Photo courtesy of NASA.

Last week, I wrote about how this year’s unusually small Gulf dead zone may offer less reason to celebrate than you’d think. Yes, less rainfall has indeed meant less farm runoff into the Mississippi, resulting in fewer nutrients from fertilizer and livestock in the Gulf, and thus a smaller lifeless aquatic area (or “dead zone”). In normal years, however, this zone is still continuing to expand. And, until the face of farming changes — so that commodity producers rely less heavily on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and animal agriculture is less concentrated — this pattern isn’t going to change.

As it turns out, there’s more to the relationship between drought and nitrogen than I’d originally thought. Eric Davidson, executive director and senior scientist at Woods Hole Research Center — a Massachusetts-based think tank focused on climate and natural resources — shared some additional science that suggests we might really want to hold off on celebrating.