On The Radio – 3rd annual Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum combines teaching and research

Drake University’s David Courard-Hauri speaks during the Climate Science Educators Forum at Des Moines University on Friday, October 9, 2015. ©2015 KC McGinnis
November 16, 2015

This week’s On The Radio segment looks at the 3rd annual Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum – held last month at Des Moines University – which gave science educators the opportunity to learn about the most up-to-date climate-related research as well as methods for effectively teaching their students about climate change.

Transcript: 3rd annual Climate Science Educators Forum

Science researchers, professors, and instructors came together last month to discuss effective methods for teaching climate-related issues to college students.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The third annual Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum took place at Des Moines University last month. The event attracted roughly 30 students, instructors, and researchers from nine different academic institutions in Iowa. Presenters from the state’s public universities as well as private and community colleges discussed climate-related courses they taught and provided suggestions for effectively engaging students, many of whom are undergraduates.

In addition to discussing teaching techniques, presenters also discussed current climate-related research and how it can be applied to different courses and lesson plans. Drake University environmental science and policy professor David Courard-Hauri felt that the event was effective at bridging the gap between the big universities where research takes places and the smaller colleges where the focus is more on teaching.

DAVID COURARD HAURI: “As we’ve been learning today there are all kinds of different ways to think about climate education and common problems that we have, common ideas that we want to get across. So we thought it would be fun this time to have two sections: one on teaching climate and climate-related issues and one on active research. And that seems to have been really successful.”

For more information about the Climate Science Educators Forum, visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.


Editorial highlights 25 years of CGRER history

CGRER co-directors Jerry Schnoor (left) and Greg Carmichael. (CGRER)
CGRER co-directors Jerry Schnoor (left) and Greg Carmichael. (CGRER)

Nick Fetty | October 14, 2015

In recognition of the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research’s (CGRER) 25th anniversary, center co-founders Greg Carmichael and Jerry Schnoor published an editorial focused on climate science in the Hawkeye State over the past two and a half decades.

“During the past 25 years, CGRER has grown from its initial 25 members to 110 who encompass the entire state. First and foremost, CGRER has remained a research center, bringing together investigators from broad disciplines including the natural and social sciences, humanities and engineering. Among other achievements, CGRER researchers discovered air pollutants like black carbon (soot) are powerful warming agents, and reducing these particles could improve health and climate change simultaneously.

In addition, CGRER has focused attention on how global climate change impacts are expressed at regional scales, demonstrating, for example, that Iowa and the Midwest are vulnerable to extreme weather events like the floods of 1993 and 2008. As the key role of humans in climate change became established the dialogue shifted to what mitigation and adaptation actions should be taken.”

CGRER was established in 1990 when state legislators set aside funds to establish an environmental research center at the University of Iowa and an energy research center at Iowa State University. Over the past 25 years CGRER researchers have published hundreds of articles with research taking place in nearly 50 different countries.

On Tuesday, Carmichael, Schnoor, and others participated in an event focused on climate change in Iowa as well as the politics of and the public’s interest in the issue. Carmichael and Schnoor will then be featured on Iowa Public Radio’s River to River beginning at noon on Thursday.

Event focuses on 25 years of climate change


Nick Fetty | October 12, 2015

A handful of Iowa professors, policy makers, and even a former Hawkeye football player will discuss the past 25 years of climate change during an event on Tuesday.

The event is in collaboration with the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research’s (CGRER) 25th anniversary and will feature presentations from CGRER co-founders Greg Carmichael and Jerry Schnoor, U.S congressman Dave Loebsack, Iowa state senator Joe Bolkcom, and former Iowa congressman David Osterberg, as well as former Hawkeye turned solar energy entrepreneur Tim Dwight. The program is divided into three 25-minute sections focusing on different aspects of climate change: science and the public interest, the effect of climate change in Iowa, and the politics of climate change.

The event is sponsored by WorldCanvass, a collaboration by UI International Programs, UI Video Services, and FilmScene. The event goes from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at FilmScene, 118 East College Street in Iowa City, and is open to the public. An hour-long social hour will take place prior to its 5 p.m. start time.

For a full schedule and for more details, click here.

November U.N. climate conference aims for universal agreement

(Elliot Gilfix/Flickr)
(Elliot Gilfix/Flickr)
KC McGinnis | September 1, 2015

World leaders will gather in Paris this November in hopes of reaching an international agreement on climate change and mitigation standards.

The 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21, will be held from November 30 to December 11. There, delegates from the 196 states that have ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will seek to reach a unanimous and legally-binding agreement on a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 2°C that can be implemented by 2020.

“We therefore have a historic responsibility, as we are the first generation to really become aware of the problem and yet the last generation that can deal with it,” said French minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development in a Youtube statement.

To reach this agreement, member countries will be required to submit documentation of their contributions to greenhouse gas reductions, which will be summarized to give a broad picture of their efforts. Participants will then discuss tangible steps and options for reducing their carbon footprints, such as renewable energy, carbon taxes, technological innovations and sustainable agricultural practices.

The challenge for COP21 will be to prove that international negotiations between large member states with complex agendas can in fact be fruitful. Last year’s COP20 conference in Lima, Peru was blasted by the convention’s Women & Gender Constituency, who claimed that it “failed to move substantially forward towards the ultimate goal of agreeing on a plan to avert climate catastrophe.”

“Governments should be immediately implementing a renewable and safe energy transformation,” wrote Bridget Burns, of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, “but here at COP 20 in Lima, in spite of working almost 2 days overtime, they did not come close to reaching this goal.”

COP21 could prove to be either a crucial point in the fight against climate change or another failed attempt at the kind of global cooperation scientists agree is necessary to prevent catastrophic effects of climate change like rapid sea level rise.


Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts cold, snowy winter

A barn and snow covered field in southern Linn County. (Rich Herrmann/Flickr)
A barn sits on a snow covered field in southern Linn County during the 2014-2015 winter. (Rich Herrmann/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | August 19, 2015

If predictions in the Old Farmer’s Almanac are correct, Americans should brace for a cold and snowy winter even in parts of the country that typically see more mild temperatures.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac – which has been in publication since 1792 – predicts that the Midwest will see frigid conditions while the Northeast will experience below-average temperatures. Parts of the South are expected to see icy conditions and the traditionally temperate Pacific Northwest will experience its snowiest weather beginning around the middle of December and possibly continuing through February.

“Just about everybody who gets snow will have a White Christmas in one capacity or another,” Almanac editor Janice Stillman told the Associated Press.

Some meteorologists and other critics question the scientific accuracy of the Almanac’s method for predicting weather patterns. Criticis cite that the Almanac’s formula fails to “account [for] the finer nuances of meteorology, like pressure systems, cyclical weather patterns, and—of late—climate change.” Meteorologists also cite that El Niño will likely be a more accurate indicator of winter weather patterns that the Almanac’s formula.

Though the exact formula is a secret, the Almanac’s writers and editors focus on three main factors.

“We employ three scientific disciplines to make our long-range predictions: solar science, the study of sunspots and other solar activity; climatology, the study of prevailing weather patterns; and meteorology, the study of the atmosphere. We predict weather trends and events by comparing solar patterns and historical weather conditions with current solar activity.”

The first day of winter (the winter solstice) begins on December 21.

Midwest researchers come together for research project

Doug Schnoebelen, left, explains early 20th century mussel production along the Mississippi River during the CZO-IML conference on July 29, 2015. (Photo by Nick Fetty)
Doug Schnoebelen explains early 20th century mussel production along the Mississippi River during the CZO-IML conference on July 29, 2015. From left, Schnoebelen, Praveen Kumar, Thanos Papanicolaou, and Chris Wilson. (Photo by Nick Fetty)

Nick Fetty | July 30, 2015

Roughly 30 students, professors, and researchers from six different institutions met in Muscatine this week to discuss a collaborative research effort to improve land, water, and air quality in the Midwest.

This Midwestern project is part of a nation-wide project known as the Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) an effort by the National Science Foundation to “[study] the zone where rock meets life.” The Midwestern project is called the CZO-IML (Intensely Managed Landscapes) and focuses on watersheds and lands in Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota.

The Lucille A. Carver Mississippi Riverside Environmental Research Station (LACMRERS) in Muscatine hosted the IML-CZO conference which began Tuesday and ends today. This marked the second annual meeting for what will be a five year project.

“The first year was a lot of planning and field campaigns. The second year we’ve collected some data will be able to get that back to look at the results. We finally have some things to discuss, some real science,” said LACMRERS Director Doug Schnoebelen.

Schnoebelen, who also serves as a contributor for the IML-CZO project as well as a member of CGRER, said he hopes this research will be helpful not just for farmers and watershed managers but also for the general public.

“We’re hoping to look at an integrated approach and that’s what the Critical Zone is, being able to say something about water movement, soil conservation, transformation of carbon and energy in the environment. All of these things are really critical to the soil, the water, and the way we live.”

The conference brought together researchers from Indiana University, Northwestern University, Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, and University of Tennessee. Schnoebelen said this emphasis on collaboration over competition has been key to the success of the project. He added that he is also grateful the CZO chose to support a Midwestern research project since much of the CZO’s other research takes place on the coasts.

“I think it was important when the national team came out and they realized how managed our landscape was and how important this research really was. It’s not just flyover country in the Midwest, it’s a critical part of our economy for food and energy.”