Mississippi Flood Impacts on Gulf Of Mexico

Image acquired April 29, 2011. It shows the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchartrain before the floods reached them. Even though the river plumes had not yet discharged the floods, they still carried plenty of sediment from normal spring rains and runoff. Image: created by Jesse Allen /NASA Earth Observatory

By Holli Riebeek, NASA Earth Observatory

The floods that surged through the Mississippi River basin are subsiding, but their impact is far from over. As the floodwaters swept over farms and towns in May and June 2011, they scoured fertilized soil from the ground and carried it downstream. Swollen rivers dumped thousands of tons of nutrients into the Gulf of Mexico, where they are forecast to cause a record “dead zone” this summer.

These images quantify the amount of nutrient-laden sediment flowing into the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain throughout May and into June 2011.

The highest sediment concentrations, around 400 milligrams per liter, are dark brown. Places where the sensor did not measure sediment (largely because of clouds) are dark gray, and land is pale gray. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made the maps by interpreting measurements from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite. Photo-like MODIS images show the mud spreading into the Gulf.

The first image above, from April 29, 2011, shows the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchartrain before the floods reached them. Even though the river plumes had not yet discharged the floods, they still carried plenty of sediment from normal spring rains and runoff.

On May 9, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers began opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway to relieve pressure on levees along the fast-rising Mississippi River. By May 15, most of the bays in the spillway were open and diverting water into Lake Pontchartrain. The resulting plume of sediment is visible in the image below from May 17.

Though the plume is smaller than on April 29, it contains a much higher concentration of sediment.Image acquired May 17 2011. Image source: Jesse Allen /NASA Earth Observatory

This image also shows the first burst of sediment entering the Gulf of Mexico from the Atchafalaya River. The Old River Flood Control Structure in central Louisiana is used each year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redirect some of the flow from the Mississippi River to the Atchafalaya. This year on May 14, the Corps also began to divert water from the Mississippi through the Morganza Floodway. Whether from Old River or Morganza, the sediment-bearing flood waters reached the Gulf of Mexico on May 17. Though the plume is smaller than on April 29, it contains a much higher concentration of sediment.

Image acquired June 1st, 2011. By this time, the flow from the flood had slowed. The sediment plume in Lake Pontchartrain is smaller and less concentrated. In the Gulf of Mexico, however, the sediment has spread over a much wider area. Image source: Jesse Allen /NASA Earth Observatory

All of this sediment carries nutrients like iron and nitrogen from Midwestern and Southern U.S. farms into the Gulf of Mexico.

In May, an estimated 164,000 metric tons of nitrogen, 35 percent more than average, entered the Gulf, reported NOAA. These nutrients feed phytoplankton, which are anticipated to flourish in coming weeks.

When the plankton die, bacteria break them down, consuming oxygen in the process. Eventually, the decaying phytoplankton and gorging bacteria will sap much of the oxygen from the water, creating a dead zone where other marine life cannot survive. NOAA expects the Gulf of Mexico dead zone to reach between 8,500 and 9,421 square miles in 2011, which would make it the largest dead zone to develop since measurements began in 1985.

Original Article

Flooding to Cause Large Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, NOAA

Stiff Sediments Made 2004 Earthquake Deadliest in History

Kata Noi Receding Tsunami
Maximum recession of tsunami waters at Kata Noi Beach, Phuket, Thailand, before the 3rd, and strongest, tsunami wave (sea visible in the right corner. 26 December 2004). Receding tsunami waters at Kata Noi Beach. Caption and photo source: PHG


An international team of geoscientists has discovered an unusual geological formation that helps explain how an undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in December 2004 spawned the deadliest tsunami in recorded history…

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Read Original Article, from University of Texas, in Science Daily

Islands Going Under, The Carteret Islands

The Carteret Islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea are drowning as a result of climate change related sea level rise.

The combined effects of sea level rise, erosion, storm surges and salinity of the soil, are making The Carteret inhabitable. For 30 years, the people of the islands have been fighting a losing battle to protect their island.

Rising sea levels have eroded much of the coastlines of the low lying Carteret islands, and waves have crashed over the lands flooding and destroying what little crop gardens the islanders have. Salt waters have contaminated their water supply as well.

Featured Photo: ©Greenpeace

A Greenpeace Video

75th Aftershock of Magnitude 6 or Higher, Hits Near Japan East Coast

Image source: NASA


A magnitude 6.7 earthquake rocked Japan today, the 75th aftershock of at least magnitude 6.0 from the devastating magnitude 9.0 quake on March 11, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Japan has been rocked by hundreds of aftershocks since the deadly 9.0 Tohoku earthquake, the biggest in Japan’s recorded history…

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Study details significant sea level rise

Beach Erosion at the Outer Banks. Photo source: ©© Soil Science


The rate of sea level rise along the U.S. Atlantic coast is greater now than at any time in the past 2,000 years, and has shown a consistent link between changes in global mean surface temperature and sea level. The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)…

The team found that sea level was relatively stable from 200 BC to 1,000 AD. Then in the 11th century, sea level rose by about half a millimeter each year for 400 years, linked with a warm climate period known as the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Since the late 19th century, sea level has risen by more than 2 millimeters per year on average, the steepest rate for more than 2,100 years…

Read Original Article, from “Climate related sea-level variations over the past two millennia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2011”, in Science Daily

Pennsylvania University, Benjamin Horton Sea level Rise

Study details significant sea level rise, AP Article

Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

Ongoing Sand Mining Mafia, Konkan coast, India

Sand mining, Alappuzha, Kerala State, India. Photo source: ©© Christopher Macsurak


Maharashtra’s creeks and the Konkan coast are falling prey to the sand mafia, which carries out its illegal activities with the blessings of local politicians. The builders’ lobby has a huge interest in sand got through the dredging, as the material is then sent to cities where it is used in construction. Illegal sand mining is estimated to have an annual turnover of Rs 1,000 crore, according to activists tracking the trade.

Sand mining had come to a near standstill last year after the Bombay High Court banned it…

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The Speed of Change: Oceans in Distress, An International Report

WATCH: State of the Oceans: The Speed of Change

Professor Chris Reid Marine Institute, University of Plymouth and Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science highlights the speed of change which has been greater than most scientists predicted even in worst case scenarios.

Pollution and global warming are pushing the world’s oceans to the brink of a mass extinction of marine life unseen for tens of millions of years, a consortium of scientists warned Monday.

Dying coral reefs, biodiversity ravaged by invasive species, expanding open-water “dead zones,” toxic algae blooms, the massive depletion of big fish stocks, all are accelerating, they said in a report compiled during an April meeting in Oxford of 27 of the world’s top ocean experts.

Sponsored by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), the review of recent science found that ocean health has declined further and faster than dire forecasts only a few years ago…

Read AFP Article

State Of The Oceans: The International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO)

Multiple Ocean Stresses Threaten “Globally Significant” Marine Extinction; Report
By The International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO)

Photo source: Blue Voice / Gene Flipsy

A high-level international workshop convened by IPSO met at the University of Oxford earlier this year. It was the first inter-disciplinary international meeting of marine scientists of its kind and was designed to consider the cumulative impact of multiple stressors on the ocean, including warming, acidification, and overfishing.

The International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) was established by scientists with the aim of saving the Earth and all life on it.

The 3 day workshop, co-sponsored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), looked at the latest science across different disciplines.

The 27 participants from 18 organisations in 6 countries produced a grave assessment of current threats, and a stark conclusion about future risks to marine and human life if the current trajectory of damage continues: that the world’s ocean is at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.

Delegates called for urgent and unequivocal action to halt further declines in ocean health.

The report summary (released 21 June 2011) outlines the main findings and recommendations. The full report will be released at a later date.

Read IPSO Press Release

Report, Short Version

IPSO, State of the Oceans

The report is also accompanied by four case studies, which look in more detail at some of the workshop’s main findings.

WATCH: State of the Oceans: The IPSO Four Case Studies; 4 Short Videos

In “The Story of Corals Video“, Professor Charles Sheppard, Warwick University gives further perspective to the extinction threat facing coral reefs and stresses that the knock-on effects are already being felt on land.

Is it really Possible a Mass Extinction Could Happen?” In this latest video, Dr. Alex Rogers, Scientific Director of IPSO and Professor of Conservation Biology at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, gives the overview of the main problems affecting the ocean — and some suggested solutions.

Original Article and Videos

The mission of the Santa Aguila Foundation is to raise awareness of and mobilize people against the ongoing decimation of coastlines around the world.

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