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Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its annual prediction of the size of the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic or “dead” zone and it is expected to be nearly 8,000 square miles (roughly the size of the State of Massachusetts) and could rival the largest one ever, which happened in 2017. This year’s “abnormally high amount of spring rainfall in many parts of the Mississippi River watershed, which led to record high river flows and much larger nutrient loading to the Gulf of Mexico” is a major factor in the huge size of this year’s dead zone.
Why This Matters: The dead zone is caused in great measure by current agricultural practices — fertilizers flow off farmlands and into small drainage ditches and streams and eventually make their way into the rivers that flow into the Mississippi River, but also by urban runoff. This type of pollution really adds up — this year 156,000 metric tons of nitrate and 25,300 metric tons of phosphorus flowed into the Gulf of Mexico in May alone. This volume of nitrogen pollution is 18 percent above the long-term average, and phosphorus loads are about 49 percent above the long-term average, according to NOAA’s press release. Once it reaches the Gulf of Mexico, all that nitrogen creates a huge amount of algae that eventually dies, then sinks and decomposes in the water and causing marine life there to “choke” and die or move away from the area. They call it a “dead zone” for a reason. Scientists are hoping to change agricultural practices and shrink it to an annual average of only 2000 square miles, which still seems huge, and we are a long way from achieving this goal.
According to NOAA, this past May’s discharges into the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers were approximately 67% above the long-term average between 1980 and 2018.
How Do We Know?
NOAA will confirm the size of the 2019 Gulf dead zone in early August, a key test of the accuracy of the models on which the forecast is based — this is only the second year NOAA has created the forecast on its own.
One other caveat — the NOAA forecast assumes typical coastal weather conditions, but the measured dead zone size could change by major wind events, hurricanes and tropical storms which mix ocean waters.
Ecowatch reported that researchers from Louisiana State University (LSU) also predicted a large dead zone this year according to a statement on Monday predicting this year’s dead zone to be 8,717 square miles, making it nearly the same size as the largest ever.
Hundreds of citizens will fan out across the nation’s capital next week to meet with lawmakers in what’s projected to be the largest ocean lobby effort in US history. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they will meet with Biden administration officials, federal agencies, and members of Congress for a nonpartisan Ocean Climate Action Hill Day.
Why It Matters: As the Biden administration and the Congress begin to debate what’s infrastructure and therefore within the American Jobs Plan, the blue economy needs to be front and center in it.
The Evergiven is no longer stuck in the Suez Canal, but world shipping is hardly back to normal. In just six days, the massive container ship held up almost $60 billion in global trade. Supply chains across the world are delayed and off schedule, and the incident has economists and maritime experts across the globe reevaluating the efficacy of the current shipping economy.
Why this Matters: The pandemic has rocketed demand for goods (and vaccines) to all-time highs, but bottlenecks at many major ports and slow shipping speed could slow the global economy just as it begins to recover from COVID-19.
This explosive new documentary film about the fragile state of the ocean is grabbing attention – it even made the British edition of Vogue Magazine. In the last week since its release, it has vaulted into the top ten most-streamed films on Netflix. It has also caused quite a stir — you can read more […]
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