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White Paper Released to Help Improve Hypoxia Forecast Models

January 9, 2015

A NOAA and Northern Gulf Institute forum and workshop produce useful resources to achieve the goal of reducing the hypoxic zone in the northern Gulf of Mexico.  The Gulf of Mexico's increasingly severe dead zone is one of the world's largest, and the biggest one that affects a U.S. fishery.

In order to increase the focus and mitigate the problem, NOAA and NGI put together the Modeling Technical Review Panel of experts who recently released a technical white paper titled, Modeling Approaches for Scenario Forecasts of Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia. The review paper is a product produced as a result of the partnership's Forum for Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Research Coordination and Advancement and the 5th Annual NOAA/NGI Gulf Hypoxia Research Coordination Workshop held last summer. The forum and workshop provided hypoxia stakeholders an opportunity to assess the state of scenario forecast models targeting hypoxic zone dynamics in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

"Sciences' top minds shared hypoxia monitoring and modeling output data and Gulf hypoxic zone research to help inform and refine management plans and forecast models," Steve Ashby, co-director of NGI, said. "The Gulf Hypoxic Zone Modeling Technical Review Panel assessed the modeling and management methods to mitigate hypoxia to create best practices that inter-agencies like the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance can implement into effective control and eradication strategies."

Hypoxia in aquatic systems is a global issue. It is a low oxygen condition-below 2 mg/L-created when nutrients from farm fertilizer and manure mixed with sewage and runoff from suburban lawns, flow down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. It is here that this potent blend feeds algae that bloom, die and decompose, robbing the Gulf's waters of oxygen and creating a dead zone each summer. It forms in the late spring and summer and typically covers around 6,000 square miles, and in some, around 8,000 square miles - roughly the size of New Jersey.

These scenario forecast models provide decision makers with the ability to examine the effect of multiple management scenarios on resources of concern for hypoxia. This often involves the ability to examine the relative influences of climatological (winds, currents, salinity) and land-based (nutrients and freshwater inputs) factors on the formation and maintenance of coastal hypoxia. As discussed by those at the 2013 forum, models were assessed based on their ability to address key management questions, their infrastructure, observational and remaining research needs and their state of development.

For more information on the forum and workshop or to download and view the white paper, please click on the underlined links above.