Featured Image: serc.carleton.edu
For the past 35 years, the Gulf of Mexico has experienced a growing dead zone each summer. As the Mississippi River drains pollutants from upriver into the Gulf of Mexico, the fertilizers and nutrients in the waters leads to a dead zone that has been consistently growing. Scientists are predicting a larger dead zone than ever before this summer.
A dead zone is a large hypoxic zone in which the oxygen levels are extremely low at the bottom of the water column. Animals living in that level cannot survive the sustained decrease in oxygen levels. This leads to massive die offs that prolong the problem. With an estimated dead zone of around 8,000 square miles, everyone is worried about how the creatures of the Gulf will fare. The dead zone will start to grow in the summer and dissipate towards the fall season.
Of course, there is the chance that the predictions could be wrong. Steve Thur, the director of NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, said, “This year’s historic and sustained river flows will test the accuracy of these models in extreme conditions, which are likely to occur more frequently in the future according to the latest National Climate Assessment. 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.”
Only time will tell if the models are right for this year.