Earth’s Oxygen Levels Are Declining

In the public interest.

I’ve kept the small ad for Elon Musk in as my feeling was that going to Mars does not solve the damage done to earth.  Jumping ship is not facing what has been done in the name of self interest.  The economic juggernaut has destroyed earth systems with impunity and no consequence as money talks. Our inherent imbalance has not been resolved as those in positions of power deny their culpability or are unable to change.  Indeed they are not listening to voices that propose another world is possible outside of economics.  The challenge they face is they do not want to give up the wealth and status. So they continue on trajectories that do not restore balance as they have not found peace within.  The oxygen levels are indeed decreasing as I have intuited and this impacts all sentient beings.

Earth’s Oxygen Levels Are Declining And Scientists Don’t Know Why

Trevor Nace

This article is more than 3 years old.

A glacier looms in Antarctica (Credit:

A new study shows Earth’s oxygen levels continue to decline, a phenomena that has puzzled scientists. The study, published in Science by Princeton University professor Daniel Stolper, presents data measured from small air bubbles trapped in ice on Greenland and Antarctica.

Air bubbles trapped within ice provides clues to the atmospheric composition at the time of “deposition” and can be analyzed for paleo-oxygen levels. The study finds that over the past 800,000 years the amount of oxygen found in the atmosphere has decreased by 0.7% and continues to decline.

Fortunately, the 0.7% decline is not something that will or has caused significant problems for life on Earth. An equivalent decrease in oxygen content would accompany a change in elevation from sea level to 100 meters above sea level.

Why Are Oxygen Levels Declining?

As with most things on Earth, oxygen levels are controlled by complex global systems that tend to regulate and dampen large swings from the mean. This presents a difficult task to pinpoint why exactly oxygen levels have been declining for almost a million years. However, scientists have several hypotheses to explain the steady and persistent decline.

But what caused the increase in global erosion rates? The key is believed to lie in the rapid glacial to interglacial periods that dominate the past several million years. As seen in the figure below, the Earth has witnessed dramatic fluctuations in global temperature the past million years. Growth and retreat of continental ice sheets associated with glacial cycles is an incredibly efficient and large-scale mechanism to erode mountains. Note the red dots to the far right of the figure representing projected temperatures in 2050 and 2100, their historical significance, and unprecedented pace of increase.

Global average temperature estimates for the last 540 million years. Note the time scale changes along the x-axis (Credit:

An alternative hypothesis is tied to the global on-average cooling seen for the past 56 million years since the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). This prolonged cooling period has cooled the global oceans, allowing them to hold more dissolved oxygen through increased solubility. Similar to how a Coke goes flat quicker when warmed up compared to kept in the fridge, liquids can hold more dissolved gas when cooler. This may have led to progressively more oxygen dissolved into the Earth’s oceans and be responsible for the gradual decline in atmospheric concentrations.

As you can imagine, these two hypotheses would not operate in a vacuum and are interconnected to many other global systems from biodiversity to volcanic activity. Thus the incredibly difficult task of piecing together Earth’s history and the processes that control it.

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