Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Creature feature: Dead zones vs. killer hurricanes

The seasonal low-oxygen "dead zone" off the coast of Louisiana and Texas didn't live up to the forecast as the largest in history. Instead, it was merely the second largest.
The reason appears to be that Hurricane Dolly swept through the area, stirring up and re-oxygenating the waters just before scientists could complete their annual survey."If it were not for Hurricane Dolly, the size of the dead zone would have been substantially larger," said Nancy Rabalais, director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Nonetheless, she added, "an amazingly large area of [low-oxygen] hypoxia persisted."
R. Eugene Turner of Louisiana State University had predicted that the dead zone would be the largest ever recorded because of the 37% increase this year in fertilizer runoff -- a form of nitrogen, mostly -- that spilled out of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers into the Gulf of Mexico.

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