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Spatial and Temporal Trends in Lake Erie Hypoxia, 1987–2007

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journal contribution
posted on 16.12.2015 by Yuntao Zhou, Daniel R. Obenour, Donald Scavia, Thomas H. Johengen, Anna M. Michalak
Hypoxic conditions, defined as dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations below 2 mg/L, are a regular summertime occurrence in Lake Erie, but the spatial extent has been poorly understood due to sparse sampling. We use geostatistical kriging and conditional realizations to provide quantitative estimates of the extent of hypoxia in the central basin of Lake Erie for August and September of 1987 to 2007, along with their associated uncertainties. The applied geostatistical approach combines the limited in situ DO measurements with auxiliary data selected using the Bayesian Information Criterion. Bathymetry and longitude are found to be highly significant in explaining the spatial distribution of DO, while satellite observations of sea surface temperature and satellite chlorophyll are not. The hypoxic extent was generally lowest in the mid-1990s, with the late 1980s (1987, 1988) and the 2000s (2003, 2005) experiencing the largest hypoxic zones. A simple exponential relationship based on the squared average measured bottom DO explains 97% of the estimated variability in the hypoxic extent. The change in the observed maximum extent between August and September is found to be sensitive to the corresponding variability in the hypolimnion thickness.