Large Dead Zone Found in Gulf of Mexico

By Michelle Howard
Monday, August 04, 2014

Mapped size confirms NOAA forecast for an average-sized hypoxia zone this year.

NOAA- and EPA-supported scientists have mapped the Gulf of Mexico dead zone, an area with low oxygen water, measuring 5,052 square miles this summer--approximately the size of the state of Connecticut. The measurements were taken during the 30th annual hypoxia survey cruise from July 27 to August 2.

This area falls within the predicted range of 4,633 to 5,708 square miles forecast by a suite of NOAA-sponsored models, and confirms the accuracy of the models and their utility for guiding management of nutrients in the Mississippi River watershed.
 

The size is smaller than the 5,840 square miles recorded last year, but still greater than the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient (Hypoxia) Task Force target of less than 1,900 square miles--meaning nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed are continuing to affect the nation's coastal resources and habitats in the Gulf. The task force consists of five federal agencies, 12 states and the tribes within the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin, and was established in 1997 to reduce and control hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

The largest Gulf dead zone ever recorded occurred in 2002, encompassing 8,481 square miles. The smallest recorded dead zone measured 15 square miles in 1988. The average size of the dead zone over the past five years has been about 5,500 square miles.
 

"Dead zones," also called hypoxia areas, are caused by nutrient runoff from agricultural and other human activities in the watershed and are highly affected by river discharge. These nutrients stimulate an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes, and consumes the oxygen needed to support life in the Gulf.

"The Mississippi River discharge levels and associated nutrient data, supplied in May by the USGS, pointed to an average size hypoxia area based on the inputs which fuel mid-summer's dead zone algal growth," said Nancy Rabalais, Ph.D., executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), who led the survey cruise. "If the heavy rains in the upper Midwest in June and the record high nitrate concentration in the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge on July 18 had coincided with a later survey, chances are that the area would have been larger. The high phytoplankton biomass and large area of fresher water would have eventually led to more bottom-water hypoxia."

The annual measurement mapping of the dead zone provides a critical scientific record of the trend of hypoxia in the Gulf, as well as the primary measure of progress used by the Hypoxia Task Force to determine whether efforts to reduce nutrient loading upstream in the Mississippi River Basin are yielding results.

"The number of Dead Zones throughout the world has been increasing in the last several decades and currently totals over 550," wrote Rabalais in her detailed analysis of the 2014 Gulf hypoxic area. "The Dead Zone off the Louisiana coast is the second largest human-caused coastal hypoxic area in the global ocean and stretches from the mouth of the Mississippi River into Texas waters and less often, but increasingly more frequent, east of the Mississippi River."

"This longstanding annual mapping cruise has been a backbone of efforts to understand the causes, formulate solutions and track progress related to North America's largest hypoxic zone," said Ben Scaggs, director of the EPA Gulf of Mexico Program. "Our office is pleased to partner with NOAA on funding of the mapping cruise this year, helping to ensure the continuity of this important information that provides a foundation for regional interagency restoration efforts."

"NOAA provides the environmental intelligence, including forecasts, modeling and observations, about hypoxic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico to the interagency Hypoxia Task Force that in turn informs science-based management in a proactive manner to protect both resources and economies that are threatened by this problem," said Holly Bamford, Ph.D., assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service.

The hypoxic zone off the coast of Louisiana and Texas forms each summer threatening the ecosystem that supports valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries. NOAA-funded research in the past decade shows hypoxia results in habit loss, displacement of fish (including shrimp and croaker) from their preferred areas, and a decline in reproductive ability in some species.

Visit the Gulf Hypoxia web site for additional graphics and information concerning this summer's LUMCON research cruise, and previous cruises.

NOAA's National Ocean Service has been funding monitoring and research for the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico since 1985 and currently oversees the NGOMEX program, the hypoxia research effort for the northern Gulf which is authorized by the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act.

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science is the coastal ecosystem science office for NOAA's National Ocean Service.

 

Maritime Reporter February 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Offshore

Maersk Oil Hires Ampelmann Gangway System

After having performed a walk to work (W2W) campaign in the summer of 2014, Motion Compensation Gangways (MCG) developer Ampelmann has again been awarded a contract

Lamprell Delivers Jackup Rig to Greatship

Lamprell announced it has completed construction on jackup drilling rig Greatdrill Chaaru, delivering the rig to Greatship Global Energy Services Pte. Ltd.    Greatdrill

Ensco Announces Cash Tender Offer

Ensco plc announced today that it has commenced a cash tender offer to purchase any and all of its outstanding 3.25% Senior Notes due 2016 (CUSIP No. 29358QAB5).

Environmental

Martian Ocean Held More Water than the Arctic

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration say there was once more water on the planet Mars than in the Arctic Ocean on Earth.   In a new study in the journal Science,

Senate Committee Approves Vessel Discharge Reform Legislation

The effort to establish a uniform national framework for the regulation of vessel discharges took another step forward as the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved S.

New Tool for Recovering Oil from Sunken Wrecks

A tool for removing oil trapped in submerged vessels has been developed in Norway by design specialists Miko Marine.   The launch of the Moskito aims to address

Marine Science

EC Okays Maritime Fisheries fund

European Commission has approved Malta’s Operational Program European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the 2014-2020 financial periods, announced Parliamentary

GOST to Unveil New Products at MSE Conference

GOST (Global Ocean Security Technologies),announced today that it will highlight its newest commercial maritime products at the 2015 Maritime Security East conference in Jacksonville,

BIMCO Environmental Performance Guide

BIMCO today launched a new, multi-part guidance resource to support ship owners and operators in improving their environmental performance and the efficiency of their ships.

Ocean Observation

EC Okays Maritime Fisheries fund

European Commission has approved Malta’s Operational Program European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the 2014-2020 financial periods, announced Parliamentary

Martian Ocean Held More Water than the Arctic

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration say there was once more water on the planet Mars than in the Arctic Ocean on Earth.   In a new study in the journal Science,

Ships Can’t Cope with Flow of Immigrants in Mediterranean

Merchant ship owners can’t cope with increasing flows of refugees trying to cross from Africa and the Middle East to countries like Greece and Italy, says a report

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Naval Architecture Pod Propulsion Salvage Ship Electronics Ship Simulators Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1728 sec (6 req/sec)