Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Record-setting Dead Zones Predicted For Gulf Of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay

Date:
July 17, 2008
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
Record-setting "dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay appear likely this summer, according to new forecasts. Scientists make the annual forecasts using models driven by nutrient load estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Bottom dissolved oxygen contours in the Gulf of Mexico from the survey conducted June 15 - July 16, 2005. Nutrient loads were lower than average in 2005; the 2008 dead-zone is predicted to be significantly larger than that of 2005.
Credit: NOAA

Record-setting "dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay appear likely this summer, according to new forecasts from a University of Michigan researcher.

Donald Scavia, a professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE), makes the annual forecasts using models driven by nutrient load estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey.

In this year's Chesapeake Bay Hypoxic Volume Forecast, Scavia predicts a summer hypoxic volume of 9.9 cubic kilometers (2.4 cubic miles), the sixth-highest on record. If the upper value of the forecast range of 12.3 cubic kilometers (3 cubic miles) is reached, it will be the highest on record. The Bay is about 200 miles long on the East Coast and stretches from Maryland to Virginia. It supports thousands of species of plants, fish and animals. The Bay's oxygen levels are critical in determining the health of its ecosystem.

Given recent massive flooding of cities and farms in the Mississippi River basin, the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Area Forecast is for the dead zone to cover between 21,500 and 22,500 square kilometers (8,400-8,800 square miles) of bottom waters along the Louisiana-Texas coast. If the prediction bears out, it will be the largest on record.

"The growth of these dead zones is an ecological time bomb," said Scavia, who is also director of the Michigan Sea Grant program based at SNRE. "Without determined local, regional, and national efforts to control them, we are putting major fisheries at risk." According to Scavia, the best way to shrink the dead zones is to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into these water basins.

Hypoxia refers to the loss of oxygen in water, which then leads to conditions unsustainable for aquatic life. The Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico dead zones form each spring as nitrogen and phosphorus loads from farm fertilizers, atmospheric deposition and wastewater treatment plants stimulate algae blooms. These blooms eventually die and sink to the bottom, where bacteria decompose them and consume most of the oxygen. The zones dissipate each fall as changes in water currents and temperatures mix and reaerate the water---only to return the next spring.

Scavia originally developed the model to estimate the nitrogen-load reductions needed to reach particular hypoxia goals. Several years ago, he discovered that the model could also forecast the dead zone size for an upcoming season, based on the average January-May nitrogen loads for the Chesapeake Bay, and average May-June loads for the Mississippi River basin.

Through two $2.5 million grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, Scavia and fellow researchers continue to refine Gulf and Chesapeake Bay models, as well as develop hypoxia forecast models for Lake Erie, home of another iconic dead zone. In these five-year studies, they are studying why dead zones occur in coastal waters and why it has returned to Lake Erie, how to detect the cause and ways to stop the spread before the fishery and tourism industries suffer. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Lake Erie dead zone was a key driver for enacting the Clean Water Act and stimulating the environmental movement, Scavia said. In recent years, Erie dead zones have reappeared and expanded.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Record-setting Dead Zones Predicted For Gulf Of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080714160000.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2008, July 17). Record-setting Dead Zones Predicted For Gulf Of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080714160000.htm
University of Michigan. "Record-setting Dead Zones Predicted For Gulf Of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080714160000.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Airlines on Iceland Volcano Alert

Airlines on Iceland Volcano Alert

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 22, 2014) Iceland evacuates an area north of the country's Bardarbunga volcano, as the country's civil protection agency says it cannot rule out an eruption. Authorities have already warned airlines. As Joel Flynn reports, ash from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 shut down much of Europe's airspace for six days. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks

Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) China's energy revolution could do more harm than good for the environment, despite the country's commitment to reducing pollution and curbing its carbon emissions. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer

Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) Aluminum giant, Novelis, has partnered with Red Hare Brewing Company to introduce the first certified high-content recycled beverage can. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins