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What's to become of the Sea of Azov?

MOSCOW. (Tatyana Sinitsyna, RIA Novosti commentator) - The Kerch Strait tragedy came as another warning from Nature-it does not forgive reckless human interference.

Professor Oleg Sorokhtin of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Oceanology Institute explains why a horrible storm broke out in a usually calm part of the sea:

"Increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the air does not affect global temperatures as much as synoptic processes which whip up storms. The drama in the Black and Azov Seas was akin to the tragic 2005 tornado in New Orleans, when the local record speed of synoptic energy release was gauged. I think these were two links in one chain."

Professor Sorokhtin says maximum synoptic activity concentrates between 30 and 40 degrees northern latitude to breed storms. Kerch is at 45 degrees and New Orleans at 30.

The storm caused an industrial disaster at sea. The "Volgoneft-139" oil tanker, its first victim, split in two at daybreak on November 11 and spilled 4,000 metric tons of fuel oil it was carrying to Ukraine. It was an apocalyptic sight, the bow still anchored while the stern drifted off carrying away the crew. The men survived by miracle. Another tanker, the "Volgoneft-123", had a narrow escape with a fractured hull.

As a landlocked sea, the Azov is an extremely vulnerable ecosystem. A kilogram of oil kills every living thing within several dozen cubic meters of water. Still, fuel oil is the least evil in a man-made disaster. "It is heavy and so goes down fairly quickly. Float fractions, such as gasoline, kerosene or diesel fuel, are much worse. They cover the sea in a micron-thick film blocking carbon dioxide and other circulation in the water-air environmental chain," says Alexander Koldobsky, Physical Engineering Institute expert on environmental aspects of industrial accidents.

The worst consequences are expected from the "Volnogorsk", one of the wrecked ships, which went down with 2,600 metric tons of sulfur on board. Koldobsky is much more apprehensive, however, about its diesel fuel. The sulfurt is packed in watertight containers, and even if some of them break open, sulfur is not so easy to dissolve in saline water. Besides, the amount is not so great to pollute a vast area, the expert reassures.

It is hard to predict the consequences now that the amount of spilled fuel and other harmful substances is not yet clear. Poisonous film forms in the stormy sea on an extremely complex pattern-no less sophisticated than the sea-air interchange.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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