Posted by: stiltsville | June 28, 2010

Scientists Predict “Larger Than Average” Gulf Dead Zone

The northern Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, an underwater area with little or no oxygen known as the “dead zone,” could be larger than the recent average, according to a forecast by a team of NOAA-supported scientists.

Scientists are predicting the area could measure between 6,500 and 7,800 square miles, or an area roughly the size of the state of New Jersey. The average of the past five years is approximately 6,000 square miles. The largest dead zone on record, 8,484 square miles, occurred in 2002.

“The oil spill could enhance the size of the hypoxic zone through the microbial breakdown of oil, which consumes oxygen, but the oil could also limit the growth of the hypoxia-fueling algae,” said R. Eugene Turner, Ph.D., professor of oceanography at Louisiana State University. “It is clear, however, that the combination of the hypoxic zone and the oil spill is not good for local fisheries.”

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