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Disasters & Extreme WeatherOil SpillsScience

No Dead Zones Expected in Gulf

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report some good news from the Gulf of Mexico stating that they have not detected nor do they expect to detect dead zones as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Despite a measure of dissolved oxygen levels within 60 miles of the wellhead, these oxygen levels have stabilized and are not low enough to form into “dead zones,” or hypoxic areas.

Dead zones are areas of water with very low oxygen density, so low that they cannot support life. The Gulf of Mexico has regularly been home to dead zones that appear during summer at the mouth of the Mississippi River as a result of the run off from farmland into the river which pollutes the ocean it flows in to.

“All the scientists working in the Gulf have been carefully watching dissolved oxygen levels because excess carbon in the system might lead to a dead zone. While we saw a decrease in oxygen, we are not seeing a continued downward trend over time,” said Steve Murawski, Ph.D., NOAA’s Chief Scientist for Fisheries and the head of the Joint Analysis Group. “None of the dissolved oxygen readings have approached the levels associated with a dead zone and as the oil continues to diffuse and degrade, hypoxia becomes less of a threat.”

The US Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have been systematically monitoring the water surrounding the site of the disastrous Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill, searching for signs that the area would devolve into a dead zone.

“It is good news that dissolved oxygen has not reached hypoxic levels in these deepwater environs,” said Shere Abbott, Associate Director for Environment at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. “This work testifies to the nation’s commitment to applying the best science and technology — directly through federal agencies and indirectly through the support of cutting-edge academic research — to understand environmental impacts in the Gulf and in all our treasured ocean ecosystems.”

Source: NOAA




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