Scientists predict the Chesapeake Bay’s “dead zone” to be larger than average this year, due to higher spring rainfall amounts in states north of Maryland. The predictions follow several years of relatively small dead zones in the Bay. Last year, the dead zone was the smallest it had been since 1985. This year’s dead zone is predicted to be 1.89 cubic miles, or nearly the volume of 3.2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.Without even going back to check, I'll tell you I told you so.
“Despite this year’s forecast, we’ve made great strides in reducing nutrient pollution from various sources entering the Chesapeake Bay, and we are starting to see positive long-term signs,” said Rob Magnien, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research. “However, more work needs to be done to address non-point nutrient pollution from farms and other developed lands, to make the Bay cleaner for its communities and economic interests.”
Dead zones are areas of the Bay with little to no oxygen, which stresses fish and other Bay life, like oyster and crabs, which need oxygen to support life. They are fueled by excess nutrient pollution, which feeds algae blooms, and when the algae dies it settles to the bottom and absorbs the oxygen in the water.
Scientists say the larger predicted dead zone is a result of higher than average spring rainfall amounts in New York and Pennsylvania. Stormwater that eventually makes its way to the Susquehanna River in those two states flows south until it reaches the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, and this spring brought with it above average nitrogen loads, a nutrient that helps fuel algae growth.
“The forecast is a reminder that the improvements such as we saw last year are subject to reversal depending on weather conditions — two steps forward, one step back,” Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, said.
It is interesting that I saw the first signs of a low oxygen event on our beach yesterday.