Science

Published on July 19th, 2011 | by Joshua S Hill

2011 Gulf Dead Zone Could Be Biggest Ever {VIDEO}

Researchers from Texas A&M University who have just returned from a visit to the Gulf of Mexico to explore the scope and size of this year’s dead zone have measured it to be currently around 8,500 square kilometres; approximately the same size as the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

However researchers believe that 2011’s dead zone may continue to grow and become one of the largest ever, thanks in part to the record amounts of water being deposited into the Gulf from the Mississippi River.

Lead by Steve DiMarco, an oceanography professor at Texas A&M, the team of researchers traveled more than 2,300 kilometres throughout the Gulf of Mexico over a five day period. This was the first ever mission to focus on the dead zone’s size in June.

The dead zone off the coast of Louisiana has been continually monitored for about 25 years, and previous research has shown that nitrogen levels in the Gulf of Mexico intrinsically related to human activities have risen by 3 times over the past 50 years. Over the past 5 years, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico has averaged around 15,000 square kilometres, but is predicted to exceed 24,000 square kilometres this year, making it one of the largest ever recorded, according to the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.

“This was the first-ever research cruise conducted to specifically target the size of hypoxia in the month of June,” DiMarco says.“We found three distinct hypoxic areas. One was near the Barataria and Terrebonne region off the Louisiana coast, the second was south of Marsh Island (also Louisiana) and the third was off the Galveston coast.  We found no hypoxia in the 10 stations we visited east of the Mississippi delta.”

“The largest areas of hypoxia are still around the Louisiana coast, where you would expect them because of the huge amounts of fresh water still coming down from the Mississippi River,” he adds.“The hypoxic area extends about 50 miles off the coast.  The farther you go west toward Texas, there is still hypoxia, but less severe. However, we did see noticeable hypoxia near the Galveston area.”

DiMarco and colleagues will return to the area on August 8 to revisit many of the same locations for additional data.

Source: Texas A&M University


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I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I work as Associate Editor for the Important Media Network and write for CleanTechnica and Planetsave. I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), Amazing Stories, the Stabley Times and Medium.   I love words with a passion, both creating them and reading them.



  • How big is this same dead zone in the winter? Do these dead zone happen rapidly? Are fish able to escape? What about bottom dwellers like crab? Are these things reversible or can we treat it with another (safer) chemical?

  • Tom

    Ok, this is interesting, except:
    You seem to imply that the dead zone is due to hypoxia that has risen by a factor of 3 due to “man”

    But you explicitly say that the current dead zone is due to a huge increase of water flowing out of the Mississippi. Since you never state the source of the increase in water, I’m assuming that it is due to an increase in rainfall in the mid-US draining into the Mississippi. What does this have to do with “man”?

    How about finishing the story and explaining the reasoning behind your statements? Otherwise, who can take your comments seriously?

    • well, very simply, for those who follow the science, we are seeing increased rainfall due to global warming which is caused by humans

      • Al

        How about North Pole movement, volcano activity, sun activity, Earthquack. I belive this effect weather above any thing else.

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