. Earth Science News .

Mississippi river flooding predicted to cause biggest dead zone ever recorded
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jun 17, 2011

Long-term measured size of Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone with 2011 forecast. Dark gray represents the range of ensemble forecast. Credit: Nancy Rabalais LUMCON/NOAA.

The Gulf of Mexico's hypoxic zone is predicted to be the largest ever recorded due to extreme flooding of the Mississippi River this spring, according to an annual forecast by a team of NOAA-supported scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Louisiana State University and the University of Michigan. The forecast is based on Mississippi River nutrient inputs compiled annually by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Scientists are predicting the area could measure between 8,500 and 9,421 square miles, or an area roughly the size of New Hampshire. If it does reach those levels it will be the largest since mapping of the Gulf "dead zone" began in 1985. The largest hypoxic zone measured to date occurred in 2002 and encompassed more than 8,400 square miles.

The average over the past five years is approximately 6,000 square miles of impacted waters, much larger than the 1,900 square miles which is the target goal set by the Gulf of Mexico/Mississippi River Watershed Nutrient Task Force.

This collaboration between NOAA, USGS and university scientists facilitates understanding links between activities in the Mississippi River watershed and downstream impacts to the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Long-term data sets on nutrient loads and the extent of the hypoxic zone have improved forecast models used by management agencies to understand the nutrient reductions required to reduce the size of the hypoxic zone.

Hypoxia is caused by excessive nutrient pollution, often from human activities such as agriculture that results in too little oxygen to support most marine life in bottom and near-bottom water. The hypoxic zone off the coast of Louisiana and Texas forms each summer and threatens valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries.

In 2009, the dockside value of commercial fisheries in the Gulf was $629 million. Nearly three million recreational fishers further contributed more than $1 billion to the Gulf economy taking 22 million fishing trips.

"This ecological forecast is a good example of NOAA applied science," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

"While there is some uncertainty regarding the size, position and timing of this year's hypoxic zone in the Gulf, the forecast models are in overall agreement that hypoxia will be larger than we have typically seen in recent years."

During May 2011 stream-flow rates in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers were nearly twice that of normal conditions. This significantly increased the amount of nitrogen transported by the rivers into the Gulf.

According to USGS estimates, 164,000 metric tons of nitrogen (in the form of nitrite plus nitrate) were transported by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers to the northern Gulf. The amount of nitrogen transported to the Gulf in May 2011 was 35 percent higher than average May nitrogen loads estimated in the last 32 years.

"The USGS monitoring network and modeling activities for water quantity and quality helps us 'connect the dots' to see how increased nutrient run-off in the Mississippi watershed during a historic spring flood event impacts the health of the ocean many hundreds of miles away," said Marcia McNutt, Ph.D., USGS director.

"This work on Gulf hypoxia is a great example of interagency teamwork between NOAA and USGS to work across the land-sea boundary."

Coastal and water resource managers nationwide require new and better integrated information and services to adapt to the uncertainty of future climate and land-use changes, an aging water delivery infrastructure, and an increasing demand on limited resources. NOAA and USGS, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have signed an agreement that will further facilitate collaboration in the future.

These agencies, with complementary missions in water science, observation, prediction and management, have formed this partnership to unify their commitment to address the nation's water resources information and management needs.

This year's forecast is just one example of NOAA's growing ecological forecasting capabilities, supported by both NOAA and USGS science, which allow for the protection of valuable resources using scientific, ecosystem-based approaches.

The actual size of the 2011 hypoxic zone will be released following a NOAA-supported monitoring survey led by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium between July 25 and August 6.

Collecting these data is an annual requirement of the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force Action Plan.

NOAA has been funding investigations and forecast development for the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico since 1990 and currently oversees the two national hypoxia programs authorized by the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Find us on Facebook.

USGS provides science for a changing world. Visit USGS.gov, and follow us on Twitter @USGS and our other social media channels.

Related Links
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Jellyfish blooms transfer food energy from fish to bacteria
Washington DC (SPX) Jun 13, 2011
Jellyfish can be a nuisance to bathers and boaters in the Chesapeake Bay on the United States' East Coast and many other places along the world's coasts. A new study by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) shows that jellyfish also have a more significant impact, drastically altering marine food webs by shunting food energy toward bacteria. An apparent incre ... read more

TEPCO to open second Fukushima reactor building

Japan suspends waste water nuclear operation

Japan quake impact stronger than expected: IMF

Quake-hit N.Z. cathedrals face wrecking ball

Coming to TV Screens of the Future: A Sense of Smell

Gamers griping handheld controls

Using living cells as an invisibility cloak

A flexible virtual system makes any reality possible

Baylor Study Finds Golden Algae Responsible for Killing Millions of Fish Less Toxic in Sunlight

Indonesia to review dolphin release plan: official

Mississippi river flooding predicted to cause biggest dead zone ever recorded

India not alarmed by China dam

Glaciations may have larger influence on biodiversity than current climate

Raytheon Completes Satellite Downlink in Antarctica for Critical Weather Systems

New map reveals giant fjords beneath East Antarctic ice sheet

Support for local community programs key to climate change response in Arctic

Land barons seen behind Amazon activist killings

Multi-paddock grazing is superior to continuous grazing

Using Recycled Cardboard in Food Packaging Risks Contaminating Food with Mineral Oils

Pesticide Impact: Comparing Lab, Field-Scale Results

Flights resume as ash moves off New Zealand

Chile lifts evacuation order as volcano quiets down

More than one million evacuated in China floods

Australia flights resume but ash affects N.Zealand

Sudan army 'to fight by all means' in border state

Abyei clashes 'resume' on Sudan's embattled border

UN condemns North Sudan offensive

Abyei clashes 'resume' on Sudan's embattled border

Family genetic research reveals the speed of human mutation

Bones give peek at key evolutionary period

WHO: 1 billion disabled worldwide

Eating dirt can be good for the belly

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement