Near-record 'dead zone' predicted in Gulf of Mexico

(EPA photo/file)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Scientists are predicting a near-record Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" - an area where the water holds too little oxygen to sustain marine life.

Widespread downpours around the Mississippi River Basin have led to record amounts of water, carrying large amounts of fertilizer and other nutrients downriver.

The nutrients feed algae, which die and then decompose on the sea floor, using up oxygen.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting an area of about 7,800 square miles, roughly the size of Massachusetts or Slovenia.

A Louisiana-based team's estimate is 8,700 square miles, unless a storm churns oxygen into the water.

Both forecasts were released Monday.

The record set in 2017 is 8,776 square miles, a bit smaller than Turkey.