Animation showing winter phytoplankton conditions followed by summer conditions, then by NOAA's oxygen data
Recent reports indicate that the large region of low oxygen water often referred to as the 'Dead Zone' has spread across nearly 5,800 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico again in what appears to be an annual event. NASA satellites monitor the health of the oceans and spots the conditions that lead to a dead zone. These images show how ocean color changes from winter to summer in the Gulf of Mexico. Summertime satellite observations of ocean color from MODIS Aqua show highly turbid waters which may include large blooms of phytoplankton extending from the mouth of the Mississippi River all the way to the Texas coast. When these blooms die and sink to the bottom, bacterial decomposition strips oxygen from the surrounding water, creating an environment very difficult for marine life to survive in. Reds and oranges represent high concentrations of phytoplankton and river sediment. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ships measured low oxygen water in the same location as the highly turbid water in the satellite images. Most studies indicate that fertilizers and runoff from human sources is one of the major stresses impacting coastal ecosystems. In the third image using NOAA data, reds and oranges represent low oxygen concentrations.
GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version 126.96.36.199.0