NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Researchers are predicting an average oxygen-starved “dead zone” off Louisiana’s coast this summer — nearly 5,900 square miles, or roughly the size of Connecticut.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration came up with the estimate, released Thursday, by combining four models, which range from 5,200 to 6,800 square miles.
Officials say there’s been little progress in reducing the area measured each July.
Forecasts are based on levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers in May.
Scientists say nutrients from farm runoff, sewage and other sources feed algae blooms, which feed microscopic animals. Algae and animals die, fall and decompose, using oxygen from the bottom up.
Last year was the first time NOAA combined models developed by teams and researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and universities in Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, Texas and North Carolina.