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 (1714 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

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