2011 Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ could be biggest ever

You know that oxygen-less zone that chokes life and forms every year in the Gulf of Mexico at the base of the Mississippi? Currently its about 3,300 square miles, or roughly the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Over the last 50 years, humans tripled the nitrogen levels in Gulf. Nitrogen is often limiting for phytoplankton, but these increased levels cause a bloom. Although during the day phytoplankton produce oxygen, at night they respire stripping oxygen out of the water. When these phytoplankton die, bacteria also use oxygen to degrade them.

Earlier this year record amounts of rain fell throughout the Midwest and Southern United States. A month ago during these rains “the Mississippi River crested at 47.79 feet in Memphis, Tennessee, 13.79 feet above flood stage and the second highest level on record.” Because of this record amounts of water flowing in the river, the delivery of nitrogen to the Gulf will be much greater. DiMarco, a scientist monitoring the Gulf of Mexico dead zone, stated that 2011 dead zone could be the biggest ever.

Between the oil and now nitrogen it might be easier if we just nuke the Gulf and get it over with.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.