Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” the size of Connecticut

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(KTVI)- Scientists working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have found a large hypoxic “dead” zone” near the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico. The area, which is oxygen-deprived due to excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the water, measures 5,840 square miles, the size of Connecticut.

Originating from runoff from agricultural and other human activities in the Mississippi watershed, the excess nutrients stimulate an overgrowth of algae that consumes oxygen needed to support life.

While big, the zone is not as large as predicted. Spring flooding had led scientists to believe the runoff would have been higher and the effects more wide reaching.

According to the Mississippi River Collaborative, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution also affects waters throughout the Mississippi River Basin, threatening wildlife. They have criticized the what they call a lack of effective action by the EPA on this issue.

For the past five years, the average “dead zone” has been 5,176 square miles, more than twice size goal set by the Gulf of Mexico / Mississippi River Watershed Nutrient Task Force in 2001.

In 2012, drought conditions resulted in the fourth smallest dead zone on record. The largest dead zone was 8,481 square miles in 2002.