Average Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ predicted this summer

Federal scientists expect an average oxygen-starved “dead zone” off Louisiana’s coast this summer.

They’re predicting an area nearly 5,500 square miles: about the size of Connecticut.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that for the first time, it’s combining four models. In a news release, it says those estimates range from 4,344 to 5,985 square miles.

Scientists say the area is created because the Mississippi River carries nutrients from farm runoff, sewage and other sources into the Gulf. They feed algae blooms, which feed microscopic animals. Algae and animals die, fall and decompose, using oxygen from the bottom up.

NOAA says this year’s forecast combines models developed by teams and researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and universities in Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, Texas and North Carolina.

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