Very large "dead zone" forecast for Gulf of Mexico

An oxygen-starved hypoxic zone commonly called a dead zone and shown in red forms each summer in the Gulf of Mexico. Fish and shellfish either leave the oxygen-depleted waters or die resulting in losses to commercial and sports fisheries. Image credit

Scientists predict 'very large dead zone' in Gulf of Mexico

Scientists are predicting a advance-file Gulf of Mexico "ineffective zone" where the water holds too limited oxygen to preserve marine existence. A dead zone occurs when there is not enough oxygen to support marine life.

The record, set in 2017, is 22 700 sq km (slightly less than Turkey).

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its forecast for the year's hypoxic zone on Monday.

The body of water, with oxygen concentrations below 2 parts per million, is formed in the bottom waters each year, mainly as a result of the nitrogen and phosphorus load of the Mississippi River basin, which fertilizes the surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico to create excessive amounts of algae biomass.

"While this year's zone will be better than long-established on yarn of of the flooding, the long-time duration pattern is mild no longer changing", University of MI aquatic ecologist Don Scavia, professor emeritus at the College for Ambiance and Sustainability, stated in a news birth. "The bottom line is that we will never reach the dead zone reduction target of 1,900 square miles until more serious actions are taken to reduce the loss of Midwest fertilizers into the Mississippi River system", said U-M aquatic ecologist Don Scavia, professor emeritus at the School for Environment and Sustainability.

Rabalais says the dead zone will likely be even bigger if the the Army Corps of Engineers opens the Morganza Flood Control Structure, commonly called the Morganza Spillway, to relieve the flooding Mississippi River.

According to the NOAA, a dead zone the size of New Jersey has been identified in the Gulf of Mexico.

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The size of the average Gulf dead zone is about 15,000 square kilometers. That would likely cause the dead zone to expand farther west.

The nutrients feed an explosion of algae, which then die, sink and decompose. Heavy rains fueled end to-chronicle flooding along the Mississippi River for the length of the spring.

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.

NOAA said its forecast assumes typical coastal weather conditions, but said the actual size of the dead zone could be affected by major wind events, including hurricanes and tropical storms, which bring more ocean waters into the Gulf.

This map shows how pollution from cities and farms flows down into the Gulf of Mexico.

Researchers at Louisiana State University also issued a dead-zone forecast today, with a higher estimate of 8,717 square miles by late July.

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