If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Gulf of Mexico dead zone is largest ever

by Cheryl Hogue
August 7, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 32

Map shows extent and position of the summer 2017 dead zone in Gulf of Mexico from the mouth of the Mississippi River west to the upper Texas coast.
Credit: N. Rabalais/LSU/LUMCON
Red and orange show areas of low oxygen levels that constitute the 2017 dead zone in Gulf of Mexico waters off the coast of Louisiana and Texas, the largest ever measured.

The 2017 dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico was the largest ever measured, scientists reported on Aug. 2. In late July, scientists from Louisiana State University and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium found the area of low or no oxygen in deep waters off the coast of Louisiana and northeast Texas reached 22,730 km2. That’s the largest found since researchers started measuring it in 1985, the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration says. The previous record of 22,007 km2 was set in 2002, NOAA adds. Each spring, the Mississippi River carries nitrogen and phosphorus from farm fields and urban areas within its massive watershed into the Gulf. There, algae consume the nutrients and reproduce rapidly. Eventually, the microorganisms die and drift to bottom waters, where decomposers polish them off, using up dissolved oxygen in the process. Low oxygen levels can decrease reproduction of some fish, reduce the average size of shrimp, and kill bottom-dwelling organisms that can’t move to other areas.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.