Henry Jackson/Associated Press
Jerry Peckumn stands in a combine on his farm outside of Jefferson, Iowa. Peckumn grows
thousands of acres of corn because he needs to make a profit, but says he is worried about
the impact his farming has on the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. (AP)

Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone” Reaches Size of Massachusetts

June 11, 2008 02:30 PM
by Rachel Balik
The “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico has been growing over the years; this summer it will be the largest such area on record.

30-Second Summary

Scientists have been mapping a so-called “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico since 1985; this year, researchers predict that the area will grow to 10,084 square miles, the largest it has ever been and the biggest area of its kind ever measured.

The dead zone is a result of nutrients, such as nitrogen, increasing algae growth in the water. When the algae dies, it depletes oxygen in the water faster than it can be drawn from the surface. When this happens, sea life dies from suffocation. “The prediction of a large hypoxic zone this summer is because the nitrate loading this May, a critical month influencing the size, was exceptionally high," researcher R. Eugene Turner explained.

Scientists have been tracking the area for some time, and it has been increasing over the years. Researchers speculate that increased agricultural production, and specifically, corn production for ethanol, is contributing to the area’s growth. They have advised the government to act to prevent the problem from getting worse.

Headline Link: ‘"Dead Zone" in Gulf could be Largest on Record’

Background: The growing dead zone

Opinion and Analysis: Causes of the growth

Reference: Research institutions


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