Hydrodynamic and Biochemical Impacts on the Development of Hypoxia in the Louisiana–Texas Shelf Part I: Numerical Modeling and Hypoxia Mechanisms
Abstract. A three-dimensional coupled hydrodynamic–biogeochemical model with N, P, Si cycles and multiple phytoplankton and zooplankton functional groups was developed and applied to the Gulf of Mexico to study bottom dissolved oxygen dynamics. A 15-year hindcast was achieved covering the period of 2006–2020. Extensive model validation against in situ data demonstrates that the model is capable of reproducing vertical distributions of dissolved oxygen (DO), frequency distributions of hypoxia thickness, spatial distributions of bottom DO concentration and interannual variations of hypoxic area. The impacts of river plume and along-shore currents on bottom DO dynamics were examined based on multiyear bottom DO climatology, the corresponding long-term trends, and interannual variability. Model results suggest that mechanisms of bottom hypoxia developments are different between the west and east Louisiana–Texas Shelf waters. The mid-Atchafalaya nearshore (10–20 m) region firstly suffers from hypoxia in May, followed by the west-Mississippi nearshore region in June. Hypoxic waters expand in the following months and eventually merge in August. Sediment oxygen consumption (SOC) and water stratification (measured by potential energy anomaly, PEA) are two main factors modulating the variability of bottom DO concentration. Generalized Boosted Regression Models provide analysis of the relative importance of PEA and SOC. The analysis indicates that SOC is the main regulator in nearshore regions, and water stratification outcompetes the sedimentary biochemical processes in the offshore (20–50 m) regions. A strong quadratic relationship was found between hypoxic volume and hypoxic area, which suggests that the volume mostly results from the low DO in bottom water and can be potentially estimated based on the hypoxic area.
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