Story at a glance

  • Scientists surveying the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico discovered a “dead-zone” that was “equivalent to more than four million acres of habitat.”
  • Typically, dead zones cover around 5,400 square miles.
  • But the hypoxic zone near the Gulf this year measured approximately 6,334 square miles.

Scientists surveying the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico discovered a “dead-zone” — where low oxygen levels make the area inhospitable to fish —  “equivalent to more than four million acres of habitat.”

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the survey’s findings this week, which were uncovered by scientists aboard a research cruise. Typically, dead zones cover around 5,400 square miles. But the hypoxic zone near the Gulf this year measured around 6,334 square miles. 

“This year, we have seen again and again the profound effect that climate change has on our communities — from historic drought in the west to flooding events. Climate is directly linked to water, including the flow of nutrient pollution into the Gulf of Mexico,” Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox said in the release.

“As we work to address the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, we must consider climate change and we must strengthen our collaboration and partnerships to make needed progress,” Fox added. 


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA

NEW STUDY SAYS GLOBAL WARMING COULD KILL 83 MILLION PEOPLE BY THE END OF THE CENTURY

EXPERTS SAY WESTERN US NOW TRAPPED IN DEATH CYCLE OF EXTREME HEAT, DROUGHT, FIRE

SCIENTISTS NOW RACING TO STUDY HEAT CONDITIONS THAT SPONTANEOUSLY KILL HUMANS

TRUMP LASHES OUT AFTER BIDEN SAYS JOINT CHIEFS TOLD HIM GREATEST THREAT TO US IS GLOBAL WARMING

CLIMATE CRISIS WILL CRUSH WORLD’S BIGGEST NATIONS TWICE AS HARD AS COVID-19, SAYS NEW STUDY


Dead zones develop when “excess nutrients” from cities and farms drain — ”runoff” — into the water, decaying algae and eventually making the area uninhabitable for most marine life, according to NOAA. Research indicates that hypoxic waters can drastically alter marine diets, reproduction and growth.

Based on runoff data, NOAA predicted the average hypoxic zone would encompass 4,880 square miles, while the largest hypoxic zone recorded since measurements began was 8,776 square miles in 2017.

Nicole LeBoeuf, Assistant Administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service, said in the release that data collected from the cruise will aid in modeling designed “to simulate how river discharge, nutrient loads, and oceanographic conditions influence hypoxic conditions in the Gulf and affect living resources.” 

“By understanding the scale and effects of these hypoxia events, we can better inform the best strategies to reduce its size and minimize impacts to our coastal resources and economy,” LeBoeuf concluded. 


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


Similarly, hypoxic zones were reported near Oregon, where they have occurred each year since 2002, according to The Guardian. Yet this year, the zones were reported earlier than they have been in decades. 

“Low dissolved oxygen levels have become the norm on the Pacific Northwest coast, but this event started much earlier than we've seen in our records,” Oregon State University Professor Francis Chan, director of the NOAA cooperative institute CIMERS, said in a release. “This is the earliest start to the upwelling season in 35 years.”


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA


IN HISTORIC FIRST, CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE NOW ON EXXON’S BOARD

BIDEN PROMISES TO CUT US EMISSIONS IN HALF IN LESS THAN 10 YEARS AHEAD OF WORLD CLIMATE SUMMIT

SCIENTISTS SAY ‘UNIMAGINABLE AMOUNTS’ OF WATER WILL POUR INTO OCEANS IF ICE SHELVES COLLAPSE AMID GLOBAL HEATING

NEW STUDY SAYS THE EARTH COULD SEE SIX MONTH-LONG SUMMERS

SURPRISING STUDY FINDS SHARKS ARE KEY TO RESTORING DAMAGED HABITATS, FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE

Published on Aug 06, 2021