oregon's coast, then put them on the menu.

    [end right wing parody]
    • Some of the "fish" found dead were Dungeness crab. Considered by some the best variety (tastewise) (they are quite good).
      These go for $3-$4/lb in the local stores.

      As for putting things on the menu, the best item caught around here is Chinook , but very few around right now.
      Alaska salmon is plentiful but local ocean caught chinook is usually over $10/lb.
    • by E++99 (880734) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @09:43PM (#15991748) Homepage
      President Bush Lied! Thousands of Fish Died!

      But we will never know for absolutely certain the cause of the hypoxia until Al Gore or Michael Moore make a movie about it. That being said, anyone not completely stupid, that is, anyone who watches CNN instead of FoxNews, knows that the CONSTITUTION SAYS that the Republicans killed all those poor fish. And they didn't even use all their parts, like the Indians would have done. They only killed them for their fur, the fascists.

      [end left wing parody]

  • by cperciva (102828) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @03:56AM (#15988552) Homepage
    Quoth the summary:
    They found that levels [of dissolved oxygen] were 10 to 30 times lower than normal, down to 0.5 milliliters per liter, a characteristic of hypoxia.

    In other news, having low levels of dissolved glucose in the bloodstream is a characteristic of hypoglycaemia; having lots of money is a characteristic of being rich; and a complete cessation of brain function is a characteristic of death.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MosesJones (55544)
      and a complete cessation of brain function is a characteristic of death

      I thought it was a characteristic of a MySpace user? Or becoming US Defence Secretary.
      • by Lord Ender (156273) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @11:46AM (#15989677) Homepage
        and a complete cessation of brain function is a characteristic of death

        I thought it was a characteristic of a MySpace user? Or becoming US Defence Secretary.

        Why the rip on myspace users? They may not have our informed, moderated sci/tech discussion, but they do have girls there.
        • per sig-
          I had a dream last night that I had an incomplete saber.
          I knew, in the dream, that [i]real[/i] jedi's would have to make it themselves.

          Now I have dreams abouts sigs!
        • by waferhead (557795)
          " by Lord Ender (156273) Alter Relationship on Sunday August 27, @11:46AM (#15989677)

          and a complete cessation of brain function is a characteristic of death

          I thought it was a characteristic of a MySpace user? Or becoming US Defence Secretary.

          Why the rip on myspace users? They may not have our informed, moderated sci/tech discussion, but they do have girls there."

          All the underage girls on MySpace are really FBI agents.
          Did
          • Myspace is actually quite popular among the 20-something and 30-something singles crowd. You just hear about the teenagers using it more because kids + sex = news ratings.
        • but they do have girls there...

          What are these girls of which you speak?

    • by RsG (809189) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @04:35AM (#15988634)
      complete cessation of brain function is a characteristic of death.
      No, it's a sign you're destined for a career in politics :-)
    • by SethJohnson (112166) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @04:46AM (#15988660) Homepage Journal


      Welcome to a successful Roland Piquepaille slashdot bait. He's a master of re-explaining the basic. In this case, he's speaking down to the reader from his intellectual pulpit.

      Seth
    • by legoburner (702695) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @05:05AM (#15988699) Homepage Journal
      a complete cessation of brain function is a characteristic of death.


      Try reading this site at -1 and you'll soon change this theory!
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Nah, /. just has a higher than average population of zombie users.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by bitt3n (941736)
        Try reading this site at -1 and you'll soon change this theory!

        oh they're dead all right... what better place for a zombie than where everyone has big brains and can't run more than ten feet without getting winded?

  • volcanism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wikinerd (809585) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @03:58AM (#15988557) Journal
    Could this be a result of imminent or undergoing volcanism? Perhaps a volcano is about to form or explode in the near future in the Oregon-Washington region and unleashes poisonous gasses in the sea water before unleashing its lava.
    • by nido (102070) <nido56@ya h o o.com> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @04:06AM (#15988572) Homepage
      I guess it's called the Juan de Fuca Ridge [noaa.gov].

      This dead zone is "most likely caused by underwater volcanism along the Juan De Fuca Ridge, which is about 20% volcanic along its 500 mile length. Occassional volcanic eruptions occur along the Ridge (Rift) which can create gigantic megaplumes of hot mineral water. Could be there is very little oxygen in the plumes, it most likely would have reacted with the minerals, leaving dissolved oxygen at nil."
    • by E++99 (880734)
      While such activity definitely causes dead-zones on sea and land, that's from CO2 gas emmision, whereas this is from lack of oxygen. If anything extra CO2 would boost oxygen by increasing plant life -- unless the water was saturated with in, in which case they would have presumably mentioned that in the article.

      It's pretty spooky when that happens on land though -- CO2 will gather in a depression, then some animal will wander through it and die, and then one preditor after another will be attracted into th
  • by booch (4157) <slashdot2010 AT craigbuchek DOT com> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @03:58AM (#15988560) Homepage
    a gigantic crab and fish graveyard

    I'd like to know more about these gigantic crab. Are they bigger than king crab? I love to eat crab legs.

    What? You mean that it's the graveyard that's gigantic? Damn you, ambiguous English language!
    • by Mekabyte (678689) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @04:08AM (#15988576) Homepage
      Try to hit its weak point for MASSIVE DAMAGE!
      • I'm not sure I get it. I've seen the video. I don't remember the guy yelling. He seems pretty bored, as I recall. Is there some version I've missed with that huge increase in enthusiasm for those last two words?
    • by kinema (630983)
      If you love crab I recommend staying away from king crab; it's totally overrated. Dungeness crab beats king crab any day of the week.
    • by I don't want to spen (638810) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @07:32AM (#15988982) Journal
      I remember an advert for an insecticide that 'kills cockroaches for up to 90 days'. I wouldn't look forward to that army of zombie cockroaches coming after me when they come back to life in three months ...
      • To go even further off topic: I remember my mom brought home some pet stain cleaner and was laughing hysterically. I asked what the problem was, and she pointed out the directions.

        "Apply liberally, sniff and retreat."

        Now why, I asked, would they need to tell you to get the hell away from the pet stain after sniffing it? Like you're going to hang out there, breathing in the sweet vapors?

        Unfortunately, my dad didn't find it as funny, since he read it as "treat again", which of course was what they
  • by Kazzahdrane (882423) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @04:08AM (#15988579)
    Presumably someone attacked their weakpoint (needing oxygen) with massive damage (a lack of it). I love how games help us learn!
  • by XanC (644172) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @04:16AM (#15988597)
    "10 to 30 times lower." What exactly does this mean? One can only guess it means 1/10th to 1/30th of the norm, but I would think a professional writer would use more precise wording...
    • I'm glad you said that, because every time I hear someone saying something like "10 to 30 times lower", it makes no sense to me whatsoever, and I start to wonder if I missed an important day in math class. I associate multiplying something by a whole number with an *increase* in the value, not a decrease.
    • by Compuser (14899)
      Clearly he meant 10^30...
  • by mdm42 (244204) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @04:32AM (#15988624) Homepage Journal
    If the article references the Christian Science Monitor, why the hell is the link to some linkjack blog at ZDNET?

    Surely the original article (at CSM) should be the one linked, and not to some warmed-over plagiarised rehash at ZDNet? Do the /. editorship actually bother to check any of this?
  • by PietjeJantje (917584) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @05:22AM (#15988733)

    From the article:

    "This overloads the waters with nutrients and spawns large algae blooms. The algae sink, die, and decompose, in a process that sucks oxygen out of the water and the topmost layer of sediment on the bottom, where many worms and shellfish live."

    Fosfate/nitrate (among others) --> Nutritions for algae --> No oxygen

    The "mystery" is where the polution is coming from.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by canuck57 (662392)

      The "mystery" is where the polution is coming from.

      It is also possible the whales, or lack of them play a part. Would say 500 missing whales eat a lot of plankton and algae? This would mean there would not be as much to fall and rot.

      Maybe oil from Alaska leaking from old rusty tankers.

      Maybe someone saved some disposal costs and dropped in 50 barrels of toxic waste.

      I have seen this on interior freshwater lakes where in 1968 the water was clear, fresh and loaded with large and small fish. In 1998 I wa

    • by E++99 (880734)

      This overloads the waters with nutrients and spawns large algae blooms. The "mystery" is where the polution is coming from.

      It's really annoying how "nutrients" and "polution" can now apparently be used synonymously, and it doesn't seem to bother anyone. If a nutrient favors a worse-tasting species over a better-tasting species, then it's pollution? The same goes for calling CO2 pollution. You might as well call oxygen pollution. Let's just go ahead and say that every single molecule on the earth is a m

      • by oh (68589)

        The same goes for calling CO2 pollution. You might as well call oxygen pollution.

        This is a valid point, the word "pollution" is relative, in a similar way to the way the word "terrorist" depends on your point of view (if you a buying or selling cell phones for example).

        Carbon Dioxide is a naturally occurring substance in the atmosphere, but the proportion of the atmosphere that it occupies has increased dramatically. The graph on this page [wikipedia.org] shows the measured changes, but to be fair the graph on the top doe

  • by H3g3m0n (642800) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @06:07AM (#15988835) Homepage Journal
    Cthulhu
  • My Aquarium (Score:5, Funny)

    by Coppit (2441) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @10:40AM (#15989419) Homepage
    It's nice to see that even mother nature's aquarium sometimes ends up looking like every aquarium I've ever owned.
  • The area off Cape Perpetua on the central Oregon coast is now a gigantic crab and fish graveyard. It was first discovered in 2002,

    I have noticed something similar next to the local mall, a gigantic device graveyard called CompUSA. It's downright spooky. The floor is covered with devices, some of which are outright broken, but all of which are dying in a money starved environment. Some people have pointed to DRM, others to vague notions of Monopoly, but the "experts" in the press seem to be stumped. A

  • Popular Culprit? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by C0y0t3 (807909)

    ... Here, as in a handful of other coastal regions worldwide, the culprit may be global warming.
    To be sure, the jury is still out on that connection, says Jane Lubchenco, a marine zoologist at Oregon State University who is heading up this day-long expedition....

    This type of premature conclusion is, I believe, very damaging to those who want to have global warming taken seriously by the mainstream public (ie. Me). Leaping to the popular conclusion with no reason other than it being popular to blame fr

    • This type of premature conclusion is, I believe, very damaging to those who want to have global warming taken seriously by the mainstream public (ie. Me). Leaping to the popular conclusion with no reason other than it being popular to blame frankly makes me doubt the professionalism of the researchers involved.

      Did you see where Jane Lubchenco says "the culprit may be global warming. To be sure, the jury is still out on that connection". That is not a conclusion, it's a hypothsis. She just reported on

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:21PM (#15990079) Homepage

    That's just a link to a Roland the Plogger blog, who doesn't understand the problem. Read the New York Times story [nytimes.com], which has important facts the Plogger missed, like the fact that this has been happening for the past five years. The local paper, the Register-Guard, has a good story [registerguard.com]. "On the way down, the camera lens illuminates a nighttime blizzard, a flurry of broken chunks of plankton called "marine snow." This is evidence of what caused this year's hypoxia - an onslaught of nutrients brought to shallow coastal waters by wind-driven currents, whose decomposing structures suck up available oxygen."

    This is no mysterious dramatic event. It happens every year, but this year, it's worse than usual, possibly because ocean currents have shifted due to weather.

  • They found that levels were 10 to 30 times lower than normal, down to 0.5 milliliters per liter, a characteristic of hypoxia.
    I'm not convinced. Did they find any other signs of hypoxia besides a low dissolved oxygen level?
  • They all died of dysentery.

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang

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