Saturday, July 31, 2010

Learning words

Learning new words is fun. The new word I learned this morning is
"produced water." The NY Times explains: "Thousands of tons of
produced water -- drilling byproduct that includes oil, grease and
heavy metals -- are dumped into the gulf every year. The discharges
are legal and regulated by the Environmental Protection Protection
Agency." I may need to look up the word "regulated," but never mind.
Another term I learned today is "dead water." And "hypoxic zone." The
Times explains: "The nitrogen discharged into the Mississippi — 1.5
million tons of it yearly, from fertilizer, as well as urban runoff
and sewage plants -- creates a feeding frenzy among the phytoplankton
when it enters the gulf. When the phytoplankton decompose, oxygen in
the water is reduced so significantly that little life can exist. That
man-made area of dead water, called a hypoxic zone, is second in size
only to a similar zone in the Baltic Sea."

Actually, I've had to look up lots of words in the dictionary while
reading about the Gulf oil spill. For many words, my desk dictionary
hasn't been much help: junk shot, top hat, riser insertion tube, shear
ram, deadman switch, acoustic trigger, Loop Current, weathering
(apparently the process that changes the oil into tar balls). And then
there are half-forgotten words I've been reminded of: berm,
dispersant, oil plume (I used to think that plumes were clouds of
smoke or vapor, not clouds of oil in a large body of water), and to
spud (to start drilling an oil well).

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