Deep plumes of oil could cause dead zones in the Gulf
A new simulation of oil and methane leaked into the Gulf of Mexico suggests that deep hypoxic zones or "dead zones" could form near the source of the pollution. The research investigates five scenarios of oil and methane plumes at different depths and incorporates an estimated rate of flow from the Deepwater Horizon spill, which released oil and methane gas into the Gulf from April to mid July of this year. A scientific paper on the research has been accepted for publication by Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union,
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Princeton University conducted the research. Based on their simulations, they conclude that the ocean hypoxia or toxic concentrations of dissolved oil arising from the Deepwater Horizon blowout are likely to be "locally significant but regionally confined to the northern Gulf of Mexico."
A hypoxic or "dead" zone is a region of ocean where oxygen levels have dropped too low to support most forms of life, typically because microbes consuming a glut of nutrients in the water use up the local oxygen as they consume the material.
"According to our simulations, these hypoxic areas will be peaking in October," says study coauthor Robert Hallberg of the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J.. "Oxygen drawdown will go away slowly, as the tainted water is mixed with Gulf waters that weren't affected. We're estimating a couple of years" before the dead zone has dissipated, he adds.
Although the Princeton-NOAA study was carried out when the flow rate from the Deepwater Horizon spill was still underestimated, the simulated leak lasted longer than did the actual spill. Consequently, says Alistair Adcroft of Princeton University and the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, another study coauthor, "the overall impact on oxygen turns out to be about the same" as would be expected from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Source: American Geophysical Union
Articles on the same topic
- WHOI scientists map and confirm origin of large, underwater hydrocarbon plume in GulfThu, 19 Aug 2010, 14:24:06 EDT
- Giant Underwater Plume Confirmed—Gulf Oil Not Degradingfrom National GeographicThu, 19 Aug 2010, 17:42:10 EDT
- Newly Discovered 22-Mile-Long Underwater Oil Plume Paints a Complex Picture of Gulf Leak Aftermathfrom PopSciThu, 19 Aug 2010, 16:35:18 EDT
- Deep plumes of oil could cause dead zones in the Gulffrom Science BlogThu, 19 Aug 2010, 16:14:18 EDT
- Deep plumes of oil could cause dead zones in the Gulffrom Science DailyThu, 19 Aug 2010, 15:28:30 EDT
- Scientists map and confirm origin of large, underwater hydrocarbon plume in Gulffrom Science DailyThu, 19 Aug 2010, 15:28:18 EDT
- BP oil plume a long-lasting threat: studyfrom CBC: Technology & ScienceThu, 19 Aug 2010, 15:28:15 EDT
- Major study proves oil plume that's not going awayfrom AP ScienceThu, 19 Aug 2010, 15:07:18 EDT
- Deep plumes of oil could cause dead zones in the Gulffrom PhysorgThu, 19 Aug 2010, 14:56:11 EDT
- Scientists map and confirm origin of large, underwater hydrocarbon plume in Gulffrom PhysorgThu, 19 Aug 2010, 14:14:33 EDT
- Meet the Microbes Eating the Gulf Oil Spill [Slide Show]from Scientific AmericanWed, 18 Aug 2010, 10:14:11 EDT
- Scientists Tussle Over Gulf Oil Tallyfrom NY Times ScienceTue, 17 Aug 2010, 18:56:07 EDT
- Gulf Oil Disaster Update: Up to 80% of the Crude May Still Be Lurking in the Waterfrom PopSciTue, 17 Aug 2010, 17:21:09 EDT
- Georgia scientists: Gulf oil not gone, 80 pct remainsfrom PhysorgTue, 17 Aug 2010, 3:28:14 EDT
- Ga. scientists: Gulf oil not gone, 80 pct remainsfrom AP ScienceMon, 16 Aug 2010, 18:49:10 EDT
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Planet found in habitable zone around nearest star
- How long do you want to live? Your expectations for old age matter
- University of Toronto scientists solve puzzle of converting gaseous carbon dioxide to fuel
- Tropical Depression 14W gets absorbed by system 92W
- Scientists begin to unravel summer jet stream mystery
- Computers trounce pathologists in predicting lung cancer type, severity, researchers find
- Sedentary time may raise heart disease risk -- sit less, move more
- High-tech imaging reveals precolonial Mexican manuscript hidden from view for 500 years
- A new way to display the 3-D structure of molecules
- Stanford scientists combine satellite data and machine learning to map poverty