Tuesday, July 22, 2008

NOAA Predicts Largest Gulf Of Mexico 'Dead Zone' On Record

NOAA Predicts Largest Gulf Of Mexico 'Dead Zone' On Record

ScienceDaily (July 16, 2008) NOAA-supported scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University are forecasting that the "dead zone" off the coast of Louisiana and Texas in the Gulf of Mexico this summer could be the largest on record.

The researchers are predicting the area could measure a record 8,800 square miles, or roughly the size of New Jersey. In 2007, the dead zone was 7,903 square miles. The largest dead zone on record was in 2002, when it measured 8,481 square miles. The official measurement of this year's dead zone is slated to be released in late July. Researchers began taking regular measurements of the dead zone in 1985.

"The prediction of a large dead zone this summer is due to a combination of large influx of nitrogen and exceptionally high flows from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers," said LSU scientist R. Eugene Turner.

The dead zone is an area in the Gulf of Mexico where seasonal oxygen levels drop too low to support most life in bottom and near-bottom waters. This low oxygen, or hypoxic, area is primarily caused by high nutrient levels, which stimulates an overgrowth of algae that sinks and decomposes. The decomposition process in turn depletes dissolved oxygen in the water. The dead zone is of particular concern because it threatens valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries.

Research indicates that the nearly tripling of nitrogen levels into the Gulf over the past 50 years from human activities has led to a dramatic increase in the size of the dead zone. Various models are useful in evaluating the influence of nitrogen loads and other factors on the size of the dead zone. The LSU model has a strong track record of accurately predicting the dead zone's size.

"The strong link between nutrients and the dead zone indicates that excess nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed during the spring are the primary human-influenced factor behind the expansion of the dead zone," said Rob Magnien, director of the NOAA Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research. "This analysis will greatly inform the development of federal, state and local efforts to reduce the dead zone's size."

The forecast is based on a mathematical model developed by LSU through NOAA's long-term research investment by CSCOR's Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems and Hypoxia Assessment. The model incorporates U.S. Geological Survey data on the amount of nitrogen reaching the Gulf of Mexico in May. NOAA has been funding investigations into the dead zone since 1990.


Tornado sirens questioned on Iron Range

VIRGINIA, Minn. (AP) - Officials in the Virginia area are discussing what should be done about malfunctioning tornado sirens.

During tornado alerts Monday evening, some of Virginia's warning sirens didn't go off. While funnel clouds were reported, no tornadoes reportedly touched down.

Virginia Mayor Steve Peterson says it's a wake-up call for the city. He says city officials and residents are fortunate nothing happened.

Some of Virginia's sirens are more than 40 years old.

Peterson says Virginia will likely have to replace the sirens, because he says it doesn't make much sense to repair such old equipment.

In nearby Eveleth, the sirens did sound. But sirens in Gilbert were silent because of a mixup, and Mountain Iron doesn't have an alarm system

Officials agree that Wisconsin’s disaster laws need an overhaul.

A new panel of legislators, emergency management officials and relief workers will start meeting July 30 to suggest ways to streamline those laws.

It would have been almost impossible to hold a session a month ago when floods closed many roads in southern Wisconsin.

It’s been 20 years since the state’s emergency laws have gotten a comprehensive review.

Since then, lots of things have been added piecemeal.

For one thing, the law does not define “homeland security.”

Homelands used to be where our ancestors were from, until President Bush made it part of the post-Sept. 11 lexicon and state and local governments created their own homeland security agencies that seem to include everything under the sun.

Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, chairs the new study panel. He wants to examine the state’s response to recent disasters, including the floods, and the February snowstorm in which thousands of motorists were left stranded for up to 12 hours on Interstate 90 south of Madison.

Jauch also wants to find out if local agencies have the resources they need to recover from emergencies.


Unsecured cargo may have led to vessel sinking
MANILA, Philippines - Loose cargo on board the ill-fated M/V Princess of the Stars may have led to its sinking on June 21 while it was being lashed by typhoon Frank (international codename: Fensheng).

Philip Vasquez, a resident of Cebu and one of 28 people aboard a life raft that was swept to the coastal town of Mulanay in Quezon province, told the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) Friday that he was awakened at about 3 a.m. when waves as tall as the vessel continuously hit the seven-storey ferry.

The sun suddenly came out and the seas became calm at about 8 a.m. and he was sure that they were at the center of the typhoon at that time, said Mr. Vasquez, a graduate of maritime education at the University of Cebu. Thirty minutes later, the weather became worse and the boat eventually sank, taking with it some 500 lives.

When the interisland ferry was being battered by giant waves before noon, he said he heard that the cargo move as the vessel swayed. He said the moving cargo caused the tilting of the ship and led to its sudden capsizing.

His statement was supported by an earlier one made by a maritime expert who said the reason the doomed ferry lost its stability was because of the weight of "unsecured" cargo.

Nelson P. Ramirez, president and chairman of the United Filipino Seafarers, had said some of the vessels of Sulpicio Lines lack the proper equipment to ensure the safety of cargo — an observation made when he joined a team from the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) conducting an inspection to check the ships’ seaworthiness. MARINA is also investigating the possible need to cancel the certificate of public convenience issued to Sulpicio Lines.

Meanwhile, the broker contracted by Del Monte Philippines, Inc. to handle the documents regarding the toxic chemical shipment of Del Monte Philippines, Inc. (DMPI) appeared at the BMI hearing.

Dante Macaisa, CEVA Philippines country manager, told the board that Sulpicio Lines had prior knowledge of the contents of the 40-foot container van. He said the broker had presented several documents indicating that the shipment contained dangerous materials to a representative of the shipping firm.

After giving the local pro-forma bill of lading, Mr. Macaisa said the official stated that other documents were "not necessary" and gave them back to the broker.

Sulpicio Lines spokesperson Ma. Victoria Lim-Florido said there were no acknowledgment receipts executed by the broker.

"If there is an acknowledgment receipt, then that is proof that Sulpicio received [the documents from the broker]. But our position is [that] we never received the ocean bill of lading," she told reporters.

Mr. Macaisa confirmed they did not issue an acknowledgment receipt. In other transactions, Ms. Lim said, they execute acknowledgment receipts, especially as regards dangerous cargo. — Bernard U. Allauigan, BusinessWorld