UI reminds students to “Power Down” over break

A flyer for the University of Iowa’s Power Down campaign. Download here.
KC McGinnis | December 17, 2014

With thousands of students and faculty finishing up the Fall semester, the University of Iowa is reminding the UI community to “Power Down and Unplug Over Break.”

The UI Office of Sustainability has forwarded a checklist to remind students, faculty and staff what electrical items need to be unplugged over winter break in order to reduce the university’s carbon footprint. Appliances like microwaves, LCD screens, printers and small refrigerators can use up substantial energy even when turned off, adding unnecessary expenses and increasing carbon emissions from power plants. The UI recommends these appliances and devices be unplugged, rather than turned off, whenever possible.

The UI also recommends turning down the heat over break, listing tips for cutting down on energy use, like opening south-facing blinds during the day. Doors and windows should remain closed whenever possible, and fume hood sashes in labs should be closed as well. Even power strips should be unplugged, since they can draw energy even when turned off or with nothing plugged into them.

Those who complete the UI’s power down checklist will be entered in a drawing to win LED flashlights.

For a helpful table showing how much energy various appliances use in power save mode, click here.

Report finds majority of UI students support action to address climate change

Students from three different courses at the University of Iowa participated in a survey to gauge their understanding of climate change. (Wikimedia)
Students from three different courses at the University of Iowa participated in a survey to gauge their perception of climate change. (Wikimedia)

Nick Fetty | December 16, 2014

A report by a University of Iowa professor found that 94 percent of students surveyed responded “yes” when asked if they believe the science on climate change is strong enough to take action.

Maureen McCue – an adjunct assistant professor with the UI International Programs and coordinator of Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility – surveyed 65 students in three courses: Promoting Health Globally (PHG) [31], Environmental Justice (EJ) [17], and Education in the Third World (ETW) [14] as well as three students from the health physiology lab. Issues regarding climate change were addressed in PHG and EJ while “no specific orientation to climate” was expected for students in ETW and the health physiology lab.

Forty-two students responded that they had been affected by climate change. Many cited similar reasons for how they had been affected: storms/floods/droughts experienced by friend or family [14], indirect experiences (higher priced foods, poorer air quality, observing wild weather fluxes) [8], and awareness about effects of climate change and feeling of being overwhelmed [14].

Respondents were also asked what they feel is an effective way to halt climate change based on six categories: lifestyle (11.8%), more education (27.1%), positive interventions and support (16%), political/legal remedies (16%), social/community action (10%), and nothing (>1%). Students also provided responses such as “we need new sources of energy,” “attitudes need to change”, and “energy providers need to change.”

Dr. McCue concluded that “[w]hile the numbers are small and subject to all the problems of small studies, there were some interesting outcomes,” particularly the overwhelming support that climate change is an issue that must be addressed. However she also noted that there were fewer trends evident among the grad students who responded to the survey.

For more information or to provide comments or critiques about the survey contact Dr. McCue at maureen-mccue@uiowa.edu.

Survey Demographics

  • Females: 43
  • Males: 22


  • Undergrad: 57
  • Grad Student: 8


  • Iowans: 35
  • Not from Iowa: 30 (International: 9)

On the Radio: Agricultural initiative to curb climate change effects

Hay bales along the Maple River near Castana, Iowa (TumblingRun / Flickr)
Hay bales along the Maple River near Castana, Iowa (TumblingRun / Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a new initiate to mitigate the effects of climate change on Iowa farmers. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Agriculture and Climate Change

A North American farm group is taking proactive steps to reduce the effects of climate change on agriculture.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The group – Solution from the Land – is supporting the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative. The initiative aims to bring together representatives from industry and academia as well as government and non-government organizations in an effort to mitigate the effects of climate change for farmers.

The initiative follows the release of the National Climate Statement which suggests that at its current rate, the effects of climate change will be largely detrimental to crops and livestock over the next 25 years. The initiative aims to help farmers adapt to changes in precipitation and temperature.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, and the National Farmers Union are some of the national organizations which have endorsed the effort.

For more information about the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

source: http://farmfutures.com/story-reducing-climate-change-risk-ag-0-120108; http://www.sfldialogue.net/SFL/press_release_9-23-2014.pdf

Journal features ISU research on agriculture and climate change

This farmer utilizes contour farming and conservation tillage techniques on his Warren County farm in 2011. (Wikimedia)
This farmer utilizes contour farming and conservation tillage techniques on his Warren County farm in 2011. (Wikimedia)

Nick Fetty | December 11, 2014

The most recent issue of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation includes several articles by Iowa State University researchers focused on ways that climate change is affecting agriculture.

Researchers and graduate students in from Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project contributed to most of the articles in the recent issue. The project, known simply as the Sustainable Corn Project, is based at Iowa State University and is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Of the 20 reports in the recent journal issue, 14 were authored by researchers with the Sustainable Corn Project.

One of the reports analyzed the effects cover crops have on nitrous oxide emissions, concluding that cover crops increased nitorus oxide levels in 60 percent of published observations. The authors point out that certain variables could have affected the reaction between the cover crops and nitrous oxide emissions including “fertilizer N(itrogen) rate, soil incorporation, and the period of measurement and rainfall.”

The Sustainable Corn Project is a collaboration between 10 Midwestwen land-grant universities: Iowa State University, Lincoln University (MO), Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Purdue University, South Dakota State University, University of Illinois,  University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, and University of Wisconsin. Roughly 160 scientists, engineers, educators, and students work with more than 200 farmers on this project.

Dubuque recognized for efforts to address climate change

Dubuque has been declared a presidental disaster zone six times since 1999. (Wikimedia)
Flooding on the Mississippi River has caused Dubuque to be declared a presidential disaster zone six times since 1999. (Wikimedia)

Nick Fetty | December 9, 2014

Dubuque, Iowa was among 15 other local and tribal communities to be named Climate Action Champions by the White House last week.

Dubuque was recognized because of its Community Climate Action & Resiliency Plan which has set a greenhouse gas reduction goal of being 50 percent below 2003 levels by 2030. The plan – which examined Dubuque from 2003 to 2011 – traced emissions to four main sources: industrial (31%), residential (24%), transportation (23%), and commercial (17%), with the remaining 5 percent coming from the landfill methane.

The city hopes to further offset carbon emissions by further utilizing renewable energy sources. The report states that “solar and wind installations in Dubuque are expected to yield 10,000-30,000 mt (metric tonnes) of annual reductions by 2030.” Wind energy and other renewables generated 18 percent of electricity in Dubuque during the study in 2010.

In addition to efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Dubuque was also honored because of the city’s emphasis on flood-conscious infrastructure. Flooding on the Mississippi River has caused Dubuque to be declared a presidential disaster zone six times in the last 16 years so the city is now focused on mitigation efforts.

The Bee Branch Watershed Flood Mitigation Project is a $179-million project that will focus on a 6.5 square mile district where more than half of the city’s population lives or works. The project aims to “both reduce the volume and slow the rate of stormwater in the upper watershed, provide safer conveyance of stormwater in flood-conducive areas, and protect the City’s wastewater treatment plant from stormwater.” Construction is expected to begin fall 2015 and be completed by 2016.

The Climate Action Champions were selected by representatives from the Department of Energy.

NASA graphic paints vivid picture of carbon dioxide’s movement through the atmosphere

Screenshot of a NASA simulation of carbon dioxide movements in the atmosphere.
Screenshot of a NASA simulation of carbon dioxide movements in the atmosphere.

A new, high-resolution computer model from NASA offers a stunning view of how carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas released through human activity, moves through Earth’s atmosphere.

The video (below) shows plumes of gas swirling from concentrated sources through the rest of the atmosphere as winds disperse them. What’s interesting to note is the visible differences in distribution between industrialized areas in the northern hemisphere and those further south. Carbon dioxide is emitted mainly through the burning of fossil fuels.

The NASA model is the first to simulate carbon dioxide measurements in such high definition. In addition to ground-based carbon-release measurements, NASA launched the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 in July to make even more detailed, space-based observations. While scientists have plenty of data about the levels of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere (the gas’s concentration exceeded 400 parts per million across most of the northern hemisphere for the first time in modern history this year), relatively little is known about the paths carbon dioxide takes as moves from source to the atmosphere and to absorption points in forests and oceans.

The visualization was produced by an advanced computer model called GEOS-5, which simulated the behavior of Earth’s atmosphere based on measurements of carbon dioxide and other gases from May 2005 to June 2007.

Snow expected in Iowa after South Dakota hit with first major snowfall of the season

Snowfall in St. Paul, Minnesota on Monday, November 11, 2014. (Grace/Instagram)
Snowfall in St. Paul, Minnesota on Monday, November 11, 2014. (Grace/Instagram)

Nick Fetty | November 11, 2014

Up to 8 inches of snow fell on parts of South Dakota Monday afternoon and the system is expected to move east into Iowa and parts the Great Lakes region today.

The system is expected to bring up 3 inches to portions of northeast Iowa throughout the day on Tuesday, according to Paul Markert, a meteorologist with MDA Weather Services. The snow is not expected to be a significant threat to farmers who are mostly done harvesting soy beans for the season and who are 82 percent done with the corn harvest. Corns crops are able to withstand cold temperatures however the snow may present some issues with harvesting.

Data released from the United States Department of Agriculture on Monday shows that this year’s corn crop is expected to produce a record harvest with 14.407 billion bushels nationally, down slightly from October’s estimate of 14.475 billion. The soy bean harvest is expected to produce a record 3.958 billion bushels nationally, up less than 1 percent compared to October’s estimate.

Monday’s snow coverage extended from Montana to Wisconsin with areas in between seeing as much as 12 inches. Regions of northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan are expected to be hit with the heaviest snowfalls today, though these are not livestock-heavy areas. In October 2013, roughly 22,000 cattle died after an unexpected blizzard blasted South Dakota with freezing rains, heavy snows, and winds gusts up to 70 miles per hour.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Des Moines recorded its snowiest November day on November 10, 1968 with 11.8 inches. This was Des Moines’s highest single-day accumulation of snowfall in November since record keeping began in 1878.