Scientists are predicting the area could measure between 6,500 and 7,800 square miles, or an area roughly the size of the state of New Jersey. The average of the past five years is approximately 6,000 square miles. It is the goal of a federal state task force to reduce it to 1,900 square miles. The largest dead zone on record, 8,484 square miles, occurred in 2002.
This forecast is based on Mississippi River nutrient flows compiled annually by the U.S. Geological Survey. Dead zones off the coast of Louisiana and Texas are caused by nutrient runoff, principally from agricultural activity, which stimulates an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes, and consumes most of the life-giving oxygen supply in the water. It is unclear what impact, if any, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill will have on the size of 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,” said R. Eugene Turner, Ph.D., professor of oceanography at Louisiana State University. “It is clear, however, that the combination of the hypoxic zone and the oil spill is not good for local fisheries.”
Hypoxia is of particular concern because it threatens valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries. In 2008, the dockside value of commercial fisheries was $659 million. The 24 million fishing trips taken in 2008 by more than three million recreational fishers further contributed well over a billion dollars to the Gulf economy.
“As with weather forecasts, this prediction uses multiple models to predict the range of the expected size of the dead zone,” said Robert Magnien, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research. “The strong track record of these models reinforces our confidence in the link between excess nutrients from the Mississippi River and the dead zone.”
“The 2010 spring nutrient load transported to the northern Gulf of Mexico is about 11 percent less than the average over the last 30 years,” said Matthew Larsen, Ph.D., USGS associate director for water. “An estimated 118,000 metric tons of nitrogen in the form of nitrate were transported in May 2010 to the northern Gulf.”
The collaboration among NOAA, USGS, and University scientists facilitates understanding of the linkages between activities in the Mississippi River watershed and the downstream effects on the northern Gulf of Mexico. Long-term data sets on nutrient loads and the extent of the hypoxic zone have improved forecast models used by management agencies to understand the nutrient reductions required to reduce the size of the hypoxic zone to the established goal. This year’s forecast is an example of NOAA’s growing ecological forecasting capabilities that allow for the protection of valuable resources using scientific, ecosystem-based approaches.
An announcement of the size of the 2010 hypoxic zone, which is an annual requirement of the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force Action Plan, will follow a NOAA-supported monitoring survey led by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium between July 24 and August 2. Information on the extent of hypoxia will also be available on the NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Watch Web page, which displays near real-time results of the NOAA Fisheries Service summer fish survey in the northern Gulf of Mexico currently underway and scheduled to be completed by July 18.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us on Facebook.
Ben Sherman | EurekAlert!
Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.
New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
22.06.2017 | Life Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences