Researchers are expecting severe hypoxia this summer in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. A NOAA-sponsored ensemble of models has forecasted a ‘Dead Zone’ of 20,300 sq km, roughly equivalent to the land area of Massachusetts. The best estimate from the NCSU/Obenour Lab model is 20,800 sq km. This estimate reflects the above average flow and nutrient loading from the Mississippi River this spring, coupled with strong westward winds to deliver nutrients and freshwater over the Louisiana-Texas shelf.
Considering the uncertainty in these predictions, largely attributable to summer hydro-meteorological variability, there is a 22% chance that a record hypoxic zone could be measured by the LUMCON shelfwide cruise this summer.