Report: Dolly Aerated Gulf Dead Zone

Weekly News Summary For August 11 – August 17, 2008:

It sounds like the script of a low budget Frankenstein movie: well-meaning scientists create a monster which leaves a “Dead Zone” in its wake until howling winds of a storm come to the rescue.

Returning from the Gulf of Mexico to the port of Cocodrie, La., researchers reported Hurricane Dolly has aerated western portions of the Gulf of Mexico, preventing the annual oxygen-depleted “Dead Zone” from covering the biggest area ever, as computer models had predicted.

Still, the Dead Zone, known by its scientific name of hypoxia, covered 8,000 square miles of Gulf of Mexico seabed, making it second in size only to the area mapped in 2001. Oxygen levels in the Dead Zone are too low to support bottom life, and species that cannot swim away often die.

Nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, coming down the Mississippi River and Atchafalaya River, stimulate phytoplankton growth. When the phytoplankton dies, it settles to the bottom and decays.
Thirty percent of the Mississippi River’s water volume is diverted to the Atchafalaya above Baton Rouge at the Old River Control Structure….

Richard Eberhardt
The Waterways Journal