US Scientists Predict Near-Record-Level 'Dead Zone' in Gulf of Mexico

Pablo Tucker
June 12, 2019

Scientists are predicting a advance-file Gulf of Mexico "ineffective zone" where the water holds too limited oxygen to preserve marine existence.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Hypoxia Task Force set a target goal of reducing the five-year average size of the dead zone down to 1,900 square miles, but that figure is far from today's reality. The record is 8,776 square miles. US federal and state officials have previously pledged to reduce its size to less than 5,000 square kilometers.

The fertilizers feed algae, which then die on the sea floor and use up oxygen as they decompose.

One major factor, according to UM, is the abnormally high spring rainfall in parts of the Mississippi River watershed, which led to record-high river flows and large nutrient loading into the Gulf. When those nutrients reach the mouth of the river and flow into the warm waters of the Gulf, they prompt an overgrowth of algae.

An NOAA-supported monitoring survey will confirm the size of the 2019 Gulf dead zone in early August, a key test of the accuracy of the models.

"Whereas this one year's zone shall be bigger than approved thanks to the flooding, the long-length of time pattern is unruffled now no longer changing", acknowledged University of MI aquatic ecologist Don Scavia in a assertion.

A hypoxic zone is an area where oxygen concentration is so low it chokes out marine life.

It will be measured during an annual July cruise by Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, who has been measuring the zone since 1985. There'll nearly certainly be an annual slow zone in the Chesapeake Bay.

A visualization of the "dead zone" in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

This nutrient pollution, mainly from agriculture and developed land runoff in the Mississippi River watershed, is affecting coastal resources and habitats in the Gulf by stimulating algal growth.

While nutrient inputs to the Gulf of Mexico vary from year to year because of natural swings in precipitation and discharge, USGS also tracks longer-term gradual changes in nitrate and phosphorus loading into the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River.

This one year's zone must be about 8,717 square miles, an home roughly the scale of Current Hampshire, in line with researchers at Louisiana Teach University.

The NOAA forecast integrates the results of these multiple independent models into a separate average forecast and is released in coordination with these external groups, some of which are also developing independent forecasts.

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