NEW ORLEANS – Federal scientists say this summer could see the third-largest dead zone ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico: a New Jersey-sized area with too little oxygen to support marine life.
Over 32 years, those hypoxic zones have averaged 5,300 square miles (13,700 sq. kilometers), about the size of Connecticut. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a news release Tuesday that this summer’s could be nearly 8,200 square miles (21,200 sq. kilometers).
The main reason is that much more water than usual flowed through streams and rivers, and it carried more nutrients than normal. The nutrients feed plankton blooms that die and sink to the bottom, where their decay uses oxygen.
A study this year found that nonlethal low oxygen levels may slow shrimp growth, making large shrimp more expensive.