How does the character of oxygen demand control the structure of hypoxia on the TexasLouisiana continental shelf? Academic Article uri icon


  • A realistic hydrodynamic model of the Texas-Louisiana shelf is configured with various simple oxygen respiration models to isolate the effects of stratification and circulation on the formation and maintenance of hypoxia. Biological activity is parameterized through various forms of respiration rather than using a complex biogeochemical model. The model domain covers the region that has historically been observed to be affected by seasonal hypoxia, and is forced with observed fresh water fluxes from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers and winds. Three simple parameterizations of biological respiration are compared. Results of the numerical simulations indicate that water column respiration (dependent on the position of the two regional fresh water plumes) reproduces observed temporal and spatial structures of seasonal hypoxia in Louisiana Bight, whereas benthic respiration (dependent on local temperature and oxygen concentrations) reproduces the temporal and spatial structure of hypoxia west of Terrebonne Bay. The differences in the structure of hypoxia are related to the differences in vertical stratification east and west of Terrebonne Bay, which are controlled by the outflow characteristics from the two major river plumes. The model shows two dynamically distinct plumes. The Mississippi River plume enters the shelf near the shelf edge, forms a recirculating gyre in Louisiana Bight, and typically does not interact directly with topography. Conversely, the Atchafalaya River plume enters a broad shelf at the coast, is more diffuse, and interacts more with the shallow coastal topography. Both plumes are strongly affected by winds, and tend offshore during the mean summer conditions of upwelling winds. The principle conclusion of this study is that the biological processes responsible for producing hypoxia change from east to west, with the shelf region south of Terrebone Bay being the approximate dividing line between water column respiration (predominantly causing hypoxia to the east) and benthic respiration (causing hypoxia to the west). Also, the formation and destruction of hypoxia is a primarily vertical process; hypoxia formed in one region is not advected laterally to different shelf regions. 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Marine Systems

author list (cited authors)

  • Hetland, R. D., & DiMarco, S. F.

publication date

  • January 1, 2008 11:11 AM