Today, NOAA and partners issued the 2013 dead zone predictions for two of the nation's most hypoxia-impacted bodies of water:the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay.
The Gulf of Mexico hypoxic 'dead' zone is predicted to be large this year, with an area ranging from 7,286 to 8,651 square miles. The upper end would exceed the highest ever reported in 2002 (8,481 square miles), and be comparable to the size of New Jersey.
In contrast, the Chesapeake Bay forecast calls for a smaller than average hypoxic "dead" zone, based on models that predict different aspects of hypoxic zone volume - mid-summer hypoxia (1.46 cubic miles), average summer-long hypoxia (1.08 cubic miles), and mid-summer anoxia (0.26 to 0.38 cubic miles). All three predictions were below the historical averages for hypoxic and anoxic volumes in the Bay.
The Gulf of Mexico prediction is based on models developed by NCCOS-sponsored researchers at the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University, and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. The prediction for the Chesapeake Bay is based on models developed by NCCOS-sponsored researchers at the University of Michigan, and the University of Maryland, Center for Environmental Science.
All of these forecasts are driven largely by springtime nutrient loading estimates provided by the US Geological Survey, and the predictions for a large Gulf dead zone reflect flood conditions in parts of the Midwest that caused large amounts of nutrients to be transported from the Mississippi River watershed to the Gulf. NCCOS has been funding the development of hypoxia forecasts in the Gulf of Mexico since 1990 and in Chesapeake Bay since 2005.