Published Dec. 30, 2008|Updated Dec. 30, 2008

Did this year's hurricane season affect the oxygen-depleted "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico?

"Most certainly," says Steve DiMarco, a Texas A&M University oceanography professor who for 16 years has studied the Gulf of Mexico, which has a "dead zone" where oxygen-depleted water can kill marine life.

In early July, most of the Texas-Louisiana shelf from Freeport, Texas, to the Mississippi River Delta was hypoxic - meaning the saltwater has lost large amounts of oxygen. Later in July, Hurricane Dolly disrupted the dead zone and re-oxygenated the shallow waters south of Louisiana and the entire shelf off Texas. Oxygen levels started to drop again within days after the storm.

In early August, Hurricane Eduard re-oxygenated the entire Louisiana shelf, but by mid-August the oxygen concentrations dropped to hypoxic levels.

Again, winds from Hurricane Gustav re-oxygenated the dead zone Sept. 1, and oxygen levels began receding after that storm.

And guess what? Hurricane Ike re-oxygenated the shelf when it made landfall Sept. 12 in Texas.

The latest data showed oxygen concentrations nearly all at normal levels, DiMarco said.

"The system should stay oxygenated until next spring, when winter runoff increases, and summer heating makes conditions more favorable for hypoxia (and dead zone formation) to exist," he said.

Show's new season to air in '09

What happened to the new season of Law & Order: Criminal Intent? Are they holding it back, and why?

The eighth season of the series, which introduces Jeff Goldblum as the successor to the departed Chris Noth, will begin sometime in early 2009 on USA Network. According to entertainment site, USA simply said that the delay will allow the season's 16 episodes to air without interruptions - as opposed to the piecemeal airings that some shows get.

Demand drives diesel prices

Why is diesel fuel priced higher than regular gasoline, or premium gasoline? Diesel fuel is a byproduct of the process of making gasoline and was so plentiful that the refineries even had to "discard" (burn) diesel waste.

Diesel prices have soared past gasoline prices because, globally, diesel is in much greater demand than gas. More European cars, for instance, run on diesel than gasoline. And the whole world, including the United States, uses diesel to run the trucks, trains and ships that transport food, consumer goods and industrial materials and products. Demand for gas and oil is slipping domestically as the economy cools, but economies in the rest of the world - particularly China and India - continue to grow, pushing oil and diesel prices generally higher.