Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico (Spanish: Golfo de México) is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean,[1] largely surrounded by the North American continent.[2] It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. The U.S. states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida border the Gulf on the north, which are often referred to as the "Third Coast", in comparison with the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The Gulf of Mexico formed approximately 300 million years ago as a result of plate tectonics.[3] The Gulf of Mexico basin is roughly oval and is approximately 810 nautical miles (1,500 km; 930 mi) wide and floored by sedimentary rocks and recent sediments. It is connected to part of the Atlantic Ocean through the Florida Straits between the U.S. and Cuba, and with the Caribbean Sea (with which it forms the American Mediterranean Sea) via the Yucatán Channel between Mexico and Cuba. With the narrow connection to the Atlantic, the Gulf experiences very small tidal ranges. The size of the Gulf basin is approximately 1.6 million km2 (615,000 sq mi). Almost half of the basin is shallow continental shelf waters. The basin contains a volume of roughly 2,500 quadrillion liters (550 quadrillion Imperial gallons, 660 quadrillion US gallons, 2.5 million km3 or 600,000 cu mi).[4] The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most important offshore petroleum production regions in the world, comprising one-sixth of the United States' total production.[5]

Gulf of Mexico
Fixed gulf map
Bathymetry of the Gulf of Mexico
LocationAmerican Mediterranean Sea
Coordinates25°N 90°W / 25°N 90°WCoordinates: 25°N 90°W / 25°N 90°W
River sourcesRio Grande, Mississippi River
Ocean/sea sourcesAtlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea
Basin countriesUnited States
Mexico
Cuba
Max. width1,500 km (932.06 mi)
Surface area1,550,000 km2 (600,000 sq mi)
SettlementsHouston, New Orleans, Corpus Christi, Tampa, Havana, Campeche, Mobile, Gulfport, Tampico, Key West
Verner Moore White - The Harbor at Galveston
Galveston harbor by Verner Moore White
Gulf of Mexico with ship
Ship and oil rigs in the Gulf

Extent

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the southeast limit of the Gulf of Mexico as follows:[6]

A line leaving Cape Catoche Light (21°37′N 87°04′W / 21.617°N 87.067°W) with the Light on Cape San Antonio in Cuba, through this island to the meridian of 83°W and to the Northward along this meridian to the latitude of the South point of the Dry Tortugas (24°35'N), along this parallel Eastward to Rebecca Shoal (82°35'W) thence through the shoals and Florida Keys to the mainland at eastern end of Florida Bay, all the narrow waters between the Dry Tortugas and the mainland being considered to be within the Gulf.

Geology

Sediment in the Gulf of Mexico
Sediment in the Gulf of Mexico

The consensus among geologists[3][7][8] who have studied the geology of the Gulf of Mexico is that before the Late Triassic, the Gulf of Mexico did not exist. Before the Late Triassic, the area now occupied by the Gulf of Mexico consisted of dry land, which included continental crust that now underlies Yucatán, within the middle of the large supercontinent of Pangea. This land lay south of a continuous mountain range that extended from north-central Mexico, through the Marathon Uplift in West Texas and the Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma, and to Alabama where it linked directly to the Appalachian Mountains. It was created by the collision of continental plates that formed Pangea. As interpreted by Roy Van Arsdale and Randel T. Cox, this mountain range was breached in Late Cretaceous times by the formation of the Mississippi Embayment.[9][10]

Geologists and other Earth scientists agree in general that the present Gulf of Mexico basin originated in Late Triassic time as the result of rifting within Pangea.[11] The rifting was associated with zones of weakness within Pangea, including sutures where the Laurentia, South American, and African plates collided to create it. First, there was a Late Triassic-Early Jurassic phase of rifting during which rift valleys formed and filled with continental red beds. Second, as rifting progressed through Early and Middle Jurassic time, continental crust was stretched and thinned. This thinning created a broad zone of transitional crust, which displays modest and uneven thinning with block faulting, and a broad zone of uniformly thinned transitional crust, which is half the typical 40 kilometer thickness of normal continental crust. It was at this time that rifting first created a connection to the Pacific Ocean across central Mexico and later eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. This flooded the opening basin to create the Gulf of Mexico as an enclosed marginal sea. While the Gulf of Mexico was a restricted basin, the subsiding transitional crust was blanketed by the widespread deposition of Louann Salt and associated anhydrite evaporites. During the Late Jurassic, continued rifting widened the Gulf of Mexico and progressed to the point that sea-floor spreading and formation of oceanic crust occurred. At this point, sufficient circulation with the Atlantic Ocean was established that the deposition of Louann Salt ceased.[7][8][12][13] Seafloor spreading stopped at the end of Jurassic time, about 145-150 million years ago.

During the Late Jurassic through Early Cretaceous, the basin occupied by the Gulf of Mexico experienced a period of cooling and subsidence of the crust underlying it. The subsidence was the result of a combination of crustal stretching, cooling, and loading. Initially, the combination of crustal stretching and cooling caused about 5–7 km of tectonic subsidence of the central thin transitional and oceanic crust. Because subsidence occurred faster than sediment could fill it, the Gulf of Mexico expanded and deepened.[7][13][14]

Later, loading of the crust within the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent coastal plain by the accumulation of kilometers of sediments during the rest of the Mesozoic and all of the Cenozoic further depressed the underlying crust to its current position about 10–20 km below sea level. Particularly during the Cenozoic, thick clastic wedges built out the continental shelf along the northwestern and northern margins of the Gulf of Mexico.[7][13][14]

To the east, the stable Florida platform was not covered by the sea until the latest Jurassic or the beginning of Cretaceous time. The Yucatán platform was emergent until the mid-Cretaceous. After both platforms were submerged, the formation of carbonates and evaporites has characterized the geologic history of these two stable areas. Most of the basin was rimmed during the Early Cretaceous by carbonate platforms, and its western flank was involved during the latest Cretaceous and early Paleogene periods in a compressive deformation episode, the Laramide Orogeny, which created the Sierra Madre Oriental of eastern Mexico.[15]

In 2002 geologist Michael Stanton published a speculative essay suggesting an impact origin for the Gulf of Mexico at the close of the Permian, which could have caused the Permian–Triassic extinction event.[16] However, Gulf Coast geologists do not regard this hypothesis as having any credibility. Instead they overwhelmingly accept plate tectonics, not an asteroid impact, as having created the Gulf of Mexico as illustrated by papers authored by Kevin Mickus and others.[3][8][13][17] This hypothesis is not to be confused with the Chicxulub Crater, a large impact crater on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico on the Yucatán Peninsula. Increasingly, the Gulf of Mexico is regarded as a backarc basin behind the Jurassic Nazas Arc of Mexico [18]

In 2014 Erik Cordes of Temple University and others discovered a brine pool 3,300 feet (1,005.8 m) feet below the gulf's surface, with a circumference of 100 feet (30.5 m) and 12 feet (3.7 m) feet deep, which is four to five times saltier than the rest of the water. The first exploration of the site was unmanned, using Hercules, and in 2015, a team of three used the Alvin. The site cannot sustain any kind of life other than bacteria, mussels with a symbiotic relationship, tube worms and certain kinds of shrimp. It has been called the "Jacuzzi of Despair". Because it is warmer than the surrounding water (65 °F (18.3 °C) degrees compared to 39 °F (3.9 °C)), wildlife have been attracted to it and could not survive.[19]

Today, the Gulf of Mexico has the following 7 main areas:[15]

  • Gulf of Mexico basin, which contains the Sigsbee Deep and can be further divided into the continental rise, the Sigsbee Abyssal Plain, and the Mississippi Cone.
  • Northeast Gulf of Mexico, which extends from a point east of the Mississippi River Delta near Biloxi to the eastern side of Apalachee Bay.
  • South Florida Continental Shelf and Slope, which extends along the coast from Apalachee Bay to the Straits of Florida and includes the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas.
  • Campeche Bank, which extends from the Yucatán Straits in the east to the Tabasco–Campeche Basin in the west and includes Arrecife Alacran.
  • Bay of Campeche, which is an isthmian embayment extending from the western edge of Campeche Bank to the offshore regions just east of the port of Veracruz.
  • Western Gulf of Mexico, which is located between Veracruz to the south and the Rio Grande to the north.
  • Northwest Gulf of Mexico, which extends from Alabama to the Rio Grande.

History

European exploration

Fishing Fleet in Biloxi
Fishing boats in Biloxi
GulfMexTemps 2005Hurricanes
Graph showing the overall water temperature of the Gulf between Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Although Katrina cooled waters in its path by up to 4 °C, they had rebounded by the time of Rita's appearance.

Although Christopher Columbus was credited with the discovery of the Americas by Europeans, the ships in his four voyages never reached the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, Columbus sailed into the Caribbean around Cuba and Hispaniola. The first European exploration of the Gulf of Mexico was by Amerigo Vespucci in 1497. He followed the coastal land mass of Central America before returning to the Atlantic Ocean via the Straits of Florida between Florida and Cuba. In his letters, Vespucci described this trip, and once Juan de la Cosa returned to Spain, a famous world map, depicting Cuba as an island, was produced.

In 1506, Hernán Cortés took part in the conquest of Hispaniola and Cuba, receiving a large estate of land and Indian slaves for his effort. In 1510, he accompanied Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, an aide of the governor of Hispaniola, in his expedition to conquer Cuba. In 1518 Velázquez put him in command of an expedition to explore and secure the interior of Mexico for colonization.

In 1517, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba discovered the Yucatán Peninsula. This was the first European encounter with an advanced civilization in the Americas, with solidly built buildings and a complex social organization which they recognized as being comparable to those of the Old World; they also had reason to expect that this new land would have gold. All of this encouraged two further expeditions, the first in 1518 under the command of Juan de Grijalva, and the second in 1519 under the command of Hernán Cortés, which led to the Spanish exploration, military invasion, and ultimately settlement and colonization known as the Conquest of Mexico. Hernández did not live to see the continuation of his work: he died in 1517, the year of his expedition, as the result of the injuries and the extreme thirst suffered during the voyage, and disappointed in the knowledge that Diego Velázquez had given precedence to Grijalva as the captain of the next expedition to Yucatán.

In 1523, Ángel de Villafañe sailed toward Mexico City, but was shipwrecked en route along the coast of Padre Island, Texas, in 1554. When word of the disaster reached Mexico City, the viceroy requested a rescue fleet and immediately sent Villafañe marching overland to find the treasure-laden vessels. Villafañe traveled to Pánuco and hired a ship to transport him to the site, which had already been visited from that community. He arrived in time to greet García de Escalante Alvarado (a nephew of Pedro de Alvarado), commander of the salvage operation, when Alvarado arrived by sea on July 22, 1554. The team labored until September 12 to salvage the Padre Island treasure. This loss, in combination with other ship disasters around the Gulf of Mexico, gave rise to a plan for establishing a settlement on the northern Gulf Coast to protect shipping and more quickly rescue castaways. As a result, the expedition of Tristán de Luna y Arellano was sent and landed at Pensacola Bay on August 15, 1559.

On December 11, 1526, Charles V granted Pánfilo de Narváez a license to claim what is now the Gulf Coast of the United States, known as the Narváez expedition. The contract gave him one year to gather an army, leave Spain, be large enough to found at least two towns of 100 people each, and garrison two more fortresses anywhere along the coast. On April 7, 1528, they spotted land north of what is now Tampa Bay. They turned south and traveled for two days looking for a great harbor the master pilot Miruelo knew of. Sometime during these two days, one of the five remaining ships was lost on the rugged coast, but nothing else is known of it.

In 1697, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville sailed for France and was chosen by the Minister of Marine to lead an expedition to rediscover the mouth of the Mississippi River and to colonize Louisiana which the English coveted. Iberville's fleet sailed from Brest on October 24, 1698. On January 25, 1699, Iberville reached Santa Rosa Island in front of Pensacola founded by the Spanish; he sailed from there to Mobile Bay and explored Massacre Island, later renamed Dauphin Island. He cast anchor between Cat Island and Ship Island; and on February 13, 1699, he went to the mainland, Biloxi, with his brother Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville.[20] On May 1, 1699, he completed a fort on the north-east side of the Bay of Biloxi, a little to the rear of what is now Ocean Springs, Mississippi. This fort was known as Fort Maurepas or Old Biloxi. A few days later, on May 4, Pierre Le Moyne sailed for France leaving his teenage brother, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, as second in command to the French commandant.

Shipwrecks

The Mardi Gras shipwreck around the early-19th century about 35 miles off the coast of Louisiana in 4,000 feet (1220 meters) of water. She is believed to have been a privateer or trader. The shipwreck, whose real identity remains a mystery, lay forgotten at the bottom of the sea until it was discovered in 2002 by an oilfield inspection crew working for the Okeanos Gas Gathering Company (OGGC). In May 2007, an expedition, led by Texas A&M University and funded by OGGC under an agreement with the Minerals Management Service (now BOEM), was launched to undertake the deepest scientific archaeological excavation ever attempted at that time to study the site on the seafloor and recover artifacts for eventual public display in the Louisiana State Museum. As part of the project educational outreach Nautilus Productions in partnership with BOEM, Texas A&M University, the Florida Public Archaeology Network[21] and Veolia Environmental produced a one-hour HD documentary[22] about the project, short videos for public viewing and provided video updates during the expedition. Video footage from the ROV was an integral part of this outreach and used extensively in the Mystery Mardi Gras Shipwreck documentary.[23]

On July 30, 1942 the Robert E. Lee, captained by William C. Heath, was torpedoed by the German submarine U-166. She was sailing southeast of the entrance to the Mississippi River when the explosion destroyed the #3 hold, vented through the B and C decks and damaged the engines, the radio compartment and the steering gear. After the attack she was under escort by the USS PC-566, captained by LCDR Herbert G. Claudius, en route to New Orleans. The USS PC-566 began dropping depth charges on a sonar contact, sinking the U-166. The badly damaged Robert E. Lee first listed to port then to starboard and finally sank within about 15 minutes of the attack. One officer, nine crewmen and 15 passengers were lost. Ironically the passengers aboard the Robert E. Lee were primarily survivors of previous torpedo attacks by German U-boats.[24] The wreck's precise location was discovered during the C & C Marine survey that located the U-166.

The German submarine U-166 was a Type IXC U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II. The submarine was laid down on December 6, 1940 at the Seebeckwerft (part of Deutsche Schiff- und Maschinenbau AG, Deschimag) at Wesermünde (modern Bremerhaven) as yard number 705, launched on November 1, 1941 and commissioned on March 23, 1942 under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Günther Kuhlmann. After training with the 4th U-boat Flotilla, U-166 was transferred to the 10th U-boat Flotilla for front-line service on June 1, 1942. The U-boat sailed on only two war patrols and sank four ships totalling 7,593 gross register tons (GRT).[25] She was sunk on July 30, 1942 in Gulf of Mexico.[26]

In 2001 the wreck of U-166 was found in 5,000 feet (1,500 m) of water, less than two miles from where it had attacked the Robert E. Lee. An archaeological survey of the seafloor before construction of a natural gas pipeline led to the discoveries by C & C Marine archaeologists Robert A. Church and Daniel J. Warren. The sonar contacts consisted of two large sections lying approximately 500 feet apart at either end of a debris field that indicated the presence of a U-boat.[27]

Geography

Wide natural beach near Sabine Pass
Gulf beach near Sabine Pass
Mississippiriver-new-01
The Mississippi River Watershed is the largest drainage basin of the Gulf of Mexico Watershed.[28]
Northern Gulf of Mexico map
Map of northern part of Gulf of Mexico
Caribbean Sea Gulf of Mexico shaded relief bathymetry land map
The shaded relief map of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean area.[29][30]

The Gulf of Mexico's eastern, northern, and northwestern shores lie along the US states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The US portion of the Gulf coastline spans 1,680 miles (2,700 km), receiving water from 33 major rivers that drain 31 states.[31] The Gulf's southwestern and southern shores lie along the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, and the northernmost tip of Quintana Roo. The Mexican portion of the Gulf coastline spans 1,743 miles (2,805 km). On its southeast quadrant the Gulf is bordered by Cuba. It supports major American, Mexican and Cuban fishing industries. The outer margins of the wide continental shelves of Yucatán and Florida receive cooler, nutrient-enriched waters from the deep by a process known as upwelling, which stimulates plankton growth in the euphotic zone. This attracts fish, shrimp, and squid.[32] River drainage and atmospheric fallout from industrial coastal cities also provide nutrients to the coastal zone.

The Gulf Stream, a warm Atlantic Ocean current and one of the strongest ocean currents known, originates in the gulf, as a continuation of the Caribbean Current-Yucatán Current-Loop Current system. Other circulation features include the anticyclonic gyres which are shed by the Loop Current and travel westward where they eventually dissipate, and a permanent cyclonic gyre in the Bay of Campeche. The Bay of Campeche in Mexico constitutes a major arm of the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, the gulf's shoreline is fringed by numerous bays and smaller inlets. A number of rivers empty into the gulf, most notably the Mississippi River and Rio Grande in the northern gulf, and the Grijalva and Usumacinta rivers in the southern gulf. The land that forms the gulf's coast, including many long, narrow barrier islands, is almost uniformly low-lying and is characterized by marshes and swamps as well as stretches of sandy beach.

The Gulf of Mexico is an excellent example of a passive margin. The continental shelf is quite wide at most points along the coast, most notably at the Florida and Yucatán Peninsulas. The shelf is exploited for its oil by means of offshore drilling rigs, most of which are situated in the western gulf and in the Bay of Campeche. Another important commercial activity is fishing; major catches include red snapper, amberjack, tilefish, swordfish, and various grouper, as well as shrimp and crabs. Oysters are also harvested on a large scale from many of the bays and sounds. Other important industries along the coast include shipping, petrochemical processing and storage, military use, paper manufacture, and tourism.

The gulf's warm water temperature can feed powerful Atlantic hurricanes causing extensive human death and other destruction as happened with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the Atlantic, a hurricane will draw up cool water from the depths and making it less likely that further hurricanes will follow in its wake (warm water being one of the preconditions necessary for their formation). However, the Gulf is shallower; when a hurricane passes over the water temperature may drop but it soon rebounds and becomes capable of supporting another tropical storm.[33]

The Gulf is considered aseismic; however, mild tremors have been recorded throughout history (usually 5.0 or less on the Richter magnitude scale). Earthquakes may be caused by interactions between sediment loading on the sea floor and adjustment by the crust.[34]

2006 earthquake

On September 10, 2006, the U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center reported that a magnitude 6.0 earthquake occurred about 250 miles (400 km) west-southwest of Anna Maria, Florida, around 10:56 AM EDT. The quake was reportedly felt from Louisiana to Florida in the Southeastern United States. There were no reports of damage or injuries.[35][36] Items were knocked from shelves and seiches were observed in swimming pools in parts of Florida.[37] The earthquake was described by the USGS as an intraplate earthquake, the largest and most widely felt recorded in the past three decades in the region.[37] According to the September 11, 2006 issue of The Tampa Tribune, earthquake tremors were last felt in Florida in 1952, recorded in Quincy, 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Tallahassee

Maritime boundary delimitation agreements

Cuba and Mexico: Exchange of notes constituting an agreement on the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone of Mexico in the sector adjacent to Cuban maritime areas (with map), of July 26, 1976.

Cuba and United States: Maritime boundary agreement between the United States of America and the Republic of Cuba, of December 16, 1977.

Mexico and United States: Treaty to resolve pending boundary differences and maintain the Rio Grande and Colorado River as the international boundary, of November 23, 1970; Treaty on maritime boundaries between the United States of America and the United Mexican States (Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean), of May 4, 1978, and Treaty between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Mexican States on the delimitation of the continental shelf in the Western Gulf of Mexico beyond 200 nautical miles (370 km), of June 9, 2000.

On December 13, 2007, Mexico submitted information to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) regarding the extension of Mexico's continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.[38] Mexico sought an extension of its continental shelf in the Western Polygon based on international law, UNCLOS, and bilateral treaties with the United States, in accordance with Mexico's domestic legislation. On March 13, 2009, the CLCS accepted Mexico's arguments for extending its continental shelf up to 350 NM into the Western Polygon. Since this would extend Mexico's continental shelf well into territory claimed by the United States, however, Mexico and the U.S. would need to enter a bilateral agreement based on international law that delimits their respective claims.

Biota

Various biota include chemosynthetic communities near cold seeps and nonchemosynthetic communities such as bacteria and other micro – benthos, meiofauna, macrofauna, and megafauna (larger organisms such as crabs, sea pens, crinoids, and demersal fish and cetaceans including endangered ones) are living in the Gulf of Mexico.[39] Recently, resident Bryde's whales within the gulf were classified as an endemic, unique subspecies and making them as one of the most endangered whales in the world.[40] The Gulf of Mexico yields more finfish, shrimp, and shellfish annually than the south and mid-Atlantic, Chesapeake, and New England areas combined.[4]

The Smithsonian Institution Gulf of Mexico holdings are expected to provide an important baseline of understanding for future scientific studies on the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.[41] In Congressional testimony, Dr. Jonathan Coddington, Associate Director of Research and Collections at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, provides a detailed overview of the Gulf collections and their sources which Museum staff have made available on an online map. The samples were collected for years by the former Minerals Management Service (renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) to help predict the potential impacts of future oil/gas explorations. Since 1979, the specimens have been deposited in the national collections of the National Museum of Natural History.[42]

Pollution

The major environmental threats to the Gulf are agricultural runoff and oil drilling.

There are frequent "red tide" algae blooms[43] that kill fish and marine mammals and cause respiratory problems in humans and some domestic animals when the blooms reach close to shore. This has especially been plaguing the southwest and southern Florida coast, from the Florida Keys to north of Pasco County, Florida.

In 1973 the United States Environmental Protection Agency prohibited the dumping of undiluted chemical waste by manufacturing interests into the Gulf and the military confessed to similar behavior in waters off Horn Island.[44]

The Gulf contains a hypoxic dead zone that runs by east-west along the Texas-Louisiana coastline. In July 2008, researchers reported that between 1985 and 2008, the area roughly doubled in size and now stretches from near Galveston, Texas, to near Venice, Louisiana. It is now about 8,000 square miles (21,000 km2), nearly the record.[45] Poor agricultural practices in the northern portion of the Gulf of Mexico have led to a tremendous increase of nitrogen and phosphorus in neighboring marine ecosystems, which has resulted in algae blooms and a lack of available oxygen. Occurrences of masculinization and estrogen suppression were observed as a result. An October 2007 study of the Atlantic croaker found a disproportioned sex ratio of 61% males to 39% females in hypoxic Gulf sites. This was compared with a 52% to 48% male-female ratio found in reference sites, showing an impairment of reproductive output for fish populations inhabiting hypoxic coastal zones.[46]

Microplastics within semi-enclosed seas like the Gulf have been reported in high concentrations and the Gulf's first such study estimated concentrations that rival the highest globally reported.[47]

There are 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells beneath the Gulf. These have generally not been checked for potential environmental problems.[48]

Ixtoc I explosion and oil spill

In June 1979, the Ixtoc I oil platform in the Bay of Campeche suffered a blowout leading to a catastrophic explosion, which resulted in a massive oil spill that continued for nine months before the well was finally capped. This was ranked as the largest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, located in the Mississippi Canyon about 40 miles (64 km) off the Louisiana coast, suffered a catastrophic explosion; it sank a day-and-a-half later.[49] It was in the process of being sealed with cement for temporary abandonment, to avoid environmental problems.[48] Although initial reports indicated that relatively little oil had leaked, by April 24, it was claimed by BP that approximately 1,000 barrels (160 m3) of oil per day were issuing from the wellhead, about 1-mile (1.6 km) below the surface on the ocean floor.[50] On April 29, the U.S. government revealed that approximately 5,000 barrels (790 m3) per day, five times the original estimate, were pouring into the Gulf from the wellhead.[51] The resulting oil slick quickly expanded to cover hundreds of square miles of ocean surface, posing a serious threat to marine life and adjacent coastal wetlands, and to the livelihoods of Gulf Coast shrimpers and fishermen.[52] Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sally Brice O'Hare stated that the U.S. government will be "employing booms, skimmers, chemical dispersants and controlled burns" to combat the oil spill. By May 1, 2010, the oil spill cleanup efforts were underway, but hampered by rough seas and the "tea like" consistency of the oil. Cleanup operations were resumed after conditions became favorable. On May 27, 2010, The USGS had revised the estimate of the leak from 5,000 barrels per day (790 m3/d) to 12,000–19,000 barrels per day (3,000 m3/d)[53] an increase from earlier estimates. On July 15, 2010, BP announced that the leak stopped for the first time in 88 days.

In July 2015 BP reached an $18.7bn settlement with the US government, the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, as well as 400 local authorities. To date BP's cost for the clean-up, environmental and economic damages and penalties has reached $54bn.[54]

Minor oil spills

According to the National Response Center, the oil industry has thousands of minor accidents in the Gulf of Mexico every year.[55]

Brutus oil spill

On May 12, 2016, a release of oil from subsea infrastructure on Shell's Brutus oil rig released 2,100 barrels of oil. This leak created a visible 2 mile by 13 mile oil slick in the sea about 97 miles south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.[55]

See also

US Gulf of Mexico Protraction areas

References

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External links

2006 Gulf of Mexico earthquake

The 2006 Gulf of Mexico earthquake occurred in the eastern Gulf of Mexico on September 10 at 10:56 AM Eastern Daylight Time. The intraplate earthquake measured 5.8 on the moment magnitude scale and its epicenter was located about 250 miles west-southwest of Anna Maria, Florida. The event was felt throughout much of the Gulf Coast of the United States and was the second earthquake of magnitude 5 or greater in the Gulf during 2006. Felt intensities, as measured on the Mercalli intensity scale, were as high as IV (Light) in Florida, with parts of Georgia at III (Weak).

Apalachicola River

The Apalachicola River is a river, approximately 112 mi (180 km) long in the state of Florida. The river's large watershed, known as the ACF River Basin, drains an area of approximately 19,500 square miles (50,505 km2) into the Gulf of Mexico. The distance to its farthest head waters in northeast Georgia is approximately 500 miles (800 km). Its name comes from the Apalachicola people, who used to live along the river.

Bay of Campeche

The Bay of Campeche (Spanish: Bahía de Campeche), or Campeche Sound, is a bight in the southern area of the Gulf of Mexico. It is surrounded on three sides by the Mexican states of Campeche, Tabasco and Veracruz. The area of the bay is 6,000 square miles (16,000 km2) and maximum depth of the bay is approximately 180 feet (55 m). It was named by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba and Antón de Alaminos during their expedition in 1517.

Broadgill catshark

The broadgill catshark (Apristurus riveri) is a catshark of the family Scyliorhinidae, found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, between 30°N and 9° N, on the continental slopes at depths between 700 and 1,500 m. Its length is up to 46 cm. The reproduction of the broadgill catshark is oviparous.

Campeche catshark

The Campeche catshark (Parmaturus campechiensis) is a catshark of the family Schyliorhinidae. It is known only from the holotype, a 15.7 cm immature female found in the northwestern Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico. The specimen was collected at 1,057 m, a depth beyond current and probably future fishing pressure in the region. The reproduction of this catshark is oviparous.

Dead zone (ecology)

Dead zones are hypoxic (low-oxygen) areas in the world's oceans and large lakes, caused by "excessive nutrient pollution from human activities coupled with other factors that deplete the oxygen required to support most marine life in bottom and near-bottom water. (NOAA)". Historically, many of these sites were naturally occurring. However, in the 1970s, oceanographers began noting increased instances and expanses of dead zones. These occur near inhabited coastlines, where aquatic life is most concentrated. (The vast middle portions of the oceans, which naturally have little life, are not considered "dead zones".)

In March 2004, when the recently established UN Environment Programme published its first Global Environment Outlook Year Book (GEO Year Book 2003), it reported 146 dead zones in the world's oceans where marine life could not be supported due to depleted oxygen levels. Some of these were as small as a square kilometre (0.4 mi²), but the largest dead zone covered 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 mi²). A 2008 study counted 405 dead zones worldwide.

Deepwater Horizon explosion

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion was the April 20, 2010, explosion and subsequent fire on the Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU), which was owned and operated by Transocean and drilling for BP in the Macondo Prospect oil field about 40 miles (60 km) southeast off the Louisiana coast. The explosion and subsequent fire resulted in the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon and the deaths of 11 workers; 17 others were injured. The same blowout that caused the explosion also caused a massive offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the world, and the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Deepwater Horizon oil spill

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (also referred to as the BP oil spill/leak, the BP oil disaster, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and the Macondo blowout) is an industrial disaster that began on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect, considered to be the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry and estimated to be 8% to 31% larger in volume than the previous largest, the Ixtoc I oil spill, also in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. government estimated the total discharge at 4.9 million barrels (210 million US gal; 780,000 m3). After several failed efforts to contain the flow, the well was declared sealed on September 19, 2010. Reports in early 2012 indicated that the well site was still leaking.A massive response ensued to protect beaches, wetlands and estuaries from the spreading oil utilizing skimmer ships, floating booms, controlled burns and 1.84 million US gallons (7,000 m3) of oil dispersant. Due to the months-long spill, along with adverse effects from the response and cleanup activities, extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and fishing and tourism industries was reported. In Louisiana, 4,900,000 pounds (2,200 t) of oily material was removed from the beaches in 2013, over double the amount collected in 2012. Oil cleanup crews worked four days a week on 55 miles (89 km) of Louisiana shoreline throughout 2013. Oil continued to be found as far from the Macondo site as the waters off the Florida Panhandle and Tampa Bay, where scientists said the oil and dispersant mixture is embedded in the sand. In April 2013, it was reported that dolphins and other marine life continued to die in record numbers with infant dolphins dying at six times the normal rate. One study released in 2014 reported that tuna and amberjack that were exposed to oil from the spill developed deformities of the heart and other organs that would be expected to be fatal or at least life-shortening and another study found that cardiotoxicity might have been widespread in animal life exposed to the spill.Numerous investigations explored the causes of the explosion and record-setting spill. The U.S. government September 2011 report pointed to defective cement on the well, faulting mostly BP, but also rig operator Transocean and contractor Halliburton. Earlier in 2011, a White House commission likewise blamed BP and its partners for a series of cost cutting decisions and an inadequate safety system, but also concluded that the spill resulted from "systemic" root causes and "absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur".In November 2012, BP and the United States Department of Justice settled federal criminal charges with BP pleading guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter, two misdemeanors, and a felony count of lying to Congress. BP also agreed to four years of government monitoring of its safety practices and ethics, and the Environmental Protection Agency announced that BP would be temporarily banned from new contracts with the US government. BP and the Department of Justice agreed to a record-setting $4.525 billion in fines and other payments. As of February 2013, criminal and civil settlements and payments to a trust fund had cost the company $42.2 billion.In September 2014, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that BP was primarily responsible for the oil spill because of its gross negligence and reckless conduct. In July 2015, BP agreed to pay $18.7 billion in fines, the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history.

Destin, Florida

Destin is a city located in Okaloosa County, Florida. It is a principal city of the Crestview–Fort Walton Beach–Destin, Florida, metropolitan area.

Located on Florida's Emerald Coast, Destin is known for its white beaches and emerald green waters. Originating as a small fishing village, it is now a popular tourist destination. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, over 80 percent of the Emerald Coast's 4.5 million visitors each year visit Destin. The city styles itself "The World's Luckiest Fishing Village", and claims to have the largest fishing vessel fleet in the state of Florida.The city is located on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from Choctawhatchee Bay. The peninsula was originally a barrier island. Hurricanes and sea level changes gradually connected it to the mainland. In the 1940s, it technically became an island again with the completion of the Choctawhatchee-West Bay Canal.

Geography of Mexico

The geography of Mexico describes the geographic features of Mexico, a country in the Americas. Mexico is located at about 23° N and 102° W in the southern portion of North America. From its farthest land points, Mexico is a little over 3,200 km (2,000 mi) in length. Mexico is bounded to the north by the United States (specifically, from west to east, by California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas), to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, to the east by the Gulf of Mexico, and to the southeast by Belize, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea. The northernmost constituent of Latin America, it is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. Mexico is the world's 13th largest country, three times the size of Texas.Almost all of Mexico is on the North American Plate, with small parts of the Baja California Peninsula in the northwest on the Pacific and Cocos Plates. Some geographers include the portion east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec including the Yucatán Peninsula within North America. This portion includes Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, Quintana Roo, and Yucatán, representing 12.1 percent of the country's total area. Alternatively, the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt may be said to delimit the region physiographically on the north. Geopolitically, Mexico is generally not considered part of Central America. Politically, Mexico is divided into thirty-one states and a federal district, which serves as the national capital.

As well as numerous neighbouring islands, Mexican territory includes the more remote Isla Guadalupe and the Islas Revillagigedo in the Pacific. Mexico's total area covers 1,972,550 square kilometers, including approximately 6,000 square kilometers of islands in the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of California (see the map.) On its north, Mexico shares a 5000-kilometer border with the United States. The meandering Río Bravo del Norte (known as the Rio Grande in the United States) defines the border from Ciudad Juárez east to the Gulf of Mexico. A series of natural and artificial markers delineate the United States-Mexican border west from Ciudad Juárez to the Pacific Ocean. The Mexico-U.S. boundary is jointly administered by the International Boundary and Water Commission. On its south, Mexico shares an 871 kilometer border with Guatemala and a 251-kilometer border with Belize.

Mexico has a 9,330 kilometer coastline, of which 7,338 kilometers face the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California, and the remaining 2,805 kilometers front the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Mexico's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which extends 200 nautical miles (370 km) off each coast, covers approximately 2.7 million square kilometers. The landmass of Mexico dramatically narrows as it moves in a southeasterly direction from the United States border and then abruptly curves northward before ending in the 500-kilometer-long Yucatán Peninsula. Indeed, the state capital of Yucatán, Mérida, is farther north than Mexico City or Guadalajara.

Gulf Coast of the United States

The Gulf Coast of the United States is the coastline along the Southern United States where they meet the Gulf of Mexico. The coastal states that have a shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico are Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and these are known as the Gulf States.The economy of the Gulf Coast area is dominated by industries related to energy, petrochemicals, fishing, aerospace, agriculture, and tourism. The large cities of the region are (from west to east) McAllen, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Houston, Galveston, Beaumont, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, Pensacola, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and increasingly, Sarasota. All are the centers of their respective metropolitan areas and contain large ports. (Baton Rouge is relatively far from the Gulf of Mexico; its port is on the Mississippi River, as is the port of New Orleans.)

Intracoastal Waterway

The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 3,000-mile (4,800 km) inland waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States, running from Boston, Massachusetts, southward along the Atlantic Seaboard and around the southern tip of Florida, then following the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas. Some sections of the waterway consist of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and sounds, while others are artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea. Many species of plants and animals can be seen along the path of the ICW.

List of Florida state parks

There are 175 state parks and 9 state trails in the U.S. state of Florida which encompass more than 800,000 acres (320,000 ha), providing recreational opportunities for both residents and tourists.

Almost half of the state parks have an associated local 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, often styled, "Friends of {park name} State Park, Inc.".

In 2015, some 29,356 volunteers donated nearly 1.3 million hours to enhance the parks for approximately 31 million visitors. There is a mostly nominal admission to nearly all Florida's state parks, although separate fees are charged for the use of cabins, marinas, campsites, etc. Florida's state parks offer 3,613 family campsites, 186 cabins, thousands of picnic tables, 100 miles (160 km) of beaches, and over 2,600 miles (4,200 km) of trails.The Florida Park Service is the division of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection responsible for the operation of Florida State Parks, and won the Gold Medal honoring the best state park system in the country in 1999 and 2005 from the National Recreation and Park Association. They were also finalists in the 1997 and 2011 competitions. The Park Service was awarded the gold medal again in October 2013, making it the only three-time winner. The parks are open year-round and offer diverse activities beyond fishing, hiking and camping. Many parks offer facilities for birding or horseback riding; there are several battle reenactments; and freshwater springs and beaches are Florida's gems. According to the Florida Park Service website, their goal "is to help create a sense of place by showing park visitors the best of Florida's diverse natural and cultural sites. Florida's state parks are managed and preserved for enjoyment by this and future generations through providing appropriate resource-based recreational opportunities, interpretation and education that help visitors connect to the Real Florida."Several state parks were formerly private tourist attractions purchased by the state of Florida to preserve their natural environment. These parks include the Silver Springs State Park, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Rainbow Springs State Park, and Weeki Wachee Springs.

There are state parks in 58 of Florida's 67 counties. Nine of the 175 parks do not have "State Park" in their name. Four are "conservation areas" (reserve, preserve, or wildlife refuge); three are "Historical/Archaeological sites"; one is a fishing pier and one is a recreation area. Seven parks are mostly undeveloped with few or no facilities; 10 parks are accessible only by private boat or ferry; and 13 parks contain National Natural Landmarks. Additionally, there are eleven national parks in Florida locations under control of the National Park Service.

List of rivers of Alberta

Alberta's rivers flow towards three different bodies of water, the Arctic Ocean, the Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Alberta is located immediately east of the continental divide, so no rivers from Alberta reach the Pacific Ocean.

Loop Current

A parent to the Florida Current, the Loop Current is a warm ocean current that flows northward between Cuba and the Yucatán Peninsula, moves north into the Gulf of Mexico, loops east and south before exiting to the east through the Florida Straits and joining the Gulf Stream. The Loop Current is an extension of the western boundary current of the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. Serving as the dominant circulation feature in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Loop Currents transports between 23 and 27 sverdrups and reaches maximum flow speeds of from 1.5 to 1.8 meters/second.A related feature is an area of warm water with an "eddy" or "Loop Current ring" that separates from the Loop Current, somewhat randomly every 3 to 17 months. Swirling at 1.8 to 2 meters/second, these rings drift to the west at speeds of 2 to 5 kilometers/day and have a lifespan of up to a year before they bump into the coast of Texas or Mexico. These eddies are composed of warm Caribbean waters and possess physical properties that isolate the masses from surrounding Gulf Common Waters. The rings can measure 200 to 400 kilometers in diameter and extend down to a depth of 1000 meters.

Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is the second-longest river and chief river of the second-largest drainage system on the North American continent, second only to the Hudson Bay drainage system. Its source is Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota and it flows generally south for 2,320 miles (3,730 km) to the Mississippi River Delta in the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains all or parts of 32 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains. The main stem is entirely within the United States; the total drainage basin is 1,151,000 sq mi (2,980,000 km2), of which only about one percent is in Canada. The Mississippi ranks as the fourth-longest and fifteenth-largest river by discharge in the world. The river either borders or passes through the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.Native Americans have lived along the Mississippi River and its tributaries for thousands of years. Most were hunter-gatherers, but some, such as the Mound Builders, formed prolific agricultural societies. The arrival of Europeans in the 16th century changed the native way of life as first explorers, then settlers, ventured into the basin in increasing numbers. The river served first as a barrier, forming borders for New Spain, New France, and the early United States, and then as a vital transportation artery and communications link. In the 19th century, during the height of the ideology of manifest destiny, the Mississippi and several western tributaries, most notably the Missouri, formed pathways for the western expansion of the United States.

Formed from thick layers of the river's silt deposits, the Mississippi embayment is one of the most fertile regions of the United States; steamboats were widely used in the 19th and early 20th centuries to ship agricultural and industrial goods. During the American Civil War, the Mississippi's capture by Union forces marked a turning point towards victory, due to the river's strategic importance to the Confederate war effort. Because of substantial growth of cities and the larger ships and barges that replaced steamboats, the first decades of the 20th century saw the construction of massive engineering works such as levees, locks and dams, often built in combination. A major focus of this work has been to prevent the lower Mississippi from shifting into the channel of the Atchafalaya River and bypassing New Orleans.

Since the 20th century, the Mississippi River has also experienced major pollution and environmental problems – most notably elevated nutrient and chemical levels from agricultural runoff, the primary contributor to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.

Striped bass

The striped bass (Morone saxatilis), also called Atlantic striped bass, striper, linesider, rock or rockfish, is an anadromous Perciforme fish of the family Moronidae found primarily along the Atlantic coast of North America. It has also been widely introduced into inland recreational fisheries across the United States. Striped bass found in the Gulf of Mexico are a separate strain referred to as Gulf Coast striped bass.The striped bass is the state fish of Maryland, Rhode Island, and South Carolina, and the state saltwater (marine) fish of New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and New Hampshire.

The history of the striped bass fishery in North America dates back to the Colonial period. Many written accounts by some of the first European settlers describe the immense abundance of striped bass, along with alewives, traveling and spawning up most rivers in the coastal Northeast.

Yucatán Channel

The Yucatán Channel or Straits of Yucatán (Spanish: Canal de Yucatán) is a strait between Mexico and Cuba. It connects the Yucatán Basin of the Caribbean Sea with the Gulf of Mexico. It is just over 200 kilometres (120 mi) wide and nearly 2,800 metres (9,200 ft) deep at its deepest point near the coast of Cuba.

Yucatán Peninsula

The Yucatán Peninsula (; Spanish: Península de Yucatán), in southeastern Mexico, separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, with the northern coastline on the Yucatán Channel. The peninsula lies east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a northwestern geographic partition separating the region of Central America from the rest of North America. It is approximately 181,000 km2 (70,000 sq mi) in area, and is almost entirely composed of limestone.

Places adjacent to Gulf of Mexico
Arctic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
Indian Ocean
Pacific Ocean
Southern Ocean
Endorheic basins
Marginal seas of the Atlantic Ocean
Basins
Bays
Channels
Gulfs
Seas

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