|Gulf of Mexico|
Bathymetry of the Gulf of Mexico
|Location||American Mediterranean Sea|
|River sources||Rio Grande, Mississippi River|
|Ocean/sea sources||Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea|
|Basin countries|| United States |
|Max. width||1,500 km (932.06 mi)|
|Surface area||1,550,000 km2 (600,000 sq mi)|
|Settlements||Houston, New Orleans, Corpus Christi, Tampa, Havana, Campeche, Mobile, Gulfport, Tampico, Key West|
The Gulf of Mexico (Spanish : Golfo de México) is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. 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.
Spanish or Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in Spain and the Americas. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.
In hydrology, an oceanic basin may be anywhere on Earth that is covered by seawater but geologically ocean basins are large geologic basins that are below sea level. Geologically, there are other undersea geomorphological features such as the continental shelves, the deep ocean trenches, and the undersea mountain ranges which are not considered to be part of the ocean basins; while hydrologically, oceanic basins include the flanking continental shelves and shallow, epeiric seas.
The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the world's oceans, with an area of about 106,460,000 square kilometers. It covers approximately 20 percent of the Earth's surface and about 29 percent of its water surface area. It separates the "Old World" from the "New World".
The Gulf of Mexico formed approximately 300 million years ago as a result of plate tectonics. 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). 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.The Gulf of Mexico basin is roughly oval and is approximately
Plate tectonics is a scientific theory describing the large-scale motion of seven large plates and the movements of a larger number of smaller plates of the Earth's lithosphere, since tectonic processes began on Earth between 3.3 and 3.5 billion years ago. The model builds on the concept of continental drift, an idea developed during the first decades of the 20th century. The geoscientific community accepted plate-tectonic theory after seafloor spreading was validated in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The formation of the Gulf of Mexico, an oceanic rift basin located between North America and the Yucatan Block, was preceded by the breakup of the Supercontinent Pangaea in the Late-Triassic, weakening the lithosphere. Rifting between the North and South American plates continued in the Early-Jurassic, approximately 160 million years ago, and formation of the Gulf of Mexico, including subsidence due to crustal thinning, was complete by 140 Ma. Stratigraphy of the basin, which can be split into several regions, includes sediments deposited from the Jurassic through the Holocene, currently totaling a thickness between 15 and 20 kilometers.
Sedimentary rocks are types of rock that are formed by the accumulation or deposition of small particles and subsequent cementation of mineral or organic particles on the floor of oceans or other bodies of water at the Earth's surface. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause these particles to settle in place. The particles that form a sedimentary rock are called sediment, and may be composed of geological detritus (minerals) or biological detritus. Before being deposited, the geological detritus was formed by weathering and erosion from the source area, and then transported to the place of deposition by water, wind, ice, mass movement or glaciers, which are called agents of denudation. Biological detritus was formed by bodies and parts of dead aquatic organisms, as well as their fecal mass, suspended in water and slowly piling up on the floor of water bodies. Sedimentation may also occur as dissolved minerals precipitate from water solution.
The International Hydrographic Organization defines the southeast limit of the Gulf of Mexico as follows:
The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) is an inter-governmental organization representing hydrography. In August 2019 the IHO comprised 91 Member States.
A line leaving Cape Catoche Light () 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.
Cape San Antonio, is a cape which forms the western extremity of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and the western extremity of Cuba. It extends into the Yucatán Channel, and is part of the municipality of Sandino, in Pinar del Río Province. According to the International Hydrographic Organization, it marks the division point between the Caribbean Sea to the south and Gulf of Mexico to the north.
The meridian 83° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, Central America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole.
The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands, located in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of the Florida Keys, United States, about 67 miles (108 km) west of Key West, and 37 miles (60 km) west of the Marquesas Keys, the closest islands. Still farther west is the Tortugas Bank, which is submerged. The first Europeans to discover the islands were the Spanish in 1513, led by explorer Juan Ponce de León. The archipelago's name derives from the lack of fresh water springs, and the presence of turtles. They are an unincorporated area of Monroe County, Florida, and belong to the Lower Keys Census County Division. With their surrounding waters, they constitute the Dry Tortugas National Park.
The consensus among geologistswho 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.
The Triassic is a geologic period and system which spans 50.6 million years from the end of the Permian Period 251.9 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Jurassic Period 201.3 Mya. The Triassic is the first and shortest period of the Mesozoic Era. Both the start and end of the period are marked by major extinction events.
Yucatán, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Yucatán, is one of the 31 states which, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided into 106 municipalities, and its capital city is Mérida.
The Marathon Uplift is a Paleogene-age domal uplift, approximately 78 miles (126 km) in diameter, in southwest Texas. The Marathon Basin was created by erosion of Cretaceous and younger strata from the crest of the uplift.
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.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. Seafloor spreading stopped at the end of Jurassic time, about 145-150 million years ago.
Laurentia or the North American Craton is a large continental craton that forms the ancient geological core of the North American continent. Many times in its past, Laurentia has been a separate continent, as it is now in the form of North America, although originally it also included the cratonic areas of Greenland and also the northwestern part of Scotland, known as the Hebridean Terrane. During other times in its past, Laurentia has been part of larger continents and supercontinents and itself consists of many smaller terranes assembled on a network of Early Proterozoic orogenic belts. Small microcontinents and oceanic islands collided with and sutured onto the ever-growing Laurentia, and together formed the stable Precambrian craton seen today.
The Jurassic period is a geologic period and system that spanned 56 million years from the end of the Triassic Period 201.3 million years ago (Mya) to the beginning of the Cretaceous Period 145 Mya. The Jurassic constitutes the middle period of the Mesozoic Era, also known as the Age of Reptiles. The start of the period was marked by the major Triassic–Jurassic extinction event. Two other extinction events occurred during the period: the Pliensbachian-Toarcian extinction in the Early Jurassic, and the Tithonian event at the end; neither event ranks among the "Big Five" mass extinctions, however.
A rift valley is a linear shaped lowland between several highlands or mountain ranges created by the action of a geologic rift or fault. A rift valley is formed on a divergent plate boundary, a crustal extension or spreading apart of the surface, which is subsequently further deepened by the forces of erosion. When the tensional forces are strong enough to cause the plate to split apart, a center block drops between the two blocks at its flanks, forming a graben. The drop of the center creates the nearly parallel steeply dipping walls of a rift valley when it is new. That feature is the beginning of the rift valley, but as the process continues, the valley widens, until it becomes a large basin that fills with sediment from the rift walls and the surrounding area. One of the best known examples of this process is the East African Rift. On Earth, rifts can occur at all elevations, from the sea floor to plateaus and mountain ranges in continental crust or in oceanic crust. They are often associated with a number of adjoining subsidiary or co-extensive valleys, which are typically considered part of the principal rift valley geologically.
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.
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.
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.
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.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. 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
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.
Today, the Gulf of Mexico has the following 7 main areas:
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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.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.
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 Networkand Veolia Environmental produced a one-hour HD documentary 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.
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. 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). She was sunk on July 30, 1942 in Gulf of Mexico.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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. Items were knocked from shelves and seiches were observed in swimming pools in parts of Florida. 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. 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
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.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.
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.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. The Gulf of Mexico yields more finfish, shrimp, and shellfish annually than the south and mid-Atlantic, Chesapeake, and New England areas combined.
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.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.
The major environmental threats to the Gulf are agricultural runoff and oil drilling.
There are frequent "red tide" algae bloomsthat 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.
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. 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.
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.
There are 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells beneath the Gulf. These have generally not been checked for potential environmental problems.
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.
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. It was in the process of being sealed with cement for temporary abandonment, to avoid environmental problems. 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. 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. 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. 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) 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.
According to the National Response Center, the oil industry has thousands of minor accidents in the Gulf of Mexico every year.
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.
US Gulf of Mexico Protraction areas
The Niger Delta Basin, also referred to as the Niger Delta province, is an extensional rift basin located in the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea on the passive continental margin near the western coast of Nigeria with suspected or proven access to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and São Tomé and Príncipe. This basin is very complex, and it carries high economic value as it contains a very productive petroleum system. The Niger delta basin is one of the largest subaerial basins in Africa. It has a subaerial area of about 75,000 km2, a total area of 300,000 km2, and a sediment fill of 500,000 km3. The sediment fill has a depth between 9–12 km. It is composed of several different geologic formations that indicate how this basin could have formed, as well as the regional and large scale tectonics of the area. The Niger Delta Basin is an extensional basin surrounded by many other basins in the area that all formed from similar processes. The Niger Delta Basin lies in the south westernmost part of a larger tectonic structure, the Benue Trough. The other side of the basin is bounded by the Cameroon Volcanic Line and the transform passive continental margin.
The North American Plate is a tectonic plate covering most of North America, Greenland, Cuba, the Bahamas, extreme northeastern Asia, and parts of Iceland and the Azores. It extends eastward to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and westward to the Chersky Range in eastern Siberia. The plate includes both continental and oceanic crust. The interior of the main continental landmass includes an extensive granitic core called a craton. Along most of the edges of this craton are fragments of crustal material called terranes, accreted to the craton by tectonic actions over a long span of time. It is thought that much of North America west of the Rocky Mountains is composed of such terranes.
The Yucatán Channel or Straits of 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.
Hurricane Isidore was the ninth named storm and the second hurricane in the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season. Isidore was the fifth of eight named storms to occur in September. The tropical cyclone peaked as a Category 3 hurricane, causing damage as well as four fatalities in Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico, and the United States. Isidore is noted for threatening to strike the northern Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane, but instead striking as a moderate tropical storm due to a track change that brought the storm over the Yucatán Peninsula for over a day, which significantly weakened the cyclone. Its primary impact was the heavy rainfall which fell across southeast Mexico and from the central United States Gulf coast into the Ohio Valley.
The Mississippi Embayment is a physiographic feature in the south-central United States, part of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. It is essentially a northward continuation of the fluvial sediments of the Mississippi River Delta to its confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois. The current sedimentary area was formed in the Cretaceous and early Cenozoic by the filling with sediment of a pre-existing basin. An explanation for the embayment's formation was put forward by Van Arsdale and Cox in 2007; movement of the earth's crust brought this region over a volcanic "hotspot" in the Earth's mantle causing an upthrust of magma which formed the Appalachian-Ouachita range. Subsequent erosion caused a deep trough that was flooded by the Gulf of Mexico and eventually filled with sediment from the Mississippi River.
A passive margin is the transition between oceanic and continental lithosphere that is not an active plate margin. A passive margin forms by sedimentation above an ancient rift, now marked by transitional lithosphere. Continental rifting creates new ocean basins. Eventually the continental rift forms a mid-ocean ridge and the locus of extension moves away from the continent-ocean boundary. The transition between the continental and oceanic lithosphere that was originally created by rifting is known as a passive margin.
The Atlantic Plain is one of eight distinct United States physiographic regions. This major division consists of the Continental Shelf and Coastal Plain physiographic provinces. It is the flattest of the U.S. physiographic divisions and stretches over 2,200 miles (3,500 km) in length from Cape Cod to the Mexican border and southward an additional 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to the Yucatán Peninsula. The central and southern Atlantic Coast is characterized by barrier and drowned valley coasts. The coastal Atlantic plain features nearly continuous barriers interrupted by inlets, large embayments with drowned river valleys, and extensive wetlands and marshes. The Atlantic plain slopes gently seaward from the inland highlands in a series of terraces. This gentle slope continues far into the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, forming the continental shelf. The relief at the land-sea interface is so low that the boundary between them is often blurry and indistinct, especially along stretches of the Louisiana bayous and the Florida Everglades.
Offshore drilling is a mechanical process where a wellbore is drilled below the seabed. It is typically carried out in order to explore for and subsequently extract petroleum which lies in rock formations beneath the seabed. Most commonly, the term is used to describe drilling activities on the continental shelf, though the term can also be applied to drilling in lakes, inshore waters and inland seas.
The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is a peculiarity of the political geography of the United States. The OCS is the part of the internationally recognized continental shelf of the United States which does not fall under the jurisdictions of the individual U.S. States.
A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea, and the basin on the other side either feeds into a different ocean or sea, or else is endorheic, not connected to the open sea. Every continent on earth except Antarctica has at least one continental drainage divide; islands, even small ones like Killiniq Island on the Labrador Sea in Canada, may also host part of a continental divide or have their own island-spanning divide.
The U.S. offshore drilling debate is an ongoing debate in the United States on whether or not, the extent to which, in which areas, and under what conditions, further offshore drilling should be allowed in U.S.-administered waters.
Offshore drilling for oil and gas on the Atlantic coast of the United States took place from 1947 to the early 1980s. Oil companies drilled five wells in Atlantic Florida state waters and 51 exploratory wells on federal leases on the outer continental shelf of the Atlantic coast. None of the wells were completed as producing wells. All the leases have now reverted to the government.
The Louann Salt is a widespread evaporite formation that formed in the Gulf of Mexico during the Callovian in the mid Jurassic. The Louann formed in a rift as the South American and North American Plates separated, from an embayment of the Pacific Ocean. The Louann underlies much of the northern Gulf coast from Texas to the Florida panhandle and extends beneath large areas of the Gulf coastal plain of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Offshore oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico is a major source of oil and natural gas in the United States. The western and central Gulf of Mexico, which includes offshore Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, is one of the major petroleum-producing areas of the United States. Oil production from US federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico reached an all-time annual high of 1.65 million barrels per day in 2017. Oil production is expected to continue the upward trend in 2018 and 2019, based on ten new oil fields which are planned to start production in those years. According to the Energy Information Administration, "Gulf of Mexico federal offshore oil production accounts for 17% of total U.S. crude oil production and federal offshore natural gas production in the Gulf accounts for 5% of total U.S. dry production."
Donald F. Boesch is a professor of marine science and, from 1990 to 2017, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. From 2006-2017, he concurrently served as Vice Chancellor for Environmental Sustainability for the University System of Maryland. In 2010, he was appointed by President Barack Obama as a member of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling to investigate the root causes of the blowout at the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico.
The American Mediterranean Sea is a name for the combined watershed of the Mississippi River Basin and the waterbody of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
The salt tectonics off the Louisiana gulf coast can be explained through two possible methods. The first method attributes spreading of the salt because of sedimentary loading while the second method points to slope instability as the primary cause of gliding of the salt. The first method results in the formation of growth faults in the overlying sediment. Growth faults are normal faults that occur simultaneously with sedimentation, causing them to have thicker sediment layers on the downthrown sides of the faults. In the second method both the salt and the sediment are moving, making it more likely to migrate.
Paleontology in Louisiana refers to paleontological research occurring within or conducted by people from the U.S. state of Louisiana. Outcrops of fossil-bearing sediments and sedimentary rocks within Louisiana are quite rare. In part, this is because Louisiana’s semi-humid climate results in the rapid weathering and erosion of any exposures and the growth of thick vegetation that conceal any fossil-bearing strata. In addition, Holocene alluvial sediments left behind by rivers like the Mississippi, Red, and Ouachita, as well as marsh deposits, cover about 55% of Louisiana and deeply bury local fossiliferous strata.
The Pinnacles is a rocky prominence on the continental shelf of the Gulf Coast of the United States approximately 300 feet deep and located about 70 miles off the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama which contains a platform reef.
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