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US-GulfDeadZone 07-24 Web

Gulf’s ‘dead zone’ much smaller than predicted

The Gulf of Mexico’s "dead zone" — where there is too little oxygen in the water for anything to live — is less than half the size predicted earlier this year but also unusually severe, a scientist said Friday.

The hypoxic area forms every year in the Gulf, caused by bacteria feeding on algae blooms from the flow of farming runoff and other nutrients from the Mississippi River and others.

This year’s area covers 3,000 square miles, but is also unusually thick, stretching from the bottom nearly to the surface, according to Nancy Rabalais, a researcher who specializes in the problem for the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.

The 3,000 square miles is one of the smallest measurements of the zone since measurements began in 1985, according to a graph in a news release sent from a research vessel in the Gulf. Only those in 1987, 1988 and 2000 were smaller.

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Other scientists had predicted that this year’s dead zone would cover about 7,500 to 8,500 square miles.

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