Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mississippi Floods to Raise 'The Dead Zone' in the Gulf - 20th June 2011

A record-setting dead zone is predicted to occur in the Gulf of Mexico and expected to kill bottom-dwelling fish and other marine life over a significant portion of the seafloor this summer following the rise in nutrient runoff from the Mississippi floods, according to marine scientists supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

This year’s forecast estimates that the size of the low-oxygen or hypoxic region in the Gulf will reach up to 9,421 square miles, the size of New Jersey and Delaware combined. City-sized portions of this region could see oxygen levels in the water column dropping to zero.

“While there is some uncertainty regarding the size, position and timing of this year’s hypoxic zone in the Gulf, the forecast models are in overall agreement that hypoxia will be larger than we have typically seen in recent years,” said Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, in a statement.

Oceanographers from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Louisiana State University, and the University of Michigan use nutrient inputs compiled from the U.S. Geological Survey’s extensive stream gauge network along the Mississippi River to forecast the marine biogeochemical reaction to the uploads of nitrogen and phosphorus into the Gulf of Mexico. In May 2011, the Mississippi watershed’s nitrogen transport into the Gulf was 35 percent higher than the average for that month over the last 32 years. Read More