You know how hot weather makes more people believe in climate change? Well, let’s hope that this year’s smaller-than-average Gulf Dead Zone — due to climate-related drought, no less – doesn’t keep people from seeing the urgency of agricultural runoff.

First, the good news: As we mentioned quickly in our latest drought roundup, the only bright side to the fact that there has been much less rainfall in the Midwest this year is the added fact that less of it is flowing into the Mississippi River and out into the Gulf. According to a Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMC) press release, “nutrient output into the Gulf this spring approached near the 80-year record low.”

This is a) crazy scary in its own right, and b) it means fewer nutrients in the water, fewer algae blooms, and a much smaller lifeless, oxygen-deprived area. (It’s less than half the size of last year’s dead zone.) So fish and other aquatic life have much more room to breathe, so to say. And that’s good(ish) news. Except that the source of the problem hasn’t gone anywhere.