Stephen King never saw this real-time nightmare coming. A state-sized dead zone at the bottom of the South, so deprived of oxygen it might as well be deep space — which is, recalling Alien, where no one can hear you scream. I spoke with scientist Nancy Rabalais about her alarming findings for Civil Eats as the bad news broke. And trust me, it’s broken. Way broken.
Largest-Ever Gulf Dead Zone Reveals Stark Impacts of Industrial Production
A hypoxic dead zone about the size of New Jersey—8,776 square miles—has settled at the bottom of the continental shelf off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.
Although dead zones—areas of water with little to no oxygen, where fish and other marine life cannot survive—have become an annual phenomenon, this year’s is the largest ever measured in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a direct result of industrial agriculture’s overreliance on chemical fertilizers, and it shows no sign of slowing down. If that’s not enough bad news, that dead zone may actually be even larger than recorded, since the week-long survey ran out of time to chart its full size.
“If we had been able to pursue the area further to the west, we definitely would have found more low oxygen, we’re just not sure how much,” Louisiana State University oceanographer Nancy Rabalais told Civil Eats, shortly after announcing the results of her annual survey. “It may have raised the area to 23,000 square kilometers, or 8,961 square miles.”