Home > Explore Data & Reports > Space-Time Geostatistical Assessment of Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
Region(s) of Study: Waterbodies / Gulf of Mexico
Primary Contact(s): david.hilmer@noaa.gov


Matli, V.R.R., S. Fang, J. Guinness, N.N. Rabalais, J.K. Craig, and D.R. Obenour. 2018. Space-Time Geostatistical Assessment of Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Environmental Science and Technology, 52(21):12484-12493. doi:10.1021/acs.est.8b03474

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Nearly every summer, a large hypoxic zone forms in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Research on the causes and consequences of hypoxia requires reliable estimates of hypoxic extent, which can vary at sub-monthly time scales due to hydro-meteorological variability. Here, we use an innovative space-time geostatistical model and data collected by multiple research organizations to estimate bottom-water dissolved oxygen (BWDO) concentrations and hypoxic area across summers from 1985 to 2016. We find that 27% of variability in BWDO is explained by deterministic trends with location, depth, and date, while correlated stochasticity accounts for 62% of observational variance within a range of 185 km and 28 days. Space-time modeling reduces uncertainty in estimated hypoxic area by 30% when compared to a spatial-only model, and results provide new insights into the temporal variability of hypoxia. For years with shelf-wide cruises in multiple months, hypoxia is most severe in July in 59% of years, 29% in August, and 12% in June. Also, midsummer cruise estimates of hypoxic area are only modestly correlated with summer-wide (June-August) average estimates (r2=0.5), suggesting midsummer cruises are not necessarily reflective of seasonal hypoxic severity. Furthermore, summer-wide estimates are more strongly correlated with nutrient loading than midsummer estimates.

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