NEW ORLEANS — Scientists are predicting a near-record Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” where the water holds too little oxygen to sustain marine life.
“A major factor contributing to the large dead zone this year is the abnormally high amount of spring rainfall in many parts of the Mississippi River watershed,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a news release Monday. That led to record amounts of water carrying large amounts of fertilizer and other nutrients downriver, it said.
The nutrients feed algae, which die and then decompose on the sea floor, consuming oxygen from the bottom up in an area along the coasts of Louisiana and Texas.
The low-oxygen, or hypoxic, area is likely to cover about 7,800 square miles — roughly the size of Slovenia or all the land in Massachusetts, the agency said. A Louisiana team has estimated the dead zone will be 8,700 square miles.
It will be measured during an annual July cruise by Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.
The record set in 2017 is 8,776 square miles.
Scientists had said earlier that widespread flooding made a large dead zone likely this year.
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