Last Modified: Thursday, June 21, 2012 4:49 PM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Scientists predict that this year's "dead zone" of low-oxygen water in the Gulf of Mexico will be larger than average but nowhere near a record.
Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in Cocodrie says scientists expect the area where oxygen levels are too low to sustain life to cover about 6,210 square miles off Louisiana and Texas this summer. That's a bit larger than the state of Connecticut.
Last year's hypoxic zone was about 6,765 square miles. The record is 8,400.
The dead zone is created because fertilizer and other nutrients swept into the Gulf by the Mississippi River feed huge numbers of microscopic organisms. When they die and fall to the bottom, their decomposition uses up oxygen.