According to a report published today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the recurring "dead zone," or area with depleted oxygen in the Gulf of Mexico, is larger than usual this year thanks to heavy June rains throughout the Mississippi River watershed.

The dead zones are created when dissolved oxygen falls below certain levels that fish and other aquatic creatures need to survive. A dead zone occurs every year in the Gulf off the Louisiana coast near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The NOAA report said this year's hypoxic zone is 6,474 square miles, above average in size and larger than forecast by NOAA in June. That is roughly the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined.

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