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Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ twice what it was last year, but not a record

August 2, 2013 Comments off

blog.al.com

2013 gulf dead zoneThis year’s so-called “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, an area where a lack of oxygen kills sea life that can’t swim away, is twice the size of last year’s, according to scientists, but it’s not a record.

The recurring area of low oxygen covers 5,840 square miles of the Gulf floor this year. Scientists had expected a record zone area due to a wet spring.

The zone is created each year when farm fertilizer from the Mississippi River Basin washes into the Gulf of Mexico, feeding algae blooms that, in turn, die and sink to the bottom of the mouth of the river. There they decompose and use up the oxygen.

Scientists from Louisiana State University and the University of Michigan had expected a wet spring to bring record levels of nutrients to the Gulf, leading to a dead zone that could have approached or exceeded the largest ever recorded — the one in Read more…

Has BP really cleaned up the Gulf oil spill?

April 14, 2011 Comments off

guardian

A brown pelican coated in heavy oil wallows in the Louisiana surf, June 2010.

A brown pelican coated in heavy oil wallows in the Louisiana surf, June 2010. Photograph: Win Mcnamee

There are few people who can claim direct knowledge of the ocean floor, at least before the invention of the spill-cam, last year’s strangely compulsive live feed of the oil billowing out of BP‘s blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico. But for Samantha Joye it was familiar terrain. The intersection of oil, gas and marine life in the Mississippi Canyon has preoccupied the University of Georgia scientist for years. So one year after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, killed 11 men and disgorged more than 4m barrels of crude, Joye could be forgiven for denying the official version of the BP oil disaster that life is returning to normal in the Gulf.

The view from her submarine is different, and her attachment is almost personal. On her descent to a location 10 miles from BP’s well in December, Joye landed on an ocean floor coated with dark brown muck about 4cm deep. Thick ropes of slime draped across coral like cobwebs in a haunted house. The few creatures that remained alive, such as the crabs, were too listless to flee. “Most of the time when you go at them with a submarine, they just run,” she says. “They weren’t running, they were just sitting there, dazed and stupefied. They certainly weren’t behaving as normal.” Her conclusion? “I think it is not beyond the imagination that 50% of the oil is still floating around out there.”

At a time when the White House, Congress, government officials and oil companies are trying to put the oil disaster behind them, that is not the message from the deep that people are waiting to hear. Joye’s data – and an outspoken manner for a scientist – have pitted her against the Obama adminstration’s scientists as well as other independent scientists who have come to different conclusions about the state of the Gulf. She is consumed Read more…

Dolphin deaths in Alabama, Mississippi may be caused by measles-related illness

March 2, 2011 Comments off

http://blog.al.com/live/2011/03/dead_dolphins_measles_related.html

dead-dolphin-map.jpg

MOBILE, Ala. — With six new dolphin carcasses discovered in Mississippi and Alabama since Saturday, a review of the scientific literature associated with similar mass die-offs of marine mammals around the world suggests a common culprit: a morbillivirus.

In the same family as the viruses that cause measles in humans and canine distemper in dogs, there are well-documented outbreaks of fatal morbillivirus infections in dolphins, whales and seals around the world since the 1980s.

Jerry Saliki, a University of Georgia researcher and veterinarian who has published a number of scientific papers on morbillivirus infections in dolphins, said the virus could be responsible for the current mass die off.

“It is certainly possible. In the past, there have been significant die offs in the Gulf with dolphins that were attributed to morbillivirus,” Saliki said Monday. “But, there are Read more…

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