Researcher: Texas Dead zone shrinking

By MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press Writer
09 August, 2007; Associated Press

HOUSTON – The first detected "dead zone" off Texas in the Gulf of Mexico, a 1,700-square-mile patch of oxygen-depleted water that could threaten sea life, is shrinking as fresh water pouring into gulf from the rain-swollen Brazos River subsides, a Texas A&M University researcher said Thursday.

"The most concentrated area seems to be right where the Brazos River empties into the gulf," he said. "The dead zone area extends at least 10 miles offshore, and it appears it is pretty much driven directly by waters from the Brazos River."

Scientists who study the Louisiana dead zone characterized the Texas event as temporary.

"There‘s nothing on the surface," he said. "So it‘s really hard to know. Sometimes in severe hypoxic conditions, you can see marine life at the surface that‘s at the bottom and it‘s a sign they‘re trying to escape. But we didn‘t see any of that."

Researchers last month who detected the first-ever Texas dead zone estimated it was about one-fourth the size of the annual Louisiana zone, which is described as about the size of New Jersey. It‘s the largest such area in the world and has been studied for years.

Hypoxia is defined as sea water having less than 2 milligrams of oxygen per liter. Only a couple of the two dozen stations tested by the Texas A&M team found levels below that threshold although several others were close, DiMarco said.