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Jul 1, 2013 9:32 AM by Stephen Bowers

Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" could be larger than normal this summer

Scientists from NOAA are expecting a large "dead zone" to form in the Gulf of Mexico this summer, while a similar such occurrence is expected to be smaller than normal in Chesapeake Bay.

This "dead zone" is an area of hypoxic water, meaning oxygen levels in the water are low. The low oxygen levels are caused by excessive nutrient pollution, sometimes which is human-caused. This year, flooding in the Midwest is expected to send a surge of nutrients down the Mississippi River, which drains into the Gulf of Mexico, lowering oxygen levels in along the northern and western coastline of the Gulf. The size of the dead zone is forecast to be between 7,286 and 8,561 square miles which could place it among the ten largest recorded. On the larger end, it could be about the size of New Jersey. The largest on record was 8,481 square miles in 2002.

A tropical storm or hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico could help limit that dead zone.

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