Largest Ever Dead Zone Recorded – Climate Change Will Make Shrinking It Tough

Amidst little fanfare, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the largest-ever recorded dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this month. Currently about the size of New Jersey, the dead zone occurs when excess nutrients, primarily from agriculture, flow into the Gulf of Mexico. These nutrients feed massive algal blooms which in turn create low-oxygen environments, killing fish and other aquatic life as well as fouling drinking water sources. 

The news received scant coverage. While it’s dismaying that the dead zone is growing, not shrinking, it’s also not surprising. Farmers and animal agriculture operations in the region are in a bind: any steps taken to reduce nutrient losses have so far been insufficient to address the scale of the problem, and climate change is making the situation worse.   

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To Contact the Editor: Jessie Stolark at

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