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.

On the Radio: Iowa scientists connect state water quality issues to climate change


Morning fog rises off of Lake MacBride near Solon, IA. The lake reported a massive fish kill due in part to blue-green algae earlier this year. (KC McGinnis / for CGRER)
Morning fog rises off of Lake MacBride near Solon, IA. The lake reported a massive fish kill due in part to blue-green algae earlier this year. (KC McGinnis / for CGRER)
October 20, 2014

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at highlights from the Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released Friday, October 10. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Climate Statement 2

Climate change causes extreme weather, increased flooding and resulting water pollution, which is threatening the health of Iowans.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released in October, examined how repeated heavy rains and the resulting flooding have led to increased exposure to toxic chemicals and raw sewage, which can have negative effects on health for humans and animals.

The fourth annual statement was signed by 180 scientists and researchers from 38 colleges and universities across Iowa.

Heavy rains in agricultural areas causes phosphorus and nitrates to run off fields and into waterways. These polluted waterways coupled with increased water temperature have spurred algal blooms on still bodies of water during peak summer heats. These algal blooms make the water unsafe for human or animal consumption or recreation.

For more information about the Iowa Climate Statement 2014, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

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

 

UI alumnus returns to alma mater to talk climate change, energy alternatives


Approximately 150 attendees listened to Dr. James Hansen discuss climate change and alternative energy in the Iowa Memorial Union Main Ballroom on Thursday October 16, 2014. (Photo by Nick Fetty)
Approximately 150 attendees listened to Dr. James Hansen discuss climate change and alternative energy as part of the “Meeting the Renewable Energy Challenge” symposium at the Iowa Memorial Union Main Ballroom on Thursday October 16, 2014. (Photo by Nick Fetty)

Nick Fetty | October 17, 2014

Former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and University of Iowa alumnus James Hansen returned to his alma mater Thursday night to discuss climate change and energy alternatives.

Hansen started his lecture by talking about his upbringing in rural western Iowa and being in high school during the time of Sputnik, a satellite launched into outer space by the Soviet Union in 1957. He went on to study at the University of Iowa where he earned his B.A. in physics and mathematics in 1963, an M.S. in astronomy in 1965, and finally a PhD in physics in 1967. This was at a time when world-renowned physicist James Van Allen was part of the UI faculty though Hansen said he was too nervous to study under Van Allen as an undergraduate.

“I was too shy and unconfident [that] I actually avoided specifically taking any courses under professor Van Allen,” Hansen said. “That’s a very bad strategy for students. You’re much better off sitting in the front row than in the back row.”

He eventually overcame his fears and worked closely with Van Allen during his graduate studies. Perhaps one of the biggest moments in Hansen’s career was when he gave an address to congress about the implications associated with climate change in 1988. This along with his broader field of work earned him the nickname “the Grandfather of Climate Change.” During his lecture Thursday night he emphasized that climate change is something that will most directly impact younger generations and as a grandfather himself he said this is a major concern.

“We’re putting young people in a situation where they have to look out for themselves because we’re [the older generations] not doing it,” he said.

Hansen also discussed the degradation and “irreversible effects” that climate change has caused on organic lifeforms such as monarch butterflies and coral reefs. Part of this can be attributed to carbon emissions which are disproportionately high in the United States compared to other countries.

“There’s also a moral issue here because the United States is responsible for more than a quarter of the excess of the human-made CO2 in the atmosphere even though our population is like 5 percent,” he said.

Hansen proposed implementing a fee to fossil fuel companies as a means to decrease carbon emissions.

“There are climate effects [and] those are paid by the victims, and the taxpayers, the government. Not by the fossil fuel companies,” he said. “So the solution is to add a price to fossil fuels. To collect a fee from the fossil fuel companies.”

Hansen also touched on the potential of nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels.

“We have technology now that a nuclear reactor can shut down if there’s an anomaly like an earthquake so you can avoid the kind of problem that Fukushima had,” he said. “You can have a design that does not require power to keep the reactor cool in case of a shut down.”

The presentation was followed up by a question and answer session and the entire event was about two hours in length. Roughly 150 students, adults, and UI faculty attended the lecture which was the final part of the UI Public Policy Center’s “Meeting the Renewable Energy Challenge” series of events.

 

Respected climate scientist and UI alum to visit Iowa City Thursday


Climate scientist and UI alumnus Dr. James Hansen (Contributed photo)
Climate scientist and UI alumnus Dr. James Hansen (Contributed photo)
KC McGinnis | October 15, 2014

Longtime climate scientist and University of Iowa alumnus James Hansen will visit Iowa City for a lecture on Thursday, October 16.

Hansen, who currently serves at Columbia University’s Earth Institute as director of its Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions program, earned his doctorate in physics from the UI in 1967. He is regarded as one of the first to raise awareness of global warming as a man-made threat, laid out in his 1988 hearing before Congress in which he said he was “99 percent certain” that global warming could be attributed to greenhouse gases.

His lecture, titled “Speaking Truth to Power: Lessons from Iowa and Relevance to Global Climate Policies” will be held in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday. The lecture is free and open to both students and the general public.

Hansen, who formerly served as Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has spent decades studying human-induced climate change. He also specializes in identifying “greenwash,” deceptive marketing and PR strategies which give the appearance of eco-friendliness while in fact being merely aesthetic. His lecture, which is part of the UI Public Policy Center’s “Meeting the Renewable Energy Challenge” symposium, can also be streamed here.

On the Radio: Iowa Climate Statement highlights health risks from climate change


The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, outlined climate change issues that are affecting respiratory health among Iowans, like childhood allergy-induced asthma. (Kristy Faith/Flickr)
The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, outlined climate change issues that are affecting respiratory health among Iowans, like childhood allergy-induced asthma. (Kristy Faith/Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at highlights from the Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released Friday. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Iowa Climate Statement

Hotter temperatures, higher humidity levels, and other conditions attributed to climate change are hurting the health of Iowans, according to leading Iowa scientists.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released in October, outlined climate change issues that are affecting respiratory and cardiovascular health. The fourth annual statement was signed by 180 scientists and researchers from 38 colleges and universities across Iowa.

With a longer growing season, plants produce more pollen – pollen that is increasingly potent – making it more difficult for many Iowans to breathe. Childhood asthma rates are also on the rise, due in part to higher indoor moisture levels. Rising temperatures have allowed disease-carrying mosquitos and ticks to migrate further north into the Midwest, resulting in cases of Dengue Fever and Ehrlichiosis being reported in Iowa this year.

For more information about the Iowa Climate Statement 2014, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

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

Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans


at the announcement of the Iowa Climate Statement 2014 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Friday, October 10, 2014.
Dr. Peter Thorne of the University of Iowa College of Public Health talks about the health-related effects of climate change on Iowans at the announcement of the Iowa Climate Statement 2014 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Friday, October 10, 2014, along with David Courard-Hauri, Gene Takle, Mary Mincer Hansen, David Osterberg. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)

Nick Fetty | October 10, 2014

The 4th annual Iowa Climate Statement was released Friday during a press conference at the state capitol.

Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans examines public health risks associated with climate change. This year’s statement was signed by 180 researchers and scientists from 38 colleges and universities across the state. This is an increase from last year’s statement which was signed by 155 researchers and scientists from 36 colleges and universities.

The report finds that the effects of climate change has contributed to increases in cardiovascular and respiratory health problems for Iowans. Hotter temperatures and higher levels of carbon dioxide enable plants to produce greater levels of pollen with a higher allergen content. The longer growing season not only increases exposure allergens but new allergenic plants are also making their way into Iowa.

Asthma rates for children are on the rise – and have been since the 1980s – and this can be attributed to more exposure to flood molds as well as indoor moisture levels. Fine particulate matter in the air, which is made worse by heat in urban areas, has also contributed to this rise in asthma rates while nighttime heat stress and air pollutants increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, especially for aging adults.

Water quality issues were also outlined in the 2014 statement. Excessive heavy rains have increased exposure to toxic chemicals and raw sewage spread by flood waters. Heavy rains also lead to soil runoff in agricultural areas which then pollutes waterways with nitrates and phosphorus. These substances coupled with high temperatures on still bodies on water have spurred the growth of harmful algal blooms which can make water unsafe for consumption or recreation for both humans and animals. Similar algal blooms contaminated the water supply for nearly half a million people in Toledo, Ohio during the summer.

Other infectious diseases have been on the rise in Iowa and throughout the Midwest as disease-carrying organisms – such as ticks and mosquitoes – migrate north. Cases of Dengue Fever and Ehrlichiosis have been reported in Iowa this year as hotter temperatures, greater rainfall levels, and longer summers enable these organisms to live longer.

Climate change has also impacted mental health, albeit in a more subtle way. Research since the 1980s suggests that there is a correlation between higher temperatures and aggression or violence.

Friday’s event lasted approximately half an hour and included a presentation of the statement as well as a question and answer session. Presenters included David Courard-Hauri (Drake University), Mary Mincer Hansen (Des Moines University), David Osterberg (University of Iowa), Gene Takle (Iowa State University), Peter Thorne (University of Iowa).

Check back to the Iowa Environmental Focus for video and photos from Friday’s event.

On the Radio: Groundbreaking study examines changes in Iowa waterways


A stream in Story County, Iowa. (Carl Wycoff/Flickr)
A stream in Story County, Iowa. (Carl Wycoff/Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a new University of Iowa study on the effects of climate and land use changes on Iowa waterways, using data recorded over the course of more than eight decades. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

 

Transcript: River and Stream Study

Changes in climate and agricultural practice over the last century have had a significant impact on the flow of Iowa’s rivers and streams, according to a recent study.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Using data recorded over the course of more than eight decades, researchers at the University of Iowa IIHR – Hydroscience & Engineering studied the effects of variable climate conditions and land use on Iowa’s Raccoon River watershed, which has been monitored almost daily since 1927.

The number of acres used to grow corn and soybeans roughly doubled over the last 100 years. The study found that these climate and land use changes exacerbate the effects of both high and low precipitation periods on river and stream levels by as much as seven times, increasing the likelihood of disastrous floods during wet seasons and empty waterways during dry seasons.

For more information about climate, land use and river levels, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

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

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167880914001200

http://now.uiowa.edu/2014/04/researchers-find-changes-agriculture-increase-high-river-flow-rates