Sunday, June 6, 2010
In case the Gulf Leak Cannot be Plugged...
I introduced this thusly on Facebook:
[Me] wonders how quickly a causeway could be built from the tip of Florida to Cuba, and another from Cuba to the Eastern Mexican peninsula at Cancun, in order to close off the Gulf of Mexico, if need be. Also wondering about the environmental impact of doing that, versus not doing it.
Friend: It would have to be one hell of a causeway as parts of those routes are very deep. Then, we could extract the oil caught there, process it, and open it back up?
Me: My reason for bringing it up is to protect the rest of the world's oceans, and limiting the damage from that area. If it were to continue gushing for several years or heaven forbid the leak grows in size, there's the potential that the oceans could die [and us all with them].
Me: Here's a view of what I was thinking (map (c) 2010 by Google Maps: TerraMetrics, Google, INEGI, and LeadDog Consulting).
I guess that's kind of suggesting an oceanic amputation of sorts. I'm morbidly fascinated by the logistics of the endeavor and I wonder at the idea of what this would do to weather patterns, habitats, and oceanic currents. The reason for building the causeway(s) would be trying to make the best of a potentially globally-catastrophic situation.
It would require an astonishing amount of Earth to do it. Assuming a height-width ratio of at only 1-2, of a trapezoidal prism-type shape where the top is steadily 100 meters wide, and the depth varies from about 20 meters at the coasts to 1850 meters at the deepest parts of the Florida Strait and the Yucatan Channel. Also assuming that the causeways would total about 430km (270 miles), doing a little math gives a rough estimate of the rock mass required would be to take a simple triangular prism 1850m deep, 430,000m long and 3700m wide at the base.
1.85km^2 x 430km => 1472 cubic kilometers of rock.
To put that number in perspective, that much would be the equivalent of digging out a section of Earth about the size of a major metropolis (including its suburbs) to a depth of a kilometer deep. But that estimate is a little in the high side, because we used a simple triangular prism instead of trying to work out the volume of a trapezoidal prism with varying depth, plus it's all an estimate, since I can't seem to find the proper bathymetric mapping online (Would it be too difficult to have oceanic topography freely accessible to anyone with an internet connection?). I studied math at University, but I forgot how to do double-integrals sometime around the time I received my diploma. Also, I estimated on the high side, because I doubt that the causeway could be built so steep and have integrity, so likely a causeway would need to have a lower rise/run ratio.
I realize digging up that much earth and rock would have a tremendous impact on the sources, the rock-mining sites, so we'd need to be really careful where we dig from. My guess for the Florida Strait is there's some land in Cuba, and some of the southernmost Appalachians. Though nobody really wants to hear the news that you need to tear down their mountain and toss it bit by bit into the ocean. We could get some of the finer Earth and sand from Florida to fill in between the boulders.
It would require new thinking and new scales of labor--I envision an army of solar-powered Earth-moving robots, specialized into miners and movers. The former dig it up, and the latter haul it like lorry trucks--in fact, you could haul them in electric trucks with human drivers as well. (Hooray for creating jobs!) Alternately, there could be underwater solar-powered Earth-moving robots that could mine and scour up some of the Earth below the waters of the Gulf, most notably the continental shelf just north of Cancun.
This page shows how amazingly complicated all this is because the entire Mississippi River basin flows into the gulf, yet the gulf is not large enough to dissipate off that much water into the air, so it would want to flow out from the causeway, which would essentially work like a dam unless we can find a way to use up most of the freshwater that flows through the Mississippi....
So obviously before we go into a plan like this, we need to get an honest assessment of the possible environmental impacts from the gulf leak. And the environmental impact of a big drastic change like this, plus the impact of actually implementing it. In addition, perhaps there are ways to do this other than a causeway. Perhaps the Dutch could come in and help build some serious dams.
agape to all,