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Scientists Forecast Larger than Average Dead Zone for Chesapeake Bay This Summer

Source: Phys.org/Jim Erickson/University of Michigan - June 16, 2017 in Science/Tech

Scientists Forecast Larger than Average Dead Zone for Chesapeake Bay This Summer
Photo: Bob Mical/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A University of Michigan ecologist and colleagues from several institutions are forecasting a larger-than-average Chesapeake Bay “dead zone” in 2017.

This summer’s Chesapeake Bay hypoxic or “dead zone,” an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and aquatic life, is expected to be approximately 1.89 cubic miles—nearly the volume of 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools.

The forecast was released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which funds the work. Measurements of the Chesapeake Bay’s dead zone go back to 1950, and the 30-year mean maximum dead zone volume is 1.74 cubic miles.

The anoxic portion of the zone, which contains no oxygen at all, is predicted to be 0.35 cubic miles in early summer, growing to 0.49 cubic miles by late summer—both of which are at or slightly above average. Above-average nutrient loading from the Susquehanna River this spring accounts for the overall slightly larger-than-average predicted size of the anoxic portion.

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