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Environment: How big will this year’s Gulf dead zone be?

Researchers measure the carryover effect of last year’s record nutrient runoff

A NOAA graphic shows the impacts of nutrient loading by highlight oxygen-starved dead zones in red. This year’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone may be smaller than in recent years because of a dry spring in the Midwest.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Although this year’s oxygen-starved dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico may be smaller than in recent years because of a drier-than-average spring in the Midwest, the long-term trend of nutrient loading hasn’t changed, according to University of Michigan researchers who recently modeled the predicted impacts of this year’s runoff.

The amount of nitrogen, mainly from agricultural fertilizers, entering the Gulf of Mexico each spring has increased about 300 percent since the 1960s. This year’s Gulf dead zone could be the second-smallest on record, but it’s still predicted to cover about 1,200 miles, about the size of Rhode Island.

But a second dead-zone forecast issued by a NOAA-supported team from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University, predicts a much larger 2012 Gulf dead zone of 6,213 square miles. Continue reading

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