Science in Society Archive

O2 Dropping Faster than CO2 Rising

Implications for Climate Change Policies

New research shows oxygen depletion in the atmosphere accelerating since 2003, coinciding with the biofuels boom; climate policies that focus exclusively on carbon sequestration could be disastrous for all oxygen-breathing organisms including humans Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Threat of oxygen depletion

Mention climate change and everyone thinks of CO2 increasing in the atmosphere, the greenhouse effect heating the earth, glaciers melting, rising sea levels, floods, hurricanes, droughts, and a host of other environmental catastrophes. Climate mitigating policies are almost all aimed at reducing CO2, by whatever means.

Within the past several years, however, scientists have found that oxygen (O2) in the atmosphere has been dropping, and at higher rates than just the amount that goes into the increase of CO2 from burning fossil fuels, some 2 to 4-times as much, and accelerating since 2002-2003 [1-3]. Simultaneously, oxygen levels in the world’s oceans have also been falling [4] (see Warming Oceans Starved of Oxygen, SiS 44).

It is becoming clear that getting rid of CO2 is not enough; oxygen has its own dynamic and the rapid decline in atmospheric O2 must also be addressed. Although there is much more O2 than CO2 in the atmosphere - 20.95 percent or 209 460 ppm of O2 compared with around 380 ppm of CO2 – humans, all mammals, birds, frogs, butterfly, bees, and other air-breathing life-forms depend on this high level of oxygen for their well being [5] Living with Oxygen (SiS 43). In humans, failure of oxygen energy metabolism is the single most important risk factor for chronic diseases including cancer and death. ‘Oxygen deficiency’ is currently set at 19.5 percent in enclosed spaces for health and safety [6], below that, fainting and death may result.

The simultaneous decrease in ocean oxygen not only threatens the survival of aerobic marine organisms, but is symptomatic of the slow-down in the ocean’s thermohaline ‘conveyor belt’ circulation system that transports heat from the tropics to the poles, overturns surface layers of into the deep and vice versa, redistributing nutrients and gases for the ocean biosphere, and regulating rainfall and temperatures on the landmasses. This dynamical system is highly nonlinear, and small changes could make it fail altogether, with disastrous runaway effects on the climate [7] (Global Warming & then the Big Freeze, SiS 20). More importantly, it could wipe out the ocean’s phytoplankton that’s ultimately responsible for splitting water to regenerate oxygen for the entire biosphere, on land and in the sea [4].

Measuring O2 to better understand the earth’s carbon budget

Global CO2 records go back more than 50 years [8], but O2 measurement in combination with CO2 goes back barely two decades [9], and is already giving important information on the size of the carbon sink in the ocean relative to the land. For one thing, O2 and CO2 have very different solubility in seawater; while 99 percent of the O2 remains in the atmosphere, 98 percent of the CO2 is in seawater.

O2 and CO2 are exchanged in different processes on land, each having a different O2:CO2molar exchange ratio and thus distinguishable from one another. Fossil fuel combustion has a global average O2:CO2exchange ratio of about 1.4 moles of O2consumed per mole of CO2produced, whereas land plant photosynthesis generates an average net ratio of about 1.1 moles of O2 for each CO2fixed. These ratios can vary over spatial and temporal scales, depending on whether photosynthesis produces more oxygen than is consumed by respiration, and on the precise fossil fuel burnt (see later). The linkage between CO2 and O2 is broken, however, at the air-sea interface, where substantial O2 fluxes may be unaccompanied by fluxes of CO2 and vice versa.

By knowing the fossil fuel emissions and the exact value of the exchange ratios, one can separate the total CO2 uptake into land and ocean components on timescales of a few years. This has led to estimates of the land and ocean sinks to be 0.5 and 2.2 GtC/year respectively for the periods 1993 to 2003, with a fossil fuel increase rate of 6.5 GtC/y [10]. (see Box 1 for details on the calculations.)

A new atmospheric station has been established on the North Sea oil and gas production platform F3, 200 km north of the Dutch coast, which measures both CO2 and O2 continuously using the latest fuel cell and infrared technologies [11], and more precise data on sea-air exchanges are anticipated.

Measuring O2 and calculating land and ocean carbon sinks

It is difficult to measure changes in O2 because there is so much of it in the atmosphere compared with CO2. So a proxy is used instead. Changes are measured as differences in O2/N2 ratios expressed in “per meg” units against the ratio in a standard mixture kept at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla California in the USA, which pioneered the measurement.

D(O2/N2)  per meg = 106[(O2/N2)sam - (O2/N2)]ref/ (O2/N2)]ref      (1)

This difference is used to define O2 concentration: 4.8 per meg are equivalent to 1 ppm (i.e., 1 mmole O2 per mole of dry air). By making the assumption that atmospheric N2 concentrations are constant, this definition of O2 concentration can be applied to derive O2 fluxes as follows [9, 10].

An Atmospheric Potential Oxygen (APO) is defined, also in per meg units, as the sum of oxygen as determined n eq. (1) and the oxygen that went into producing the CO2 in the atmosphere.

APO per meg = D(O2/N2)  + aB 4.8[CO2]                                           (2)

where aB represents the O2:CO2 exchange ratio for land photosynthesis and respiration; and [CO2] is the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. This assumes that variations in APO can only be caused by air-sea exchanges of O2, N2 and CO2, and by combustion of fossil fuels.

Oceanic uptake of atmospheric CO2, however, reduces the observed upward trend in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, but has no effect on the observed downward trend in O2/N2 ratios. Thus the global budgets for atmospheric CO2and O2can be respectively represented by eqs (3) and (4).          

DCO2 = F – O – B                                                                              (3)

DO2 = aFF + aBB + Z                                                                         (4)

Where DCO2 is the globally averaged observed change in atmospheric CO2 concentration, DO2 is the globally averaged observed change in atmospheric concentration, F is the source of CO2 emitted from fossil fuel combustion (and cement manufacture), O is the oceanic CO2 sink, B is the net land biotic CO2 sink (including biomass burning, landuse change and land biotic uptake); aF and aB are the global average O2:CO2 exchange ratios for fossil fuels and land biota respectively, and Z is the net exchange of atmospheric O2 with the ocean. All except exchange ratios are in units of moles per year.

Combining eqs 2, 3 and 4 gives:

DAPO  =  (-aF  + aB)F – aBO  + Z                                        (5)

where DAPO is the globally averaged observed change in APO.  Eq. 5 is used to obtain the oceanic sink, and then eq 3 is used to obtain the land biotic sink. This gives less uncertainty, as APO is less variable than the O2/N2 ratios.

Large decreases in atmospheric oxygen detected

Decrease in atmospheric O2 has been detected in stations around the world for the past decade, a consistent downward trend that has accelerated in recent years.

The largest fall in O2 was observed in the study of Swiss research team led by Francesco Valentino at University of Bern, for data collected at high altitude research stations in Switzerland and France. The Jungfraujoch (JFJ) station in Switzerland (3 580 m above sea level, 46o 33’N, 7o 50’E) is located on a mountain crest on the northern edge of the Swiss Alps. The Puy de Dôme station (1 480 m above sea level, 45o46’N, 2o 58’E) is situated west of the Alps at the summit of Puy de Dôme.

The research team confirmed the general upward trend for atmospheric CO2 and a downward trend in atmospheric O2. But since 2003 for JFJ, and mid 2002 for at Puy, there is a significant enhancement of O2 and CO2 trends compared to previous years. At JFJ, the rate of CO2 increase shifted up from 1.08 ppm (parts per million) for the years 2001-2002 to 2.41 ppm/y for 2003-2006; while the increase in D(O2/N2)  and APO (measures of oxygen concentration, see Box 1) shifted downwards to greater extents from –2.4 ppm/y and -1.5 ppm/y to -9.5 ppm/y and -6.9 ppm/y respectively.

For Puy, CO2 increase changed from 2.43 ppm/y for 2001-2002 to 1.07 ppm/y for 2003-2004, followed by 2.4 ppm/y for the years 2005-2006; while the changes in D(O2/N2)  and APO were -6.1 ppm/y and -3.7 ppm/y for 2001-2002, to -10.4 ppm/y and -7.6 ppm/y for the years 2002-2006.         Averaged over all years – by removing the trends and plotting correlations between CO2 and O2, an O2:CO2exchange ratio of -1.9+0.7 is found for JFJ, and -1.8+0.5 for Puy; both significantly different from the 1.1 assumed for land photosynthesis and respiration i.e., 1.1 mole of O2 generated per mole of CO2 fixed, and -1.4 for burning fossil fuels, or 1.4 mole of O2 used up when one mole of CO2 is produced.

Over time, the O2:CO2exchange ratio for JFJ, which is much less exposed to local or regional anthropogenic influence because of its elevation and location, was -2.1+0.1 for the years 2001-2002 and -4.1+0.1 for the years 2003-2006. At Puy, the ratio was -4.2+0.1 for the period 2001-2003, and -7.3+0.1 for 2003-2006. These ratios are completely out of line with what could be expected from fossil fuels, and other data indicate that there has been no significant change in fossil fuel emission rates during the period 2003-2006.

The researchers speculated that the large decrease in atmospheric oxygen since 2003 could have been the result of oxygen being taken up by the ocean, either due to a cooling of water in the North Atlantic, or water moving northwards from the tropic cooling, both of which would increase the water’s ability to take up more oxygen. However, it would require unrealistic cooling to account for the change in O2concentration. And all the indications are that the ocean waters have warmed since records began [4].

In a second study, atmospheric O2 and CO2 data collected from two European coastal stations between 2000 and 2005 were analyzed [2]. Mace Head Ireland (53o20’N 9o54’W, 35 m above sea level), which serves as the marine background, relatively free from local fossil fuel consumption, and Station Lutjewad (53o24’N, 6o21’E) on the northern coast of The Netherlands 30 km to the northwest of the city of Groningen, which serves as a continental station receiving continental air with northerly winds. Similar trends were detected. Over the entire period at Lutjewad, CO2 increased by 1.7+0.2 ppm/y while oxygen decreased at -4.2+0.3 ppm/y; the corresponding figures for Mace Head were 1.7+0.1 ppm/y and -4.0+0.3 ppm/y. O2 is decreasing faster than can be accounted for by the rise in CO2. Furthermore, the decrease is not uniform throughout the entire period; instead it is much steeper between 2002 and 2005 at both stations, and is not accompanied by any change in the trend of CO2 increase. This sharp acceleration in the downward trend of atmospheric O2 from 2002-2003 onwards in Ireland and The Netherlands is in accord with the findings in Switzerland and France [1]. And this cannot be explained by a realistic increase in fossil fuel use, or oxygen uptake by cooler ocean waters; if anything, oxygen level in the oceans has also been falling [4]. So where and what is this oxygen sink that is soaking up oxygen?

Mystery of the oxygen sink

One distinct possibility that has been considered is that an extra oxygen sink has opened up on land as the result of human activities.

James Randerson at University of California Irvine was lead author on a report published in 2006 [12] pointing out that a decrease in atmospheric O2 could result if carbon within the land biosphere becomes more oxidized (sequestering more oxygen) through disturbance of natural ecosystems. This has changed the natural land cover, replacing it with plants that effectively remove more oxygen from the atmosphere.

Atmospheric exchange of O2 with land ecosystems is commonly expressed in terms of a net carbon flux from the atmosphere to the ecosystem (Fnet) and the net O2:CO2exchange ratio (Rnet):

dO2/dt = - Rnet Fnet                                                                          (6)

By convention, positive sign indicates release into the atmosphere and negative sign sequestered in the land biosphere. The net rate is really a difference between two processes, one moving from atmosphere to biosphere, and the other in reverse, from biosphere to atmosphere, so eq. (6) can be written as follows.

dO2/dt = - (Rab Fab   +  RbaFba)                                      (7)

where Fab is the atmosphere to biosphere carbon flux (the same as net primary productivity, NPP), Rab is the oxidative ratio related to NPP (moles O2 released per mole CO2 fixed), Fba is the biosphere to atmosphere return flux (a combination of respiration, fires and other losses), and Rba is the oxidative ratio related to the return flux (moles O2 consumed per mole CO2  released).          

In an ecosystem at steady state (in dynamic balance), Fab and Fba will have the same magnitude. But the carbon in Fba is always offset in time from newly assimilated carbon in Fab because of carbon storage in the plant, dependent on plant tissue lifetimes, rates of litter and soil organic matter decomposition, and so on.  Changes in Rab and Rba have the potential to cause relatively large changes in atmospheric O2, basically because of the time delays between fixation and the return flux due to carbon storage. The longer the carbon storage (turnover) time, the larger the effective offset between Fab and Fba; so O2 is consumed at a slower rate, and more of it remains in the atmosphere

Randerson and colleagues hypothesize that increasing levels of disturbance across natural ecosystems in recent decades has decreased Rab. This includes wide-spread deforestation and replacement of woody vegetation with pastures and crops in the tropics, an increase in fire activity and tree mortality and increasing the abundance of deciduous tree species and herbaceous plants in the boreal (northern) regions. Globally, this includes an increase in invasive species and increased disturbance of agricultural soils by plowing and grazing during the 20th century. All these activities increase the oxidation state of carbon in plant and soil organic matter. The increases in oxygen content of the resultant biomass causes a small sink for atmospheric O2 that has not been accounted for in atmospheric budgets.

Within a plant, lipids and lignin compounds have carbon that is more reduced, i.e., with more hydrogen and less oxygen; they have and large R values of 1.37 and 1.14 respectively, and are energetically more costly to build than compounds such as cellulose and starch, which have less hydrogen, more oxygen, and R value of 1.0. Thus, the expansion of agriculture and grazing during the 20th century has probably caused a decrease in the oxidative ratio of the plant biomass within these disturbed ecosystems. Using several simple models, the researchers showed that, indeed, small changes in Rab could lead to substantial decreases in atmospheric O2.  

Another research team has raised the possibility that reactive nitrogen produced in making artificial fertilizers for agriculture could also be tying up more oxygen in plant tissue, soil organic matter and oceans in the form of nitrates [13].

The importance of oxygen accounting in climate policies

Change in land use, and increased oxidation of nitrogen could explain the long term steady decline in atmospheric O2, and may well also account for the sharp acceleration of the downward trend since 2002 and 2003.

These years happen to coincide with record rates of deforestation. In Brazil, 10 000 square miles were lost mainly to pasture land, soybean plantations and illegal logging, a 40 percent rise over the previous year [14]. Massive deforestation has continued in the Amazon and elsewhere, spurred by the biofuels boom [15]; it is estimated that nearly 40 000 ha of the world’s forests are vanishing every day.

The crucial role of forests and phytoplankton [4] in oxygenating the earth shows how urgent it is to take oxygen accounting seriously in climate policies. Reductionist accounting for CO2 alone is insufficient, and even grossly misleading and dangerous.

A case in point is the proposal of the International Biochar Initiative (IBI). ‘Biochar’ is charcoal produced to be buried in the soil that IBI has been promoting worldwide over the past several years [16] as a means of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere to save the climate and enhance soil fertility. It involves planting fast growing tree and various other crops on hundreds of millions of hectares of ‘spare land’ mostly in developing countries, to be harvested and turned into charcoal in a process that could produce crude oil and gases as low grade fuels. There are many excellent arguments against this initiative [17], but the most decisive is that it will certainly further accelerate deforestation and destruction of other natural ecosystems (identified as ‘spare land’). In the process, it could precipitate an oxygen crisis from which we would never recover [18] (Beware the Biochar Initiative, SiS 44).

Article first published 19/08/09


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Su Comment left 21st August 2009 18:06:12
Thanks Mae-Wan, Tried locating the Green Farm 2 but couldn't find it, could you perhaps send me a link? Cheers Su

mae-wan ho Comment left 21st August 2009 18:06:16
Hi Su, It is Dream Farm 2, not Green Farm. here is one link, but there are others:

Julian Rose Comment left 29th August 2009 21:09:16
What I think we can all agree upon is the fact that 'grand schemes' (like biochar, ocean dumping of iron chips and reverse osmosis sea funnels) are, as Einstein once pointed out 'using the same kind of thinking that produced the problem in the first place'. We have to change that way of thinking all together and move into a fourth dimensional understanding of the subtle interrelationship that exists between all living matter - of which we are also a part. Eve Balfour (a soil scientist) pointed out back in 1947, that the robust natural 'health' of man and the soil depended upon a perpetuation of the dynamic cyclic interrelationship and subtle symbiosis of soil, plant, animal and man. Break or upset this chain at any one point and the other three dimensions will be thrown out of line. We can only respect this simple wisdom by refinding our (human's) place in nature and re-attuning ourselves to the universal forces that gave birth to us in the first place. All other approaches will only serve to further perpetuate the problem.

James A Robey Comment left 31st August 2009 02:02:17
Interestingly, one of the most outspoken early proponents of concern over dropping O2 levels was Stanley Meyer, who developed an efficient way to convert water into hydrogen fuel. He proposed that an immediate conversion of carbon fueled cars, trucks, etc., to hydrogen fuel made from water would attend this problem. On page 108 of the book "Water Car - How to Turn Water into Hydrogen Fuel!" is a copy of page 2 of his US Patent # 4,936,961. You will notice on lines 22-23 of this patent reference that he makes mention of "other gases...formerly dissolved within the water..." One of these is O2, which means that when you convert water to fuel and burn it, a small amount of excess O2 is released to the atmosphere! Now multiply that times the number of fuel burning devices worldwide. Get the picture?

Gary Kirkland Comment left 31st August 2009 18:06:31
I would really like to see the EPA-OBD II Annual Vehicle Emissions Inspection Law closely examined, and changed.As it stands right now, it is entirely possible for any Gasoline powered Vehicle, from 1996 to the present, to fail it's Emissions Inspection, for not emitting enough polluting Exhaust Emissions ! All such Vehicles have on board Oxygen [O2] Exhaust Sensors.These O2 Sensors are set up to detect a level of polluting Exhaust Emissions that would indicate that Gasoline is being consumed by an Engine at 14.7 parts of Air to 1 part of Fuel.If there is a low level of Oxygen, and a high level of Pollution, a Vehicle will fail it's Emissions Inspection, as well it should.But, Gasoline can be safely vaporized into a mixture that is 100 parts of Air to 1 part of Fuel.With this, even the largest SUV could easily get 50 + MPG, and emit a fraction of the Emissions of a conventional 14.7/1 Fuel System, with an increase in Power, and much longer Engine life.I'm not the first to figure this out.Far from it ! For proof, do a search on [the late] Tom Ogle, and Charles Nelson Pogue.Then, go to, and scan down the page to just before the update.But, even if it is not to be believed that Fuel Vaporization is entirely possible, it's illegal to even attempt to do so, with any Vehicle, 13 years old, or newer.O2 Sensors are set up to detect that Fuel is being consumed at 14.7/1. A mixture of 100 / 1 will not emit enough Polluting Exhaust Emissions to register on O2 Sensors.When such a Vehicle is connected to an OBD II Emissions Inspection Analyzer, an O2 Sensor Failure Code will be generated, which will result in a failed Emissions Inspection.O2 Sensor Exemptions are permitted for Vehicles that have been legally converted to operate on Natural Gas, Propane, or Hydrogen, and are Registered as such.But not for vaporized Gasoline.Thus, it is entirely possible, under this EPA-OBD II Vehicle Emissions Inspection Law, for any Gasoline powered Vehicle, 13 years old, or newer, to fail it's Emissions Test, for not emitting enough polluting Exhaust Emissions ! As long as this insane 14.7/1 Law that only benefits Big Oil remains in effect, the only way to make Vehicles more "efficient" will be to make them lighter, and smaller.This has got to change ! I have asked the Question many times ; "Why is it illegal for any Gasoline powered Vehicle, 13 Years old, or newer, to emit too little polluting Exhaust Emissions"? So far, not one Big Oil Executive, Politician, or Concerned Environmentalist can, or will answer the Question.Those that have replied can't seem to come up with an Answer either.Can you ?

Erich J. Knight Comment left 4th September 2009 14:02:44
I agree with Ken, Also,This person totally misrepresents Biochar soil systems. Biochar viewed as soil Infrastructure; The old saw; "Feed the Soil Not the Plants" becomes; "Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included !". Free Carbon Condominiums with carboxyl group fats in the pantry and hydroxyl alcohol in the mini bar. Build it and the Wee-Beasties will come. Microbes like to sit down when they eat. By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders & Kingdoms of life. It's hard for most to revere microbes and fungus, but from our toes to our gums (onward), their balanced ecology is our health. The greater earth and soils are just as dependent, at much longer time scales. Our farming for over 10,000 years has been responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. This soil carbon, converted to carbon dioxide, Methane & Nitrous oxide began a slow stable warming that now accelerates with burning of fossil fuel. Agriculture allowed our cultural accent and Agriculture will now prevent our descent. Wise Land management; Organic farming and afforestation can build back our soil carbon, Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, ( living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar. Another significant aspect of bichar and aerosols are the low cost ($3) Biomass cook stoves that produce char but no respiratory disease. and village level systems with the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF). The Biochar Fund recently won $300K for these systems citing these priorities; (1) Hunger amongst the world's poorest people, the subsistence farmers of Sub-Saharan Africa, (2) Deforestation resulting from a reliance on slash-and-burn farming, (3) Energy poverty and a lack of access to clean, renewable energy, and (4) Climate change. Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it. Cheers, Erich

Mae-Wan Ho Comment left 4th September 2009 14:02:20
Ken, Unfortunately, the acid ocean is interfering severely with deposition of CaCO3 by calcifying organisms(see Shutting Down the Oceans Act 1. Acid Oceans). As for Biochar, Eric, look out for Beware the Biochar Initiative on Monday.

Mae-Wan Comment left 20th August 2009 15:03:03
Earl Davis, why yes, this possibility has been raised in the earlier article Warming Oceans Starved of Oxygen.

Helen Thornton-Mutiso Comment left 20th August 2009 15:03:49
In Kenya we are starting to make bio-fuels from the seeds of Indigenous Hardwood TREES, Croton megalocarpus and calodendrum capenses. A mature Croton tree drops about a tonne of seed a year, and they are already all over the country. A tree strated producing seed in year three... Each tree can give a revenue of around $50 per year to a rural farmer. This helps more trees to be planted and protected. BioFuels themselves are not bad, only when they are made from agricultural crops or Jatropha....

andré Comment left 19th August 2009 23:11:25
it is time to think systematically instead of our reductionistic way of thinking.......

Tom Blakeslee Comment left 20th August 2009 01:01:47
Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) may be a disaster for Oxygen becaise more Oxygen than carbon is buried when CO2 is sequestered. The US is spending billions to develop this disastrous approach that sequesters twice as much oxygen as carbon.

Ninette Comment left 20th August 2009 00:12:07
A lack of o2, so is that why people have been so easily dupped into thinking change is something to get from a political party agenda--Hello wake up and breath folks change comes from within...

mindor Comment left 20th August 2009 01:01:33
How will this trend affect cabin O2 tensions when at 35,00 to 40,000 feet? Do the aircraft that daily travel these circumpolar route every keep records?

Jon Anderholm Comment left 20th August 2009 01:01:12
A definite reason to reforest the planet... Restoration of the Earth's forest cover... Wouldn't this address this O2 dilemma???

Mae-Wan Ho Comment left 20th August 2009 01:01:13
andre, spot on. ISIS is dedicated to promoting holistic joined up thinking. Tom Blakeslee, that's a good point, but there is no evidence the CO2 will stay stored, and more fossil fuels will be burnt, which is also bad for oxygen, Mindor, cabin O2 pressure should not be affected, but it may be kept too low anyways Jon Anderson, Yes, but we have to firmly reject monoculture forest plantations or fast growing softwoods

Earl Davis Comment left 20th August 2009 02:02:11
I once wrote a script for a disaster type movie about a Gaia catastrophe cascade (in an effort to get the positive Gaia science into general circulation). It began with a generator shutting down at an Antarctic research station for lack of oxygen - the reason being a massive die-off of ocean phytoplankton due to combination of uv increase (from ozone hole) and ocean acidification. Any chance some real phytoplankton die-off might be responsible now? And are there any chart projections of decreasing o2 rates as with co2?

Donald Leenknegt Comment left 27th August 2009 00:12:55
Carbon is the element from which life, and ultimately the Earth's life support system, spiralled into existence. If Carbon is the element of life, Photosynthesis is the engine of life. And there is no other real source of atmospheric oxygen than Photosynthesis, "Photosynthesis is the source of all the oxygen in the atmosphere." It was Photosynthesis which created the Earth's climate. Without Photosynthesis there wouldn't be a climate on Earth - the Earth would be dead like Venus and Mars. Photosynthesis is the crucial element in the Earth's life support system and the key means of stabilizing the Earth's climate. Without Carbon, there would be no Photosynthesis, but without Photosynthesis there would be: no oxygen in the atmosphere, no stratospheric ozone layer, no hydrogen, no water, no oceans, no continents, no Carbon burial, no Carboniferous rock formations, no layers of coal, nor oil deposits, no Plants or Trees, no food, no soils, no Wildlife habitats, no Wildlife, no climate, and no stable climate. In sum, no life. Satellite measurements have shown that in the last 20 years biomass on earth has increased with 6%, probably due to the increased carbon content of the atmosphere. Life was most prolific in the distant past when there was 5 to 10 times as much CO2 in the atmosphere as now, with very little influence on the temperature of the planet. A little bit more CO2 in the atmosphere can not be the cause or the problem we are facing. So, I agree: let us look for other causes linked to the human activities on this green planet earth.

Su Kahumbu Comment left 20th August 2009 21:09:50
Sadly Mae, your suggestion of 'firmly rejecting monoculture forest plantations or fast growing softwoods'would really only be practical in a developed nation that is not dependent on charcoal as a fuel source. In Kenya we are currently struggling with failed rains, no water in the dams, thus no hydro electricity. This has lead to a national rationing of electricity that is crippling the country . The cause.........decimation of our forests. Everywhere you turn people are being told to plant trees, literally any type of trees. Naturally folk will choose the quickest growing and most readily available which is probably blue gum. (and of course cheapest) In its simplistic form we are planting to get water and fire wood (and funnily enough, electricity poles) . Will poverty stricken nations ever be convinced to plant slower growing less available and probably more expensive trees because of the complexities between o2 and co2 levels? Somehow I doubt it. Ironically, we would need to be in some sort of 'comfort zone' before this would be a priority. And even more ironically the 'comfort zone' will probably never become a reality .

Mae-Wan Ho Comment left 20th August 2009 21:09:20
Su Kahumbu, in a forth-coming report, we shall present evidence that soot from making and burning charcoal contributes as much to global warming as greenhouse gases, and there are many solutions to that, by providing better stoves and most of all by using anaerobic digestion to generate methane that's the cleanest fuel around. Please look up "Dream Farm 2" on this site. All these should be part of the climate negotiations, free technology transfer and clean, green development for developing countries. My name is Mae-Wan, not Mae.

Pierre-Louis Lemercier Comment left 21st August 2009 17:05:38
And soon, I believe that we will find many more missing/overlooked links in a near future. It is my humble opinion that the whole system has not been designed on the reality of a life cycle, wherein people, who are parts and parcels of the environment, hence depend on it, know it and therefore should have a say. A system wherein everything is linked and important (not only the CO2 issue), nothing is lost but everything transformed (output from one side becoming input to another side -like sustainable amount of CO2 recycled into sugar through photosynthesis) to form a perfect sustainable cycle. The CC response is being presently designed in the ether by people who lost tough with the real nature of a sustainable environment and some who just use this opportunity to create useful loopholes. Hence they just work on the GHG air content (as GHG alone is the problem) outside its framework, which is the life cycle, hence overlooking many important intervenient and factors in the big environmental equation. As the latter could be simplified to the point that X CO2 amount reduced=saved planet while this is never going to happen if the whole unsustainable present system is not reviewed, scale down into a low carbon system, which can fit again into the environmental cycle. The only way to succeed this is to see the big picture, simplify the “recovery system” by just making (by whatever ways) people/companies decrease their unsustainable inputs as well as outputs (not only GHG). But certainly not allow them to burry their mess and/orpay their way out. Or imagine unsustainable system to pull energy, water, mineral, food and other resources from the other side of the world just to keep their comfort, their easy virtual ways to make big bugs and avoid having to depend on their own local resources. Narrow concepts promote bad projects. The CDM funding f.e will finance a huge monoplantation of eukalyptus in DRC. Yes we have to move fast as people are hungry but we could, with a broader vision remain flexible and also replant on the side local and slow glowing trees. In short, our tunnel vision is killing us as it prevents us to see the big picture and recognize the reality and the condition of our survival. Yes this is a tall order now that we went that far badly but I am don’t think we have any other alternatives. This will require a lengthy re adaptation to a world with little or no petrol, which may not necessarily be painful if it is initiated rapidly (as the Transition Culture movement suggests). Regards PL Lemercier – Renewable Energy Centre – Port Elizabeth

Ben Comment left 22nd August 2009 14:02:58
Pardon me, but I seem to be missing something. O2 is apparently dropping at a rate of less than 10 ppm per year. This means after 1,000 years at this rate, we will have reduced Oxygen by a single percent. This is, of course, ignoring that there aren't that many fossil fuels in the world! It also ignores the fact that plants would grow exceptionally well in an atmosphere with 50 times the CO2 that they evolved in. I have rarely seen such a sophomoric analysis. Very detailed, but leaving out small and extremely basic facts that show the problems are orders of magnitude too small to have effects on ANYTHING.

Mae-Wan Ho Comment left 22nd August 2009 14:02:43
Ben, you are missing something. First, O2 is there principally because of carbon storage time,its rate of drop currently is ~10 ppm, but it could well swing further downwards. Second if increase in CO2 is so good for plant growth it could have compensated for O2 falling, but it hasn't. There is also evidence that increase in CO2 does not translate into increase in carbon fixation; instead it could merely speed up the carbon cycle, making forests and other ecosystems less effective in sequestering carbon, thereby making things worse (see previous article More CO2 Could Mean Less Biodiversity and Worse, Speeding up the carbon cycle in the current context is certainly decreasing the carbon storage time. The devil is in the detail and the connections.

Donald Patriquin Comment left 23rd August 2009 02:02:33
So why do we not see this vital information in the headlines of our daily newspapers? Are we lemmings? Where is the interface between science and politics, between scientists & politicians? Keep speaking out - but louder!!! Thanks, Donald Patriquin

Tim Loncarich Comment left 25th August 2009 02:02:42
Since most deforestation is done to grow grain to feed to animals which are fed to humans wouldn't it make sense to switch to a healthier plant-based diet and reforest the land no longer needed? Since humans don't require meat in their diet to be healthy, adopting a vegan diet is one quick and easy solution anyone can put into action. It costs nothing and the benefits are immediate.

Ken Griffith Comment left 26th August 2009 15:03:07
The suggestion that faster growing plants lock up oxygen from the atmosphere is amazingly ignorant. In photosynthesis water molecules, H2O, are split, the hydrogen is joined to the CO2 from the air and the excess O2 is released. This increases O2 in the air. In respiration, the Oxygen is rejoined with hydrogen, forming water. Therefore increase in plant biomass locks up hydrogen derived from WATER, and increases atmospheric O2. Plants take up water not O2! "In the process, it could precipitate an oxygen crisis from which we would never recover." Before making such wild claims, one should measure the amount of hydrocarbons in the biosphere and compare it to the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. If 100% of the world's biomass were to be oxidized in one second, it would use less than 1% of the oxygen from the atmosphere, because there isn't very much biomass compared to Oxygen. Some more realistic oxygen sinks would be: A. Release of un-oxidized iron from the earth and groundwater, oxidizes on contact with air and locks up oxygen in the form of rust. B. A pathway where O2 -> respired with fossil fuel -> C02 -> CO2 dissolves in Seawater and precipitates as CaCO3. Now this is a pathway where Oxygen in the air gets locked up as limestone through biological means. So a more realistic correlation to look for would be precipitation rates of CaCO3 in seawater. Whoever wrote this article proves that academic degrees are not worth the paper they are printed on!

Ken Griffith Comment left 26th August 2009 15:03:34
Correction to my last comment: The pathway of CO2 dissolving in seawater and precipitating as CaCO3 does not convert any O2 from the air into CO2. However, the respiration side of that reaction, which combines O2 with the hydrogen in the starchy plant fuel, produces water vapor. Therefore this pathway leads to conversion of atmospheric oxygen to water. If the carbon dioxide is locked up in limestone or other deep storage, then there has been a net loss of atmospheric oxygen converted to water. The only way to reverse this process is to introduce new carbon into the atmosphere as CO2 to enable photosynthesis. This new carbon comes from surface erosion of limestone and fossil fuel bearing rocks. Some think burning Coal reduces O2 because it is 95% Carbon. This is true. However, at some time in the past coal was biomass, so the oxygen was released when the coal was formed. This oxygen has usually combined with other elements such as sulfur so that when mining coal carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide must be vented from the mine. Therefore when coal is returned to the biosphere through mining or through natural erosion, the oxygen that was originally in the plant material has also been re-introduced to the atmosphere. This is also true of natural gas, where methane is usually found with sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide gas. Carbon dioxide is the "substrate" on which photosynthesis and respiration occur, splitting water in photosynthesis and recombining it in respiration. Therefore to reduce oxygen in the atmosphere all you have to do is to steadily remove carbon dioxide - not because of the O2 in carbon dioxide, but because of the O2 that is now locked up as H2O. Clearly, there is not enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to produce a major effect. Plant life would starve of CO2 before the oxygen concentration of the atmosphere declined by even 0.5%. However, the natural release of iron from the earth, forming iron oxide, is a process that is only reversible by mankind (producing iron from ore), and possibly by biological activity. Therefore, iron released from groundwater, and calcium carbonate precipitation in seawater, are the most likely causes of the small oxygen decrease you speak of here. However, the human production of metal from ore reverses the process. So the question is whether the production of metal releases oxygen in an amount similar to the amount being locked up by the two oxygen sinks listed above. The idea that rapidly growing plant-mass locks up oxygen is completely wrong. I would be very embarrassed if I had published a paper like this.

Tim Watson Comment left 21st October 2009 06:06:16
From a layman's perspective, the less global bio-mass production, the less oxygen...

Patruick Foster Comment left 3rd July 2010 14:02:52
My concern was over a recent flight on BA when symptoms of hypoxia developed while flying at 39,000 feet (cabin display)over Atlantic. I understand that cabin air circulation uses external air compressed to 8,000 ft equivalent pressure to raise oxygen partial pressure to an acceptable level which should be routinely checked by flight crew (with routinely calibrated meter?). Does a decline in atmospheric oxygen tension mean that this standard practice be modified?

Mae-Wan Comment left 8th July 2010 18:06:57
Hi Patrick, You raise a very important point. Commercial jets are supposed to be pressurised to an altitufe of 5000 to 8000 ft, reducing oxygen pressure by 1/6 from 150 to 125 Torr. This greatly exceeds the safety limit of 19.5 percent oxygen partial pressure in confined spaces at sea level. Recently, I passed out briefly from hypoxia on a transAtlantic flight. The air stewardess (ex-nurse) who attended to me said passengers are passing out on average every one in ten flights. Oxygen partial pressure has not decreased to that extent yet. But the safety limit on commercial jets is clearly inadequate.

oneshotal Comment left 7th April 2010 17:05:13
interesting article. no doubt it will generate debates for years before anything is done.

Raimund J. Krob Comment left 24th February 2011 09:09:22
I have 4 comments, one for each leg of the cat :) Comment #1: I think it would be good thesis material for an Ecology-Major university student to develop an oxygen "bank book" for Earth, showing all the ways in which atmospheric oxygen is being liberated/created ongoing ("account deposits") and all the ways in which oxygen is being locked-up/depleted ongoing ("account withdrawals"), and the running total amount of oxygen in the atmosphere ("account balance"). I suspect that such an exercise would show that we are depleting atmospheric oxygen faster than the rate at which it is being replenished. Comment #2: Earth's atmosphere contains approximately 79% gaseous nitrogen, 20% gaseous oxygen, and 1% all other gases. At sea level, this mixture of gases (commonly called air) exerts a combined pressure on us of approximately 14.7 pounds per square inch (or 1 ATM or 1 BAR). Of this, approximately 2.9 lbs per square inch (.2 ATM or .2 BAR) is due to oxygen. In a mixture of gases, the portion of the total pressure exerted by a single gas is referred to as the "partial pressure" of that gas. The generally accepted minimum partial pressure of oxygen required to sustain human life is 1.9 pounds per square inch (.13 ATM or .13 BAR). This means that it is in our best interest (pardon the pun in reference to comment #1) to ensure that we do not allow the partial pressure of oxygen in our atmosphere to drop more than 1 pound per square inch (or .07 ATM or .07 BAR) from the level it is at today. Interesting side-note: Today the maximum altitude humans can exist for extended periods of time is approximately 16,000' / 5,000m, but that is only for individuals whose bodies have adapted to the extremely low partial pressure of oxygen by creating more red blood cells. If atmospheric oxygen decreases, then the maximum altitude where humans can live will decrease as well. And if that trend continues unabated, then the last living mammals on the planet will only be able to get enough oxygen to breathe at or near sea level. Comment #3: Much of what we as humans burn for energy is carbon (or hydro-carbon) based. The basic chemical process for combustion of carbon involves "igniting" one free carbon atom (atomic mass of ~12) with two free oxygen atoms (molecular mass of 2 x ~16 = ~32) creating a carbon dioxide molecule (molecular mass of ~44), and releasing the resulting difference in entropy as heat energy. In other words, every time we burn 1 ton of carbon, we consume almost 3 tons of oxygen and create almost 4 tons of carbon dioxide, and a large quantity of heat energy. Carbon dioxide is considered to be a greenhouse gas and it contributes to global warming and ocean acidification, among other problems, but let's not lose sight of all the life-giving oxygen that's also locked up in that gas. So, rather than focus our energies on sequestering carbon dioxide in places where we can never recover it, I suggest we instead focus those same energies on figuring out how to cleanly convert carbon dioxide back to its constituent atoms of carbon and molecules of free oxygen. We already know this is possible because plants have been doing this for millions of years, absorbing the sun's energy by day and then using chlorophyll and process called photosynthesis to separate the carbon from the oxygen, after which they use the carbon to make more plants and "exhale" the oxygen (a waste product)at night. Surely if plants can do it, then we can figure out a way to do it too? (Even if it means planting more trees until we figure out how to :) Comment #4: I don't know who said it first, but I really like the saying "the way we look at a problem IS the problem". Many of our reactions to problems we have caused, appear at first glance to fix the problem, but then with the passage of time only wind up making more problems. I think we need to stop trying to hide the problems we have caused, and start bringing them out into the sunlight (literally) and undoing the damage we have caused. My biggest wish in life is to contribute in some small way to that kind of undoing of damage to the world we all live in.

Brent Boone Comment left 6th May 2011 22:10:29
Phytoplankton which creates over 50%of our oxygen.40% has died . the ph of our planets waters has dropped from 8.0 to 7.8-- the die off of phytoplankton is increasing in rate. Coupled with the transition from rainforest to grazing lands, numbering in the millions of hectares and the great die off of forests in russia and canada, along with the demise of jungle for the plantings for palm oil etc etc--we will within the next ten years be only producing a small fraction of O2 that the earth is producing now. like how our government robbed social security for so many years and now it's running out--except you don't recover from oxygen deprivation.

michael e branum Comment left 12th December 2011 00:12:46
Darvaz Pit escalating oxygen depletion,earth may combat low oxygen levels with mini ice ages

michael e branum Comment left 9th January 2012 09:09:55
ocean oxygen levels have been falling ever since Darvaz Pit was ignited,backfill darvaz pit the worlds largest oxygen consumer

Bhaskar Malimodogula Comment left 4th March 2012 18:06:06
Carbon in atmosphere is only 800 billion tons at 390 ppm. Atmosphere is about 21 % Oxygen, about 400,000 Billion tons. ALL this is due to photosynthesis. The corresponding amount of Carbon captured during photosynthesis is - 150000 billion tons, this would be on land and in water. Where is all this Carbon ?

Larry Roberts Comment left 25th March 2012 15:03:17
Thank you Ninette, intelligence and foresight from almost 2 1/2 years ago. That is more time than since I woke up to our reality. And yes Jon Anderholm, it probably would help. But I respectfully suggest, our two biggest obstacles are: NIMBY (our human animal survival instinct counter-reaction resistance to change), and (lack of) 'political will' - aka 'balls', to tell us what we don't want to hear. All the technical discussion and theories, will continue to be repressed to the level of just so much 'verbal diarrhea', without political action. Everyone, like Mae-Wan Ho who has given so much of themselves to all this work to make the change to 'green', should be enraged at the lack of political action. If politics doesn't continue to evolve, as the 'Occupiers' are proposing and demonstrating a new model of, and as advocacy groups are showing some initial success, then, in addition to we humans re-involving ourselves in 'Participatory Democracy' to force our current political systems into action, we may have to make politicians obsolete, by following the Occupier's lead, and do as Iceland already is - government by 'crowd-sourcing' and referendum, and make changes ourselves, to save ourselves. All of our current problems come from what 'Big Business' (Big Money - the 1%) give us as choices to buy, do or use, and all that is required to give us these limited choices. And as Su Kahumbu in Kenya points out, we need "to plant trees, literally any kind of trees". As Brent Boone illustrates our problems, I apologize for my ignorance, for the part I have contributed to our problems. I now try to both make amends by trying to live a better example, and do my part to help, and wish Good luck to our kids and grandkids.

Hermes Trismegistus Comment left 24th August 2012 19:07:20
The Native Americans warned modern white men colonists not to cut all the trees down, pollute our waterways etc., to respect our Earth as a living entity of which we are a part of. This Ancient Wisdom is common sense. In Australia we now have a "CARBON" TAX (The IMF / WORLD BANK / ILLUMINATI / NEW WORLD ORDER / ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT'S source for revenue raising by the ELITE to impoverish the masses, whilst controlling all manner of wealth, power, energy, food production etc.) THE REAL ISSUE SHOULD BE NOT A CARBON TAX, BUT AN "OXYGEN" TAX, paid by the multi- national corporations cutting down all the OXYGEN PRODUCING TREES AND FORESTS. Considering the OXYGEN production by mature trees, quantification of their life sustaining output, should be measured and then for every mature tree cut down determine how many new tree seedlings need to be planted to recover the losses from present and past deforestation of these OXYGEN PRODUCING MATURE TREES. Meantime, much research and effort needs to be fast tracked to allow 'seeding' of other planets and moons in our solar system to support communities from our over populated Planet Earth.

Haris Hukic Comment left 19th November 2012 01:01:55
After teaching in elementary school for last 15 years and following climate changes in a free time, I am wondering if there is a job for me in research and measurement of this vital data for our living planet. I don't want to get rich, I just want to do something meaningful for the world. If someone can help, I would appreciate. I am willing to relocate anywhere. I am currently in USA.

kirby van horn Comment left 4th February 2013 10:10:25
One thing that most people are missing in the o2 discussion is the impact of aircraft jet engines running in the upper atmosphere. As a retired airline captain, I can assure you that jet aircraft are responsible for burning huge amounts of oxygen every day. I have heard from reliable industry sources that one Airbus A380 flight across the Atlantic burns more oxygen than the whole human race uses in a 24 hour long day. It scares me to death!!!!

Jack Mosel Comment left 24th February 2013 20:08:57
It's a question of balance... We're overfed and out of balance. Lake restoration and re-establishing beneficial microbial communities within the aquatic eco-systems is the ONLY way forward... Question: How do you create Oxygen? ... Answer: Photosynthesis How do you create Photosynthesis? Answer: Diatoms!!! Responsible for 30% of the CO2 Sequestration from atmosphere and PROVIDES 40% of the O2 (Oxygen) we breath... We have proven we can bloom Diatoms with Biogenic silica fertilization ( This is huge. In fact its a game changer. (I love your work!)

Catriona MacGregor Comment left 6th July 2013 16:04:18
We must "partner" with plants to solve our atmospheric challenges caused by greenhouse gases, reduction of oxygen due to ocean acidification, and we MUST stop geo-engineering which is taking place globally - in an attempt to solve global warming artificially by pumping the skies with heavy metals like aluminum etc.... This is poisoning our soils and weakening trees and plants globally and we are seeing now - not just loss of trees from burning, forest fires, etc, and reduction in plankton - BUT - we are multiplying the harmful impacts to plant life through this terrible government program. It must be shut down and we must work with NATURAL PROCESSES _ ie planting trees and plants, protecting and reinforcing soils, switching to bio-fuels and solar, etc etc... The plants made our atmosphere - we MUST work with the amazing photosynthetic NATURAL capacity of plants to help heal the planet's atmospheric imbalance...

Tina Dickey Comment left 13th February 2014 19:07:16
O2 depletion causes Cerebral hypoxia: Mild symptoms include difficulties with complex learning tasks and reductions in short-term memory. If oxygen deprivation continues, cognitive disturbances and decreased motor control will result.[19]

gpac Comment left 14th February 2014 08:08:20
Does anyone have a link for the new sat data on the Amazon.Its an article on African Diatoms in Dust storms & how it fertilizes the Rainforest, that the Amazon actually consumes most of the Oxygen it produces?It's a very interesting story Thx PS-Are people getting Dumber?-I think the the evidence is already showing that :(Just watch J Springer for 2 minutes

geoff Comment left 1st June 2014 23:11:07
It seems to me that as this climate thingy happens there are two things not thought about here which may save the human specie from extinction. The human is born with a blank mind, And, As the oxygen levels drop the human mind will dull in intelligence. As animals we will loose all our technologies and the death rate will increase then once again equilibrium will reign supreme.

air Comment left 26th November 2016 22:10:06
As atmospheric pressure is decreased due to increasing temperatures, the air is much harder to breathe than at ice age (12,000 years ago). An increase of humidity, temperature or altitude means an decreased oxygen level and atmospheric pressure making faster, deeper and harder to breathe. Due to global warming, the risk of altitude sickness was increased, thus making the “death zone” (> 8000m) line much lower than used be. At 50,000 years from now, Earth will go to another glacial period. This will decrease temperature, and increase atmospheric pressure and oxygen level. At this point, Canada, Northern Europe and Siberia will be covered by glaciers again, just like the Antarctic. Earth has experienced lots of ice ages, including the pre-Cambrian “Snowball Earth”-s. As such, humans will be mutated to adapt the cold. It is one of the 3 scenarios of future evolution (the “other planet”, “ice age” and “water world”). Ice age humans could have increased height and increased strength, a larger brain, a whitened skin and hair, an increased body and facial hair to warm up the body).

Valko Comment left 27th July 2014 23:11:41
I'm wondering if the lowering of O2 might be the major cause of the increase in CO2. To me, the lowering of O2 is a much bigger problem, and far easier to explain. O2 comes from plant life. Our soil is depleted of micro organisms and minerals. We tear down our rain forests. More cities means less planets, more concrete. We have less production of O2. Can anyone tell me if it is possible that less O2 in the atmosphere may cause more CO2? After all, it is the balance that is important. Rather than looking at CO2 by itself, isn't it the balance of O2 and CO2 that's more important?

Joel Bordeaux Comment left 15th November 2014 20:08:35
The solution to this issue is shown in every marijuana/hemp indoor grow room. The more vegetation in the room the more carbon is needed to grow and the more oxygen is produced. Plant more of the most effecient oxygen producing plant.

Fred Zimmerman Comment left 19th November 2014 03:03:52 Oxygen depletion and depression

Pat Rye Comment left 25th February 2015 19:07:17
I've been thinking about this for a while, but didn't know if any work was being done on this issue, so thanks. It seems fairly reasonable to me that if we are destroying much of the land O2 producers, (rainforest) and acidifying the oceans to the extent that many marine producers become less efficient, that reduced atmospheric 02 will result. What really worries me if, below a certain value, and with increased methane release due to permafrost melt a 'tipping-point' to a different atmospheric balance would occur to, say a methane-nitrogen mix instead of oxygen-nitrogen. Any thoughts?

Pat Rye Comment left 25th February 2015 19:07:34
I've been thinking about this for a while, but didn't know if any work was being done on this issue, so thanks. It seems fairly reasonable to me that if we are destroying much of the land O2 producers, (rainforest) and acidifying the oceans to the extent that many marine producers become less efficient, that reduced atmospheric 02 will result. What really worries me if, below a certain value, and with increased methane release due to permafrost melt a 'tipping-point' to a different atmospheric balance would occur to, say a methane-nitrogen mix instead of oxygen-nitrogen. Any thoughts?

Keith sorensen Comment left 3rd May 2015 15:03:49
Hi Mae Wan, Wonderful to see a real scientist interested in someone else's opinion! You may need to modify your anti spam question! A normal cat has four legs IF it or its parents have not been exposed to any of the pharma industries synthetic hormone poisons! Anyway more to the point, I have suspected that air pressure has been falling globally for some years now. Your research proves that it has! This could explain to some degree the increasing storm patterns, and maybe even why large airliners suddenly plummet thousands of feet when they hit these air voids! I read some time ago how the Earths magnetic fields are weakening, as the atmosphere is held down by gravity is it not possible that air/oxygen is being lost into space! Some years ago I noticed how the Sun is farther north or South in Summer and this movement gets greater each year! If the Sun is closer to the poles this accounts for the melting ice caps, so much for global warming! Also if the Sun is further towards the poles then the oceans at the equator will cool due to melting ice and being farther from the Sun! IF the Earths rotation has not changed this could be proven by hotter summers at the poles, which is a fact, and longer darkness in winter in countries close to the poles. With the beginning of the new Galactic cycle we are facing the greatest natural disaster in the history of the human race! I look forward to your comments! Keep up the good work! Keith

2sillytube Comment left 15th May 2015 15:03:47
darvaz pit burns up more oxygen 24/7 than all human activity - backfill darvaz pit - how much oxygen comes from melting ice

michael e branum Comment left 11th June 2015 15:03:30
darvaz pit burns more oxygen 24/7 than all of humanities activities - ignited in 1971 - backfill darvaz pit - found charts on internet that show most of climate and ocean oxygen started falling around then - backfill darvaz pit - biosphere 2 FAILED - most of the atmosphere & ocean oxygen comes from melting ice that releases oxygen - backfill darvaz pit

Beth Davies Comment left 27th September 2015 02:02:30
We are mass scale culling complex rainforest and forest ecosystems and creating monocultures - plants to feed us and the animals we eat and trees to replace harvested trees. But it isn't like for like. This is actually the most prescient potential impact to climate change - reduction in oxygen levels in our atmosphere. We can all live in a world without certain products e.g. chocolate or wine (though it would be harder for some than others)... but human life can not survive if the oxygen levels fall below?? What baffles me is the lack of communication and information from the scientific community about this issue to the average person.

Dave Burton Comment left 4th September 2015 15:03:34
If we continue to increase the rate of oxygen consumption while reducing the production rate we are bound to get into trouble -- it is called the law of supply and demand. We evolved AFTER the 6% CO2 of the Jurasic dropped. The ideas above about the levels being too small to notice may not be right, the level at which generational intellegence reduction occurs is unknown as is the rate of increase of diseases such as asthma and bronchitus in the long term from continuous exposure to a reduced O2 partial pressure. Other effects are not known but to find an indicator look up 'banded iron formations' which totally depleted the atmospheric oxygen many times during the formation of the modern atmosphere from the primeval atmosphere. Is there a point at which other processes that are prevented by the O2 partial pressure become harmful in the long term? We do not know.

Rajan Pandey Comment left 8th September 2015 21:09:46
Very simple. We have long forgotten the ' family planning'. Controlling population or rather decreasing it by a billion or so is the only solution. So, let us have population control as our top priority and then only we can get rid of all these adversaries. More the population, more is the demand of resources that humans consume. Thus more production is inevitable and more consumption of raw materials and energy is warranted. As a result, more pollution, more green house gases and more consumption of oxygen. So, to break this vicious circle, we must control or reduce population. Let's hope the upcoming over- hyped Paris conference at the end of 2015 will pay heed to this call. Rajan Pandey Environmental Engineer Nepal

Peter G Cullen Comment left 16th October 2015 23:11:56
Thank you Mae-Wan, I have been wondering about the depletion of Oxygen for some time, and am glad that others have been too, and have been collecting Data. My concern started at around the same time that awareness was increasing about the depletion of the Ozone layer. The Ozone layer is created by the effects of high intensity photons striking Oxygen Atoms and changing the dipole moment allowing for the stable creation of Ozone at elevated altitudes (Top of Atmosphere) the Ozone was then being destroyed by ODS Ozone depleting substances like chlorofluorohydrocarbons etc., These were banned and after some time improvements were noticed. I suspect (the data hasn't been gathered yet as far as I'm aware) that as yet the depth of the Ozone layer has not fully recovered. One trouble with Ozone is that it is a heavier than Air Gas and naturally tends to drop out of the Ozone layer from which it is created at the upper level. Another thing about Ozone is that it is also created within Waterfalls and at the Ocean Land interface through intense energy exchanges of waves crashing on the Sea shore... One good thing about ozone is that at certain very low levels it is beneficial to human health it is one of the few natural ways that viruses within the blood stream can be eliminated - they get burned up! Another good thing is that Carbon Monoxide is also a heavier than Air Gas and Both Ozone and Carbon Monoxide collect in low lying Areas like Drains and Sewers and Underground railway tunnels and they have a great affinity for one another creating both Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide. That being said, Ozone at slightly higher levels than beneficial to humans, becomes seriously harmful - it will kill you! - A very fine balance! All things in moderation! If the Atmosphere was completely at rest there would be a separation into layers according to the Density of the Gasses - It isn't stable and at rest - However I would suspect that there might be still some statistical significance to concentrations of the Gasses being higher within their respective undisturbed layer elevations - That being said... Given that the levels of Ozone in the Ozone layer have been rising again due to the ceased production of ODS's (Ozone Destroying Substances) this would mean that there is an upper level Atmospheric sink being created for Oxygen Atoms, and this coupled with the destruction of Phyto Plankton and Forest production of Oxygen accompanied by ever faster consumption of Oxygen (China and India coming online Industrially) in Power production from Coal and Natural Gas - One GE 25MW power Plant (Same as an Aircraft Jet Engine) let's say a GE LM2500 Produces about 24MW Electric Power, it is derived from GE's CF6-6 aircraft engines. One GE Turbine running for 1 Hour is equivalent to 2,537 Motor Vehicles of 1500cc sized internal combustion engines, going past your front gate every hour. Most long range Commercial Jetliners are flying at 33000ft up to 55000ft and usually have 4 jet engines of higher power capabilities. The exhaust exits at about 586 deg C and for ground Power Plants usually exits vertically, at about 70.5 kg/sec! ---- That's a lot of equivalent 1500cc Cars going round the world everyday at High Altitudes - No wonder we call them Highways of the Sky!... Anyway a lot of Oxygen being burned in Gas Fired Power Plants! So... Depleted Oxygen Concentrations I would think would be expected!

A, Higgins Comment left 26th November 2015 06:06:08
There is an oxygen sink on land, it is called humans. Each human uses 550 litres per day which equals 200,750, multiplied by the world population of 7,324,782,225, it is not putting carbon into our atmosphere, it is taking out oxygen, Deforestation is taking away the carbon sink. result, more people, more deforestation and less oxygen. Population control is what is needed.

Gerry Hunt Comment left 1st December 2015 19:07:45
Forgive me for stating the glaringly obvious (and it was very nice to see all the professional calculations) but the whole issue surely is a no-brainer based on simple chemistry? The more oxygen being consumed by humans breathing and the more humans burn carbon fuels, then the result is more CO2 and less Oxygen. The more activity, the faster the end of planet Earth and life as we know it. I realise plant life replenishes O2 but surely nowhere enough to compensate for the vast increase in mankind's death wish. I can't understand the doubters out there.

Rob Ristic Comment left 17th January 2016 08:08:24
Why is the debate all about reducing CO2? During COP21 everyone was focused on this negative - sacrifice, doom and gloom. The majority on the planet, living in less developed countries, for better or for worse, want a little more now they know how little they have. That is perfectly understandable. To achieve this, because the lucky minority in OECD countries don't want to give up what they have and want even more, means unfortunately, the 'inconvenient truth' is production of CO2 is inevitable. The growth for the sake of growth orientated developed world mentality compounds this. Therefore how can we shift the effort to doing something positive and very necessary, as has been identified by Mae-Wan, that being a focus on increasing O2? There is already a wealth of technology and know-how that with financial and political backing, can be implemented to reduce desertification for example, with the aim of thereby moving back to a balanced equation. Surely none would oppose such a positive focus? Such a common and irrefutably beneficial goal for all on the planet should make mobilising and efficient use of resources, much easier. Let's forget the past and look to create a more balanced and equitable future for all living things on our earth!

Lienke Katz Comment left 24th January 2016 18:06:41
Dear Dr. Mae-Wan Ho thank you for all the work you do for the benefit of all of us!! I am not a scientist but I read anything and everything I find interesting including your books especially the ones about "Water" I think that the loss of oxygen has also to do with water as a quantum coherent liquid. If I understand it right water for a biological organism is only coherent when it is in a certain resonance, such as the Schumann Resonance (see Dr. Luc Montagnier). If we are not coherent within the earth' resonance (7.83) we have to get our electrons and protons from recycling ATP (see Gilbert Ling). If we get too many protons our temperature rises and oxygen diffuses out of our tissues. Just as when ocean water heats up oxygen rises out of the ocean as well. Iron levels are dropping in the oceans as well. This is an element absolutely necessary for life as it carries oxygen to the tissues by means of hemoglobin. I think that in the Global Warming research there seems to be no mention of the massive increase in Non-Native EMFs such as micro/radiowaves that have built up in our atmosphere as they cannot escape the ionosphere. Nor is there a mention of all the energy resources used for the proliferation of these frequencies both by the public and the military. Not only do the electric power lines affect the magnetosphere (see Helliwell, or "Giant Breach in Earth's Magnetic Field discovered, Dec 16, 2008, or Ozone hole over Antarctica hits record size, Oct 29, 2015, or "Unprecedented Ozone hole opens over the Canadian Arctic, Oct 2, 2011) so do the Non_Native EMFs, in addition to the damage caused to the ozone layer by the launching of the ever increasing satellites (" preliminary report on the HEAO hole in the ionosphere" 1980) to satisfy the need to communicate by cell phones that require the building of cell towers on every square meter of the planet. Another way of replenishing our electrons from the earth (bare feet) through grounding (artificial grounding can be dangerous as most areas in the western world are contaminated by ground currents due to an overload of the electrical systems) All non-native Emfs dehydrate all life, I haven't yet read the paper by Panagopoulos, Olle Johanson, and Di Carlo on the Polerization caused by EMFs, as that may be why trees cannot use the water present at their roots to bring it up to their tops (something I read in a German paper as a short mention). None of this addresses all the resources energy wise and mining needed to supply the gadgets. There is a website that in my mind says it all. "High Frequency pulsed microwave radiation interferes with the natural, electromagnetic integrated network of water. Through this network water is capable of absorbing, storing, and transferring information. Hence through today's mobile communications technology used worldwide the entire water balance of the Earth and of all living organisms is compromised" Water and Oxygen are intrinsically linked and when one is off so is the other. I hope I made sense as explaining something is much more difficult than understanding it in one's own mind. Dear Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, thanks again for this website and your research and your many contributors putting this info out there! Lienke

TT Rose Comment left 30th March 2016 11:11:26
Is there a website that charts Los Angeles hourly or daily O2 levels?

M E Bittinger Comment left 28th April 2016 01:01:44
The problem is uncontrolled population growth, The O2 levels will continue to drop with the increases in population. Each person breathes, needs plants and animals to feed on. The costs of fuel to create transportation, electricity, etc depletes more O2. The population has hit a tipping point and the Planet will purge humans at 14% - 16% O2, maybe 50 to 100 years from now. Human Greed and emotions will prevent any real changes to our current norms.

Dr. A. Cannara Comment left 30th March 2016 11:11:28
The increasing methane releases will consume some O2 via CH4 oxidation over time. This may be part of the problem. So may decreased photosynthesis in oceanic plankton, etc.

Brian Comment left 26th November 2016 22:10:28
Biochar of WASTES is the suggestion, not corn ethanol like the linked article references, No "crop fuels" should even be allowed. Biochar of wastes save the climate in many ways: it stop the methane release from dumps, it replaces the fossils fuels that would get used otherwise, and it doubles the productivity of poor soils. Waste to fuels, never crops to fuels.

B.C. Deck Comment left 22nd September 2016 23:11:43
Carbon sequestration often calls for CO2 to be stored. Is it problematic to store oxygen along with carbon? Presumably, the oxygen was atmospheric prior to the combustion that produced CO2; do we need to keep that oxygen atmospheric to maintain our atmosphere?

Stephen N Strutt Comment left 22nd September 2016 23:11:18
Hi, my name is Steve, and I am an author and a writer. I am very interested in knowing everything about the oxygen depletion of our atmosphere, over the past few thousand years; and any info on this topic is very much appreciated. In studying the medical side of the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen treatment, for those with head injuries and concussions, I was curious that perhaps in the past, oxygen levels were in fact much higher. In studying Oxygen as a medical treatment, it becomes quite clear, that many of our modern sicknesses are either caused, or exacerbated by low oxygen levels in our atmosphere. My website is Here is a direct link to the new "Health and Nutrition" section of my website:- Best Wishes, Steve

kim Comment left 22nd September 2016 23:11:30
ocean acidification and rising ocean temperatures will kill the phytoplankton that is keeping us alive. we really don't have much time left and not reversible due to the puny human mind and willpower.