2019 “Dead Zone” in Gulf of Mexico may be the second largest on record

❝ A recent forecast of the size of the “Dead Zone” in the northern Gulf of Mexico for late July 2019 is that it will cover 8,717-square-miles of the bottom of the continental shelf off Louisiana and Texas. The unusually high Mississippi River discharge in May controls the size of this zone, which will likely be the second largest zone since systematic measurements began in 1985. The water mass with oxygen concentrations less than 2 parts per million forms in bottom waters each year primarily as a result of nitrogen and phosphorus loading from the Mississippi River watershed, which fertilizes the Gulf of Mexico’s surface waters to create excessive amounts of algal biomass. The decomposition of this plant material in the bottom layer leads to oxygen loss…

❝ The low oxygen conditions in the gulf’s most productive waters stresses organisms and may even cause their death, threatening living resources, including fish, shrimp and crabs caught there. Low oxygen conditions started to appear 50 years ago when agricultural practices intensified in the Midwest. No reductions in the nitrate loading from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico have occurred in the last few decades.

Cows and soybeans continue to be more important than shrimp or fish.

Or clean water.

Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone expected to be larger than the state of Connecticut this year

❝ Scientists have predicted the dead zone, or area with little to no oxygen in the northern Gulf of Mexico, will become larger than the state of Connecticut by the end of July. The dead zone will cover about 6,620 square miles of the bottom of the continental shelf off Louisiana and Texas. While there are more than 500 dead zones around the world, the northern Gulf of Mexico dead zone is the second largest human-caused coastal hypoxic area in the world.

Although this forecast has been the average size for the past 31 years, it is more than three times larger than the goal outlined by the Hypoxia Action Plan, which is about 1,930 square miles. Efforts to reduce the nitrate loading have not yet demonstrated success at the watershed scale…

❝ Nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, fertilize the Gulf of Mexico’s surface waters to create excessive amounts of algae. When the algae decomposes in the deepest parts of the ocean, it leads to oxygen distress and can even kill organisms in the Gulf of Mexico’s richest waters. These low oxygen conditions threaten living resources including fish, shrimp and crabs, which humans depend upon for food and industry…

Why worry about dead sea life when you still can drill for oil, eh?

The Gulf of Mexico’s runoff-based “Dead Zone” Might Double


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The oxygen-poor “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico may be the biggest on record this year, nearly doubling in size to cover an area of ocean as large as Vermont, scientists at Louisiana State University estimate.

The dead zone develops when nitrogen-rich runoff from the Midwestern farm belt pours into rivers and out into the Gulf. That runoff is loaded with fertilizer, as well as nutrients from animal and human waste, and it fuels the growth of algae that die, sink, and decompose, depleting oxygen levels offshore. That drives away marine life in the zone — or kills species that can’t escape.

This year, LSU and its partners in the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium estimate the zone will cover more than 10,000 square miles (26,000 square kilometers) off the shores of Louisiana and Texas. High water in the Mississippi River and higher-than-average nitrogen concentrations in the waterway this spring are driving the estimate upward, said Nancy Rabalais, a professor of marine ecosystems at LSU…

Efforts to tackle the roots of the zone have had little effect so far, Rabalais said. Some farms are adopting practices that reduce the amount of fertilizers and tilling needed to grow crops, “but the percentage of the area in the watershed is quite small.”

“There’s a federal-state task force to come up with recommendations state-by-state to reduce nutrients,” she said. “If you read the details of the forecast and the changes in flows over time, you can see there hasn’t been much of a change. Which means the few really concerted efforts to reduce nutrients have been overwhelmed by the usual way of big agribusiness in the watershed.”

Small farmers – like my kin in Canada – can’t afford to waste money on over-fertilizing. Often, they’re closer to environmental concerns, anyway. The bigger the operation, the more folks think like careless beancounters. They think they save more dollar$ by eliminating human beings than crap supplements.

The annual Dead Zone from fertilizer runoff is getting ready to hit the Gulf of Mexico

deadzone

The Gulf of Mexico teems with biodiversity and contains some of the globe’s most productive fisheries. Yet starting in the early 1970s, large swaths of the Gulf began to experience annual dead zones in the late summer and early fall. This year’s will likely be nearly a third larger than normal, about the size of Connecticut, according to a recent report from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University.

The problem is tied to industrial-scale meat production. To churn out huge amounts chicken, beef, and pork, the meat industry relies on corn as cheap feed. The US grows about a third of the globe’s corn, the great bulk of it in the Midwest, on land that drains into the Mississippi River. Every year, fertilizer runoff from Midwestern farms leaches into the Mississippi and makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Intended to feed the nation’s vast corn crop, this renegade nitrogen instead feeds vast aquatic algae blooms in the early summer. When the algae blooms die and decay, they tie up oxygen from the water underneath. As a result, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization puts it, “habitats that would normally be teeming with life become, essentially, biological deserts.”…

Researchers are expecting an unusually big nitrogen load this year. And their report amounts to a de facto rebuke to the federal effort to address the problem: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf Hypoxia Task Force, a largely voluntary effort to reduce fertilizer pollution in the Mississippi watershed. If this year’s dead zone turns out to be as large expected—about 6,800 square miles—it will be more than three times larger than EPA task force’s maximum target of around 2,000 square miles. As for the goal of reducing the amount of nitrogen streaming into the Gulf? No progress has been made,” the Louisiana researchers bluntly stated.

We’re all caught up with the gun manufacturing lobby – otherwise known as the NRA – nowadays. For good reason. But, agribusiness – from cattle ranchers all the way back to fodder farms, corn and soy, own the USDA and EPA as solidly as Colt Firearms has the Senate by the short and curlys.

Prizing intelligent use policy from the death-clutch of agribiz lobbies is a task that has confounded progressive politics for decades. All the lies in the food service world line up: from “we provide cheap food for our children” to “we keep costs to a minimum for American consumers”. Half-truths, sophistry designed to ignore health and environmental concerns.

Real-time monitoring tracks nitrate pulse in Mississippi River Basin into the Gulf of Mexico


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Cutting edge optical sensor technology is being used in the Mississippi River basin to more accurately track the nitrate pulse from small streams, large tributaries and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.

Excessive springtime nitrate runoff from agricultural land and other sources in the Mississippi drainage eventually flows into the Mississippi River. Downstream, this excess nitrate contributes to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, an area with low oxygen known commonly as the “dead zone.” NOAA-supported researchers reported that the summer 2013 dead zone covered about 5,840 square miles, an area the size of Connecticut.

These optical sensors measure and transmit nitrate data every 15 minutes to 3 hours and are located at the mouth of the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge, LA, and at several large tributaries to the Mississippi River—including the Missouri River at Hermann, MO; Ohio River at Olmsted, IL; Ohio, Illinois River at Florence, IL; and Iowa River at Wapello, IA – to track how nitrate concentrations from different areas of the watershed pulse in response to rainfall and seasons.

About 622 million pounds of nitrogen were transported in May and June of 2013 at the Mississippi River Baton Rouge station, said Brian Pellerin, USGS research hydrologist. “This is roughly equivalent to the amount of fertilizer nitrogen applied annually to about 4 million acres of corn…”

Real-time nitrate monitoring in Iowa is being used by drinking water utilities to determine when to switch on nitrate-removal systems or when to mix water with multiple sources that have lower concentrations. Both actions result in higher costs for drinking water. “Real-time nitrate concentrations in the Raccoon River at Van Meter, Iowa, peaked at 20.7 milligrams per liter in May 2013. This is more than double the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level for drinking water,” said Kevin Richards, Director of the USGS Iowa Water Science Center.

Most Americans don’t realize the role played, the responsibility of agribusiness in polluting our water table. All this crap polluting our waterways filters through local water tables on the way to tributaries, thence to major rivers on the way to contaminating larger bodies – like the Gulf of Mexico.

You might think farmers, from the local Farmer Giles to corporate behemoths might care about cost savings derived from spend/wasting less money on fertilizer destined to be surplus drained as runoff. Don’t worry. You and I get to subsidize it one way or another. Either directly priming the pump for corporate growers – or at the grocery checkout.

No signs of dead zone in Gulf


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Scientists have found a decline in oxygen levels in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill but have found no “dead zones” as a result, a federal task force reported.

Levels of dissolved oxygen in deep water have dropped about 20 percent below their long-term average, according to data collected from up to 60 miles from the well at the center of the worst oil spill in U.S. history. But much of that dip appears to be the result of microbes using oxygen to dissolve oil underwater, and the decline is not enough to be fatal to marine life, said…Steve Murawski, the head of the Joint Analysis Group studying the spill’s impact.

“Even the lowest observations in all of these was substantially above the threshold,” Murawski said…

Early findings from a mid-August survey led by the University of South Florida indicated oil had settled to the bottom of the Gulf further east than previously suspected and at levels toxic to marine life. At about the same time, a team from Georgia Sea Grant and the University of Georgia released a report that estimates that 70 to 79 percent of the oil that leaked from the well “has not been recovered and remains a threat to the ecosystem.”

The latest study “does not discuss the broad ecosystem consequences of hydrocarbons released into the environment,” NOAA said. But it concludes that the oil is continuing to break up and disperse underneath the surface, making the emergency of a major oxygen-poor dead zone unlikely…

BP, rig owner Transocean and well cement contractor Halliburton have blamed each other for the disaster. BP plans to release the findings of its internal investigation of the accident on Wednesday, the company said.

My money’s on Halliburton. Mostly because they have a history of screwing-up in similar disasters – like one off the coast of Australia, last year.

The fact that they’re miserable, grasping, rightwing thugs has nothing to do with it. 🙂

Now, we can return to the usual dead zone caused by pesticide runoff and other profit-based crud streaming out into the Gulf through the Mississippi delta.

Coastal “Dead Zones” multiplying and expanding

Black spots are Dead Zone locations

“Dead zones” are on the rise, says a new study that identified stark growth in the number of coastal areas where the water has too little oxygen to sustain marine life.

There are now more than 400 known dead zones in coastal waters worldwide, compared to 305 in the 1990s, according to study author Robert Diaz of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Those numbers are up from 162 in the 1980s, 87 in the 1970s, and 49 in the 1960s, Diaz said. In the 1910s, four dead zones had been identified.

Diaz and co-author Rutger Rosenberg, of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, said in a press release that dead zones are now “the key stressor on marine ecosystems” and “rank with overfishing, habitat loss, and harmful algal blooms as global environmental problems.”

Dead zones occur when excess nutrients—usually nitrogen and phosphorus—from agriculture or the burning of fossil fuels seep into the water system and fertilize blooms of algae along the coast.

Lousy agricultural practices and agribusiness greed have combined over decades to bring us to this latest node of irresponsibility and ignorance. The latter being the usual excuse for unwillingness to accept responsibility.

A neocon precept on its way to becoming a unique American disease. RTFA.