Above Average Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Forecast by NOAA Scientists


File image of Gulf areas affected by hypoxia, NOAA

No, it has nothing directly to do with the BP oil spill, but it won't help things... Scientists supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have just announced that the northern Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone--that's the Gulf Dead Zone to you and me, where there's so little oxygen that it doesn't really support life--is likely to be of above average size this summer, though it won't set a new record (phew).Scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Louisiana State University, and the University of Michigan predict that the Gulf Dead Zone is likely to measure between 6,500 and 7,800 square miles this summer--or about the size of New Jersey. For the past five years the average has been roughly 6,000 sq. miles, with the record area of 8,484 sq. miles set back in 2002. The standing goal is to reduce the area to 1,900 sq. miles.

Professor R. Eugene Turner of LSU commented on the possible contribution of the BP oil spill to the dead zone: "The oil spill could enhance the size of the hypoxic zone through the microbial breakdown of oil, which consumes oxygen, but the oil could also limit the growth of the hypoxia-fueling algae."

In case you don't know, the primary cause of the Gulf Dead Zone is the amount of nutrient runoff coming down the Mississippi River from farms upstream. This causes large growths of algae, which sink, and decompose, in the process consuming all the oxygen in the water.

Hundreds of Dead Zones Exist & Are Expanding
Across the globe ocean dead zones are increasing, with over 400 now recognized to exist. This is only expected to increase as the world's oceans warm due to climate change.

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More on Ocean Dead Zones:
Ocean 'Dead Zones' Increasing: 400 Oxygen-Deprived Areas Now Exist
Crop Biodiversity A Cure For Ocean Dead Zones?
Tropical Dead Zones Set to Expand by 50 Percent Under Climate Change

Tags: Agriculture | Fertilizer | Gulf Oil Spill | Oceans | Oil Spill

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