Main content area

A Scenario and Forecast Model for Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Area and Volume

Scavia, Donald, Evans, Mary Anne, Obenour, Daniel R.
Environmental Science & Technology 2013 v.47 no.18 pp. 10423-10428
Bayesian theory, continental shelf, hypoxia, issues and policy, models, pollution load, uncertainty, Gulf of Mexico
For almost three decades, the relative size of the hypoxic region on the Louisiana-Texas continental shelf has drawn scientific and policy attention. During that time, both simple and complex models have been used to explore hypoxia dynamics and to provide management guidance relating the size of the hypoxic zone to key drivers. Throughout much of that development, analyses had to accommodate an apparent change in hypoxic sensitivity to loads and often cull observations due to anomalous meteorological conditions. Here, we describe an adaptation of our earlier, simple biophysical model, calibrated to revised hypoxic area estimates and new hypoxic volume estimates through Bayesian estimation. This application eliminates the need to cull observations and provides revised hypoxic extent estimates with uncertainties corresponding to different nutrient loading reduction scenarios. We compare guidance from this model application, suggesting an approximately 62% nutrient loading reduction is required to reduce Gulf hypoxia to the Action Plan goal of 5000 km², to that of previous applications. In addition, we describe for the first time, the corresponding response of hypoxic volume. We also analyze model results to test for increasing system sensitivity to hypoxia formation, but find no strong evidence of such change.