Due to extreme flooding of the Mississippi River this spring the Gulf of Mexico’s hypoxic zone is predicted to be larger than average this year, possibly the largest on record. The dead zone is an area in the Gulf of Mexico where seasonal oxygen levels drop too low to support most life in bottom and near-bottom waters.
CSCOR-supported scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Louisiana State University and the University of Michigan have made their annual forecast based on Mississippi River nutrient inputs compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey. The hypoxic zone area could measure between 8,500 and 9,421 square miles, or an area roughly the size of New Hampshire.
The largest hypoxic zone measured to date occurred in 2002 and encompassed more than 8,400 square miles. The actual size of the 2011 hypoxic zone will be released following a CSCOR-supported monitoring survey led by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in late July.
CSCOR has funded investigations and forecast development for the dead zone since 1990. This advanced warning is an example of NOAA’s ecological forecasting capabilities in support coastal resource management.