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Average “dead zone” predicted for Gulf of Mexico

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Scientists are expecting an average, but still large, hypoxic or "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico this year. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-supported modeling is forecasting this year's Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone to cover an area ranging from about 4,633 to 5,708 square miles (12,000 to 14,785 square kilometers) or about the size of the state of Connecticut.

The Gulf of Mexico prediction is based on models developed by NOAA -sponsored modeling teams and individual researchers at the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University ,Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences/College of William and Mary, Texas A&M University, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and relies on nutrient loading estimates from the USGS. The models also account for the influence of variable weather and oceanographic conditions, and predict that these can affect the dead zone area by as much as 38 percent.

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico affects nationally important commercial and recreational fisheries and threatens the region's economy. A second NOAA-funded forecast, for the Chesapeake Bay, predicts a slightly larger than average dead zone in the nation's largest estuary.