Science

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

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

Both Scheurer and Rabalais, however, say it's too early to say that the gulf's dead zone is already being made worse by climate change.

Researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) forecast that the hypoxic zone or "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico this summer will be approximately 7,829 square miles, roughly the size of MA.

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

Nitrogen and phosphorous from the Mississippi River watershed fertilizes the Gulf's surface waters to create large amounts of algal biomass, according to experts.

Last month, NOAA acknowledged that discharge in the MS and Atchafalaya Rivers was about 67% above the long-length of time moderate.

Don Scavia, professor emeritus at the School for Environment and Sustainability. It occurs in the Gulf of Mexico every year, and is primarily caused by excess nutrient pollution from human activities, such as urbanization and agriculture, occurring throughout the Mississippi River watershed.

The nutrients feed algae, which die and then decompose on the sea floor, using up oxygen from the bottom up in an area along the coasts of Louisiana and Texas. A dead zone occurs when there is not enough oxygen to support marine life. These nitrate loads were about 18 percent above the long-term average, and phosphorus loads were about 49 percent above the long-term average. Official numbers on the size of the dead zone will be measured later in the summer. NOAA will help launch a monitoring survey in August to confirm the size and see if it matches the forecast.

The unusually high discharge of the Mississippi River in May determines the size of this area, which will likely be the second largest since systematic measurements began in 1985, according to data from the Louisiana State University.

"These numbers are far above the five-year average of about 6,000 square miles", the Washington Post reported. 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 oxygen-starved hypoxic zone, commonly called a dead zone and shown in red, forms each summer in the Gulf of Mexico.

Fish and shrimp and other "swimming" organisms can leave the area in search of a better habitat, but clams, oysters and slow-moving crustaceans (including crabs) aren't so lucky.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 31 states and two Canadian provinces drain into the Mississippi River, totaling 41 percent of the contiguous United States and 15 percent of North America.

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

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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