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!
A promising target in the quest for a 1-million-year-old Antarctic ice core
24.05.2018 | University of Washington
Tropical Peat Swamps: Restoration of Endangered Carbon Reservoirs
24.05.2018 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences