Gulf of Mexico dead zone expected to exceed the size of Connecticut
BATON ROUGE- Scientists have predicted the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico will become larger than the state of Connecticut by the end of July.
A dead zone is an area with little to no oxygen. According to a release from LSU, the dead zone will cover about 6,620 square miles of the bottom of the continental shelf off the coast of Louisiana and Texas.
The northern Gulf of Mexico dead zone is the second largest human-caused coastal hypoxia area in the world. Every year, the LSU Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences professors, along with Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium scientists Nancy Rabalais and Eugene Turner conduct a research cruise to measure the dead zone.
The scientists then use the data in their computer models to predict its size in the summer.
“The oceans warm a little more each year and currents change, making new observations a necessity. Model calibration is not a fixed phenomenon,” Turner said.
Nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, fertilize the Gulf of Mexico’s surface waters to create excessive amounts of algae, according to the release. When the algae decomposes in the deepest parts of the ocean, it leads to oxygen distress and can even kill organisms in the Gulf of Mexico’s richest waters.
Those low-oxygen conditions threaten living resources including fish, shrimp and crabs. Scientists say the dead zone occurs year-round, but it is most persistent and severe in spring and summer.
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