Near-record 'dead zone' predicted in Gulf of Mexico

Rows of farm land near Holly Bluff Miss. are covered with backwater flooding last month

Rows of farm land near Holly Bluff Miss. are covered with backwater flooding last month

University of MI scientists are predicting that the Gulf of Mexico will have a very large "dead zone" in 2019.

The record set in 2017 is 22,700 square kilometres. This past May, discharge in the MS and Atchafalaya rivers was about 67% above the long-term average between 1980 and 2018, according to USGS.

Experts-including David Scheurer, a NOAA scientist who studies dead zones-are also anxious that the human-caused climate crisis could exacerbate oxygen level issues in the gulf.

Don Scavia, professor emeritus at the School for Environment and Sustainability.

'While this year's zone will be larger than usual because of the flooding, the long-term trend is still not changing, ' University of MI aquatic ecologist Don Scavia, professor emeritus at the School for Environment and Sustainability, said in a news release.

"Less oxygen dissolved in the water is often referred to as a "dead zone" because most marine life either dies, or, if they are mobile such as fish, leave the area", explains NOAA, on its website. In a research study, Rabalais and her co-author Gene Turner forecast that the Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" will be the second largest on record this year.

Today is the day for the 2019 Gulf of Mexico #deadzone prediction. These nitrate loads were about 18% above the long-term average, and phosphorus loads were about 49% above the long-term average.

If the dead zone creeps here, then it will be that much harder to find shrimp and fish in our waters.

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Dead zones occur across the globe, though the annual one in the gulf is considered among the world's biggest.

We need to create and use more ecologically friendly fertilizers so that when this flooding happens, it doesn't take it to the Gulf to create these dead zones in the first place.

"The assessment predicts an increase in the frequency of very heavy precipitation events in the Midwest, Great Plains, and Southeast regions, which would impact nutrient input to the northern Gulf of Mexico and the size of the hypoxic zone".

A task force of federal, tribal and state agencies from 12 of the 31 states that make up the Mississippi River watershed set a goal almost two decades ago of reducing the dead zone from an average of about 5,800 square miles (15,000 square kilometers) to an average of 1,900 (4,900).

This map shows how pollution from cities and farms flows down into the Gulf of Mexico.

This loss of oxygen in the water can cause the loss of fish habitat or force them to move to other areas to survive.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 31 states and two Canadian provinces drain into the Mississippi River, totaling 41 percent of the contiguous United States and 15 percent of North America.

It will be measured during an annual July cruise by Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, who has been measuring the zone since 1985.

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