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Photo: Carolyn_Davies/Getty Images

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting this year's annual "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico to be unusually large, coming in at "approximately 7,829 square miles, or roughly the size of Massachusetts."

Context: A dead zone is a hypoxic area, meaning that little or no oxygen is present, killing most marine life. NOAA says the event is largely a result of nutrient pollution flowing into the Gulf from the Mississippi River watershed. The surplus of nutrients, such as phosphorous, results in excess algae growth. When decomposed in water, the algae causes oxygen levels to plummet in the ocean's depths.

NOAA's prediction states that a major cause of this summer's near-record size is the torrential rainfall over the central part of the U.S., which flooded farmer's fields and caused record river flooding and nutrient dumping.

What it means: The dead zone could cause a tremendous loss of marine wildlife along the Gulf Coast. Last summer, a severe red tide similarly damaged a smaller section of the Gulf, with a surplus of algae suffocating marine life and leaving beaches riddled with fish carcasses.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Kellyanne Conway's parting power pointers

Kellyanne Conway addresses the 2020 Republican National Convention. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway has seen power exercised as a pollster, campaign manager and senior counselor to President Trump. Now that his term in office has concluded, she shared her thoughts with Axios.

Why it matters: If there's a currency in this town, it's power, so we've asked several former Washington power brokers to share their best advice as a new administration and new Congress settle in.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP holdouts press on with plans to crush Cheney

Screenshot of emails to a member of Congress from individuals who signed an Americans for Limited Government petition against Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo obtained by Axios

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the chamber's Republican caucus even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

Democrats aim to punish House GOP for Capitol riot

Speaker Nancy Pelosi passes through a newly installed metal detector at the House floor entrance Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Democrats plan to take advantage of corporate efforts to cut funding for Republicans who opposed certifying the 2020 election results, with a plan to target vulnerable members in the pivotal 2022 midterms for their role in the Jan. 6 violence.

Why it matters: It's unclear whether the Democrats' strategy will manifest itself in ads or earned media in the targeted races or just be a stunt to raise money for themselves. But the Capitol violence will be central to the party's messaging as it seeks to maintain its narrow majorities in Congress.