Texas A&M: Large dead zone forming in the Gulf

decrease font size  Resize text   increase font size       Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

Ocean experts had predicted a large "dead zone" area in the Gulf of Mexico this year, and according to the results from a Texas A&M University researcher just back from studying the region, those predictions appear to be right on target. 

Steve DiMarco, professor of oceanography and one of the world's leading experts on the dead zone, says he and a Texas A&M team surveyed areas off the Texas-Louisiana coast last week and found large areas of oxygen-depleted water - an area covering roughly 3,100 square miles, or about the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

"We found hypoxia (oxygen-depleted water) just about everywhere we looked," DiMarco reports.

"The most intense area is where you would expect it - off the Louisiana coast south of Atchafalaya Bay and Grande Isle, La. But we also found significant amounts off High Island and near Galveston. The farther south we went, the less we found hypoxia in the water column, but we still found plenty of depleted oxygen waters up to just west of Freeport.

"There is no doubt there is a lot of hypoxia in the Gulf this year."

Hypoxia occurs when oxygen levels in seawater drop to dangerously low levels, and persistent hypoxia can potentially result in fish kills and harm marine life, thereby creating a "dead zone" in that particular area.

Such low levels of oxygen are believed to be caused by nutrient pollution from farm fertilizers as they empty into rivers such as the Mississippi and eventually into the Gulf, or by soil erosion or discharge from sewage treatment plants. The size of the zone has been shown to be influenced by the nutrient runoff, volume of freshwater discharged, and prevailing winds, which controls the freshwater river plume's movement.

The Mississippi is the largest river in the United States, draining 40 percent of the land area of the country. It also accounts for almost 90 percent of the freshwater runoff into the Gulf of Mexico.

Last year, with much of the Midwest suffering through its worst drought in 100 years, the dead zone measured only 1,580 square miles.

DiMarco's research on the dead zone is supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), as part of its long-term commitment to advancing the science to inform management practices aimed at mitigating the hypoxic zone.

"While we await additional data from the entire summer, these early findings start to validate our prediction that we could see one of the largest dead zones ever in the Gulf of Mexico this July," said Robert Magnien, Ph.D., center director at NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

"This is further confirmation of the link between upstream nutrient management decisions and the critical habitats and living resources in the Gulf."

DiMarco has made 28 research trips to investigate the dead zone since 2003. His cruise this year carried 10 investigators from Texas A&M and Texas A&M at Galveston and included two research scientists, Matthew Howard and Ruth Perry, five graduate students, Laura Harred, Jordan Young, Yan Zhao, Heather Zimmerle, and Nicole Zuck, and two marine technicians, Eddie Webb and Andrew Dancer (Geochemical and Environmental Research Group). On shore investigators include Lisa Campbell, Wilford Gardner, Shari Yvon-Lewis, and Ethan Grossman, all from Texas A&M, and Antonietta Quigg from Texas A&M-Galveston.

DiMarco says the size of the dead zone off coastal Louisiana has been routinely monitored since 1985. Previous research has also shown that nitrogen levels in the Gulf related to human activities have tripled over the past 50 years.

For more about hypoxia click here.


Buyers Guide

Doyle Equipment Manufacturing Co.
Doyle Equipment Manufacturing prides themselves as being “The King of the Rotary’s” with their Direct Drive Rotary Blend Systems. With numerous setup possibilities and sizes, ranging from a  more...
A.J. Sackett Sons & Company
Sackett Blend Towers feature the H.I.M, High Intensity Mixer, the next generation of blending and coating technology which supports Precision Fertilizer Blending®. Its unique design allows  more...
R&R Manufacturing Inc.
The R&R Minuteman Blend System is the original proven performer. Fast, precise blending with a compact foot print. Significantly lower horsepower requirement. Low inload height with large  more...
Junge Control Inc.
Junge Control Inc. creates state-of-the-art product blending and measuring solutions that allow you to totally maximize operating efficiency with amazing accuracy and repeatability, superior  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The flagship blending system for the Layco product line is the fully automated Layco DW System™. The advanced technology of the Layco DW (Declining Weight) system results in a blending  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The LAYCOTE™ Automated Coating System provides a new level of coating accuracy for a stand-alone coating system or for coating (impregnating) in an automated blending system. The unique  more...
John Deere
The DN345 Drawn Dry Spreader can carry more than 12 tons of fertilizer and 17.5 tons of lime. Designed to operate at field speeds up to 20 MPH with full loads and the G4 spreader uniformly  more...
Force Unlimited
The Pro-Force is a multi-purpose spreader with a wider apron and steeper sides. Our Pro-Force has the most aggressive 30” spinner on the market, and is capable of spreading higher rates of  more...
BBI Spreaders
MagnaSpread 2 & MagnaSpread 3 — With BBI’s patented multi-bin technology, these spreaders operate multiple hoppers guided by independent, variable-rate technology. These models are built on  more...


Comments (0) Leave a comment 

Name
e-Mail (required)
Location

Comment:

characters left


Grain Storage Systems

Behlen Grain Storage Systems offers large capacity bins with diameters from 16’ to 157’ and capacities exceeding 1,500,000 bushels. All ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides

Feedback Form
Feedback Form