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Scientists Predict Near-Record ‘Dead Zone’ in Gulf

(Graphic Courtesy of NOAA)

Scientists are predicting the Gulf of Mexico’s hypoxic zone to be the size of Massachusetts and close to the record from two years ago.

The hypoxic zone or “dead zone,” which is an area of low to no oxygen that can kill marine life, is forecast by National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration scientists to be approximately 7,829 square miles, close to 2017’s record size of 8,776 square miles and larger than the five-year average size of 5,770 square miles.

The dead zone is mostly caused by excess nutrient pollution from human activities throughout the Mississippi River Watershed. The nutrients then reach the Gulf, stimulating algae growth that then dies, sinks and decomposes – resulting in low oxygen levels near the bottom to support most marine life.

Occurring every summer, the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone is considered to be the world’s largest. A significant factor for the increased size in the dead zone is the abnormally high amount of spring rainfall in many parts of the Mississippi River, according to NOAA.

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