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Scientists predict this year's "dead zone" of low-oxygen water in the northern Gulf of Mexico will be the largest in history – about the size of Lake Erie – because of more runoff from the flooded Mississippi River valley.
Each year when the nutrient-rich freshwater from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers pours into the Gulf, it spawns massive algae blooms. In turn, the algae consume the oxygen in the Gulf, creating the low oxygen conditions. Fish, shrimp and many other species must escape the dead zone or face dying.
Federal and university scientists predict this year's zone will be between 8,500 square miles and about 9,400 square miles. The actual size of the dead zone will be measured over the summer.