The Gulf of Mexico is setting an unwanted record – this year’s “dead zone”, where there’s too little oxygen to support any marine life, is the largest ever measured.
Scientists say this year, the oxygen-depleted region is about the size of New Jersey, covering 8,776 square miles. Scientist Nancy Rabalais has been measuring the area since 1985. She and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released their latest findings yesterday.
Rabalais says the area is actually larger than NOAA’s numbers indicate because the mapping cruise had to stop before reaching the western edge.
The dead zone is caused by nutrients from agriculture and development runoff that get carried down the Mississippi River and into the Gulf. Huge amounts of plankton bloom to feast on the nutrients, and then die off – that uses up much of the oxygen in the water.