The following web page, created by Group 29 - The Coulomb Club, contains a news item that really drew our attention. This is our Chemistry 210 Semester Project for WS99, developed under the supervision of Prof. Rainer Glaser. The members of the Coulomb club are Brian Hinken, James Baker, Sharon Teoh and Thomas Roehan Mathews.

Glaser's "Chemistry is in the News"
To Accompany Wade Organic Chemistry 4/e.
Chapter 4. The Study of Chemical Reactions.

For each of the following questions, please refer to the following article:

By N.N., Environment News Network, December 16, 1998.

Editorial Comments

Over the past two decades carbon dioxide , the main greenhouse gas, has made many headlines and become the topic of many debates. Most of these events have concerned themselves with the enormous quantity of carbon dioxide which is being produced by ways of fossil fuel consumption, as well as various other human induced actions. Though many efforts, such as the  Kyoto Protocol, have tried to create measures that hope to decrease the production of carbon dioxide, little has been accomplished so far.

With so much concern over man-made carbon dioxide, the greenhouse effect and global warming, many have overlooked the fact that carbon dioxide is produced in large quantities during naturally occurring processes.  From the simple act of exhaling, to the turbulent forces deep within the earth, carbon dioxide is continuously produced in nature.  In many cases, these natural events have had a more profound impact on the ecosystem, as well as the economy, by directly affecting the adjacent surrounding areas. For instance, twelve years ago Lake Nyos, in Cameroon, suddenly released an enormous mass of carbon dioxide that resulted in more than 1500 deaths blamed on carbon dioxide poisoning.

In more recent years, Mammoth Mountain, a popular ski resort and recreation area in California, has seen a large scale increase in the soil carbon dioxide concentrations.  In order to monitor events such as this, scientists have constructed instruments designed to record data that will hopefully provide vital information about the cause of such phenomenon's. Instruments such as a continuous fluxmeter, manufactured by  WEST Systems, are currently being used to monitor daily CO2 flux, soil moisture, and barometric pressure, in order to determine how these events can affect the degassing rate, an important aspect of concern for those residents of the area.

Pertinent Text References
Chapter 4. The Study of Chemical Reactions.


Question 1: The invisible gas CO2 is killing trees at Mammoth Mountain. Using the link. determine where this large source of CO2 came from?

A. The source of CO2 is coming from the degassing of introduced magma and gas released from limestone rich metasedimentary rocks heated by magmatic intrusions.

Question 2: It was discovered that large volumes of carbon dioxide are seeping from magma beneath the volcano, how is this gas dangerous to trees?

A. Although plants produce oxygen from CO2 during photosynthesis, their roots need to absorb O2 directly. The high concentration of CO2 in the soil is killing trees by denying their roots O2.

Question 3: The release of carbon dioxide from Mammoth Mountain is deadly for life in the area, this might cause some people to fear carbon dioxide. Should these people be concerned with human breathing as a source of CO2?

A. No they should not, even though people do exhale carbon dioxide at a rate of about 1 kg per day, this carbon dioxide includes carbon that was originally taken out of the carbon dioxide in the air by plants through photosynthesis, so whether you eat plants, or animals that eat plants, it does not matter their is a closed loop with no net addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Question 4: What levels of carbon dioxide can humans endure and what levels of carbon dioxide become fatal to humans?

A. The maximum concentration recommended by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for an 8 hour occupation is 5000 parts per million (ppm). There have been cases where CO2 levels between 3000 ppm and 5000 ppm have caused discomfort and headache.  It has been documented that 30 minutes of exposure at 50,000 ppm produced signs of intoxication, and a few minutes at 70,000-100,000 ppm can cause loss of consciousness. The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) reported that 100,000 ppm is the atmospheric concentration immediately dangerous to life.

Question 5: Why would Mammoth Mountain not be the best place to go back packing, and what physical property makes carbon dioxide dangerous in this area?

A. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and because of this it can collect in snow banks, depressions in the ground, and poorly ventilated enclosures such as tents, and this could pose a potential danger to campers in the area.

Question 6: Mammoth Mountain is not just a tree killing Mountain in Long Valley Caldera, California, it is also a tourist destination.  This means that there is also real estate to be sold.  Using this link Mammoth Lakes Visitor Guide, you can find some real estate for sale. My question then is do you think it is ethical to sell land that has this kind of fatal potential for people?  Explain why you feel this way?