Scientists have just discovered that a huge "dead zone" in the Gulf of Oman has increased in size. Climate change is the likeliest culprit behind the increase of the "dead zone."
How Did They Study This?
Researchers from the University of East Anglia were studying a known "dead zone" in the Gulf of Oman. It is located by the Arabian Sea near the nations of Pakistan, Oman, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates.
Dr. Bastien Queste from UEA's School of Environmental Sciences coordinated the research effort. Oman's Sultan Qaboos University collaborated with UEA for the research.
"Our research shows that the situation is actually worse than feared — and that the area of dead zone is vast and growing," Queste said in a press release. "The ocean is suffocating."
The "dead zone" was discovered in the 1960s, but it was significantly smaller back then. Today, the "dead zone" is roughly the size of Scotland or Florida. It is considered to be the world's largest Oxygen Minimum Zone (OMZ).
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that a 'dead zone,' which is also called a hypoxia, refers to an area of water with a reduced level of oxygen. Hundreds of them exist around the world, including one in the Gulf of Mexico.
Queste said that scientists were unable to send ships to the Gulf of Oman for many decades because of the rough conditions in the area. To study the "dead zone" in detail, UEA dispatched two underwater robots known as Seagliders. It took eight months for the Seagliders to collect enough data about the harsh state of the area. Researchers combined the data collected underwater with a computer simulation to illustrate how bad the situation is.
The findings were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on April 27.
What Are The Causes And Effects Of A 'Dead Zone?'
Based on the data, Queste concluded that climate change caused the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Oman to increase in size. He specifically said that fertilizer and sanitation issues contributed to the problem.
As a result of the increase in size, there is less oxygen for marine life in the area.
"Marine plants and other animals need oxygen, so they can't survive there," Queste said. "It's a real environmental problem, with dire consequences for humans too who rely on the oceans for food and employment."
Without a solution, this "dead zone" will likely grow in size.