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.”

MidAmerican Energy parent to invest $15 billion in renewables


(Don Graham / Flickr)
(Don Graham / Flickr)
KC McGinnis | July 28, 2015

The parent company for MidAmerican Energy has pledged to invest $15 billion in renewable energy construction and operation, in addition to another $15 billion already invested through 2014.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which acquired MidAmerican in 2000, recently joined twelve other behemoth U.S. companies including Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Walmart in the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge, a partnership that aims to help the Obama administration reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 26-28% by 2025. The pledged investments would help Berkshire Hathaway expand its wind portfolio to 57% of its total retail energy load by 2017.

The company would also expand its investments in solar energy and, perhaps most importantly for Iowans, make infrastructure improvements that would help better integrate renewables into the existing power grid. Elsewhere in the country, Berkshire Hathaway plans to retire 75% of its energy produced from coal in Nevada by 75%.

Several of the companies that signed the pledge Monday have a significant Iowa presence, including Cargill and Google. Google boasts a 35% renewable energy rate for all of its operations, but hopes to reach 100% renewables. Cargill claims 16% energy efficiency gains since 2005, and aims to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from beef production.

Iowa Climate Statement 2015 getting national media attention


Dr. Yogi Shah, of Des Moines University, speaks during the presentation of Iowa Climate Statement 2015 at the statehouse on May 11, 2015. (KC McGinnis)
Dr. Yogi Shah, of Des Moines University, speaks during the presentation of Iowa Climate Statement 2015 at the statehouse on May 11, 2015. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)

Nick Fetty | July 22, 2015

Iowa Climate Statement 2015: Time for Action was released more than two months ago but the news is still getting noticed by national media outlets.

On Monday, Yale Climate Connections ran a radio piece about the statement which urges Iowa voters to ask presidential hopefuls to address climate-related issues while on the campaign trial. The piece interviewed Drake University environmental science and policy professor David Courard-Hauri who was also one of the statement’s lead authors.

Iowa Climate Statement 2015 was signed by 188 scientists and researchers from 39 colleges and universities in the state. This marked the 5th installment of the series which started in 2011 with just 30 signers. With the 2016 presidential election just around the corner, the 2015 statement encourages Iowa voters to ask presidential candidates about climate policies they support during campaign stops in the Hawkeye State.

Aside from coverage on Iowa Environmental Focus, the statement has also been noticed by local outlets such as the Cedar Rapids Gazette, WHO-TV, Iowa Public Radio, and Radio Iowa as well as national outlets like ThinkProgress and Al Jazeera America.

The statement has also gotten much attention on social media, particularly Twitter.

The authors of the 2015 statement hope to use Iowa’s role as the first in the nation caucus to bring attention to climate issues for both republican and democratic candidates. Iowa’s caucus takes place on February 1, 2016.

On the Radio: Iowans look to energy policy when choosing presidential candidates


(Daniel Morrison / Flickr)
(Daniel Morrison / Flickr)

July 20, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a recent poll that shows Iowans consider energy policies when choosing presidential candidates. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Iowa Poll on Energy Policy

Iowa voters consider energy production to be a major factor when selecting candidates for the upcoming presidential election.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

An April poll by the Consumer Energy Alliance found that 82 percent of registered Iowa voters said that they consider the energy policies of presidential hopefuls to be a major factor when selecting a candidate. The poll also found that 52 percent of Iowans support offshore drilling for oil in U.S. waters near Alaska, while 32 percent opposed it. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management finds that there are approximately 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Alaska outer continental shelf.

Proponents of offshore drilling say that it will create jobs and lead to energy independence, while opponents cite environmental concerns with the drilling as well as with the drilling of fossil fuels.

For more information about the poll, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

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

On the Radio: Climate statement addresses public health


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Des Moines University Professor Yogi Shah addresses media during the release of the Iowa Climate Statement 2015.

 

June 29, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks ways the Iowa Climate Statement 2015 highlighted public health issues related to climate change. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Climate Statement and Public Health

SCIENTISTS AND RESEARCHERS IN IOWA HOPE TO USE THE STATE’S ROLE AS THE FIRST IN THE NATION CAUCUS TO BRING PUBLIC HEALTH AND CLIMATE CHANGE INTO THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE.

THIS IS THE IOWA ENVIRONMENTAL FOCUS.

THE FIFTH ANNUAL STATEMENT ENCOURAGES IOWANS TO ASK PRESIDENTAL HOPEFULS HOW THEY PLAN TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE WHILE ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL IN IOWA. DES MOINES UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR YOGI SHAH CITED SEVERAL PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS AFFECTING IOWANS INCLUDING INCREASED FLOODING, INCREASED RATES OF INSECT-BORNE DISEASES, AS WELL AS INCREASED ALLERGEN RATES AND A LONGER ALLERGEN SEASON.

YOGI SHAH: “Because of increased CO2 in the air, the ragweeds, the poisons, the proteins are stronger and causing more allergies. So that way we are seeing longer seasons. In Iowa itself, shown by national studies, we have 19 extra days of allergies which we didn’t see a few years ago.”

188 SCIENTISTS FROM 39 COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES SIGNED ‘IOWA CLIMATE STATEMENT 2015: TIME FOR ACTION.’

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE STATEMENT, VISIT IOWAENVIRONMENTALFOCUS.ORG

FROM THE UI CENTER FOR GLOBAL AND REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH, I’M JERRY SCHNOOR.

On the Radio: Iowa scientists urge politicians to address climate change


Drake University professor of environment science and policy David Courard-Hauri addresses the press during the release of the Iowa Climate Statement 2015 - Time for Action on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)
Drake University professor of environment science and policy David Courard-Hauri addresses the press during the release of the Iowa Climate Statement 2015 – Time for Action on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)
June 22, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at the “Iowa Climate Statement 2015 – Time for Action,” which calls Iowa voters to ask politicians and presidential candidates key questions on climate change. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Iowa Climate Statement 2015 – Politics

IOWA SCIENCETISTS AND RESEARCHERS HOPE TO USE IOWA’S ROLE AS THE FIRST IN THE NATION CAUCUS TO BRING ATTENTION TO CLIMATE ISSUES DURING THE 2016 PRESIDENTAL ELECTION.

THIS IS THE IOWA ENVIRONMENTAL FOCUS.

“IOWA CLIMATE STATEMENT 2015 – TIME FOR ACTION” WAS UNVEILED DURING A PRESS CONFERENCE AT THE STATEHOUSE IN MAY. THE FIFTH ANNUAL STATEMENT WAS SIGNED BY 188 SCIENTISTS AND RESEARCHERS FROM 39 COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES. DAVID COURARD-HAURI – ONE OF THE STATEMENT’S LEAD AUTHORS – SAID ISSSUES REGARDING CLMIATE CHANGE HAVE BEEN IGNORED BY POLITICIANS FROM BOTH PARITIES:

“This is unacceptable and we’re calling on voters in the state and members of the press who are interviewing candidates or asking questions in debates to make sure that anyone who wants to be president has the opportunity to spell out clearly for voters how they will deal with the most critical of issues.”

THE AUTHORS OUTLINED SEVERAL ISSUES FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES TO ADDRESS INCLUDING REGULATIONS ON CARBON EMISSIONS FROM POWER PLANTS, ENERGY CONSERVATION, AND THE FUTURE OF THE PRODUCTION TAX CREDIT FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT IOWA CLIMATE STATEMENT 2015, VISIT IOWAENVIRONMENTALFOCUS.ORG.

FROM THE UI CENTER FOR GLOBAL AND REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH, I M JERRY SCHNOOR.