Tuesday, August 08, 2006

More on the Dead Zone

I just returned from a mostly power-less trip to Canada (no computer, no lights, no posting on the blog), and see this news from a colleague in my inbox:

Scientists Eugene Turner and Nancy Rabalais in Lousiana report that the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico has reached a mid-summer size of 17,255 sq. km (6662 sq. mi). This is within 1% of the prediction based on the level of nitrogen in the Mississippi River during the spring.

The Washington Post and other news outlets are reporting, the accuracy of this year's prediction is further evidence that the growth of the Dead Zone is fuelled by nitrogen from the Mississippi River, much of which originates as fertilizer applied to crops in the middle of the U.S. It's goof to see this publicized in the press. I hope readers of the article understand that proof of the Mississippi nitrogen / Gulf hypoxia link lies not in this one accurate forecast, but in the years of study by Turner, Rabalais and many others.

Newspaper editors love to compare the size of the Dead Zone to that of US states. Usually it is New Jersey or Delaware, or a combination of Connecticut and Rhode Island. In a nod to current events, and the power of Google, "almost the size of Israel" now seems to be cropping up.


Anonymous said...

In case your readers get confused. In Canada we do have power grid. We also have computers. Due to the political inaction in Ontario, the largest province in Canada (instead of states we have provinces)last month Ontario had to import a lot of electricity from Midwest of US. Which is mostly cole fired powerstations. Lots of nitrous oxide.

Unknown said...

Yes, Ontario is an energy planning disaster. I'd blame the provincial government for starting the mess, for not being up front with the voters. The people want i) cheap energy, ii) to shut down the local coal-fired plants, blamed for much of the smog (from NOx, not N2O), iii) not to be forced to conserve (Toronto continues to sprawl), iv) no new nuclear (was a major source of energy).

Impossible. Nonetheless, the provincial government promises (i) and (ii). It does not work. Now people are outraged by the inability to shut down the last coal-burning plant and the plan to reopen moth-balled nuclear plants. At this point, I think a lot of the responsibility lies with the people on the street, to give in on one of the demands (lke, hmmm... listening to the conservation message?).