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Forget about the Grauniad article as they don't know what they're talking about, and read the submission.

The submission is about extending the outer limit of the continental shelf, by redefining it [as DoDo points out, by finding some sediments from old avalanches]. "It extends from the southern limit of the Partial Submission of Ireland to a point on the Spanish 200M continental shelf limit". If you look at the first chart in the submission, the continental shelf (orange, white in "my" map) is already entirely contained within the 200M limit of France and Ireland. The new "Continental Shelf Outer Limit" includes something called the "Union Basin".

The second chart in the submission shows some shallow and thin tendrils of sediments extending from the shelf into the abyssal plain, which are then used to define a new limit to the continental shelf using "Hedberg's formula" of 60 nm (nautical miles, not nanometres) from "the foot of the continental slope" which they define by using a "1% sediment thickness" they determine using seismic data.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 6th, 2006 at 08:12:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I first had to read the submission myself before I understood what you meant. I was rapidly losing the overview in this wrangling of definitions.

But you've nailed it:

  • The definition of the continental shelf is based on the 200M extent from the coast and captures practically all of the geological continental shelf and the abyssal plains within the Bay of Biscay.

  • The land grab move bases itself on applying yet an other definition for the continental shelf (the geological one) and trying to tag sediment slumps and slope deltas as part of the continental slope, thereby adding 60 new nm to the territory, mostly ocean abyssal plain.

This is a joke. It's flimsy beyond belief, actually.

But they do want hydrocarbons. This is mostly about the potential of clathrates, a little about mining the ocean floor, and practically zilch about oil and gas reservoirs.

by Nomad on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 10:55:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The way I read it, they were applying pre-existing formulas based on new research, NOT inventing new definitions.

The only really noteworthy thing in this news for me is that four countries managed to hand in a joint request, rather than battling it out over who gets what part of this legalese-shelf.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 01:39:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...I never argue that re-inventing definitions was their tool. I was having difficulties with which definition meant what.

Yet their argument that within their legal definitions the areas highlighted by their research belongs to the shelf is laughable in itself. The fact that it was a multi-country effort may add weight to the impact factor, but it does nothing to the reasoning underneath as I understand it right now.

by Nomad on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 02:29:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
their argument that within their legal definitions the areas highlighted by their research belongs to the shelf is laughable in itself.

Why? If a pre-existing internationally agreed (rather than "their") legal definition of shelf was used, then it is not laughable by default.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 02:33:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...their argument isn't within the definition of shelf, but to apply the decisive marker to an area where it is highly doubtable it is applicable. Sediment extensions situated onto the abyssal plain do not constitute a continental slope. The pfd claims they do.

I read on a USGS website that coastal nations can decide their territorial claims of their continental shelf outside the 200 nautical miles based on 1) bathymtery and 2) geology, activating the Gardiner formula in the latter case. Nations can not extent their territory 60 nm beyond the continental slope (Hedberg formula). The range of the continental slope is then based on 1) the depth of the water column and 2) the amount of the sediment present on the floor.

The pdf stacks all of it on the Gardiner formula serving as the black-and-white line whether there's enough sediment present to make it part of the continental slope. If there's more than 1 percent sediment, it must be continental slope, so it belongs under definition so much and so forth (and hence it belongs to us). While wondering if that's a smart definition, applying it in this setting is bizarre. The points they use (FOS 1, 4 and 5, figure 2 in the pdf) are anomalies on the abyssal plain, either remnants of the original shelf during continental breakup or possibly alluvial fan deposits, I can't tell from one pretty picture. They are even disconnected from the slope. Since there's no single word on bathymetry in the submission, I suspect there's no legal ground for that  (which is logical because they work on, I repeat, on the abyssal plain).

Let me therefore say it again: this is a joke. They're applying this Gardiner formula on areas that do not form in any way, in any part the continental slope. In that sense, they do rewrite definitions and remake reality.

If that makes them to the letter of their pretty agreements right, so what. I don't go there, that's not where I'm trained in. But if these guys have to muscle it out with a geologist, they get laughed out of court.

by Nomad on Wed Jun 7th, 2006 at 08:24:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But if these guys have to muscle it out with a geologist, they get laughed out of court.

I'm beginning to lose all respect for the Hesperides oceanographic boat. I suppose the State is no different than Big Pharma, Big Oil or Big Tobacco when it comes to forcing the scientists they sponsor to fix the facts around the policy.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 8th, 2006 at 05:11:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is missing from my rather snippy post of yesterday night is that I think that some of the nations have a legitimate claim to at least part of the proposed area, under the sets of formulas and agreements outlined above. But as it is, it looks like a brazen attempt to suck dry the definition of any moisture.
by Nomad on Thu Jun 8th, 2006 at 04:15:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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