Iowa Climate Statement 2022 press conference


Floods, droughts, and strong Derechos have become more common and intense weather phenomena in Iowa because of climate change. Our trees are in danger because of these occurrences. The Iowa Climate Statement 2022: The Many Benefits of Our Trees, which was published Wednesday, focuses on ways to increase, and protect rural woods and urban trees in response to climate challenges.

Trees Can Keep Us Cool as Iowa Anticipates Many More Dangerous Hot and Humid Days  


Climate change has caused more frequent and intense weather patterns in Iowa, including floods, droughts, and powerful derechos. These events create conditions that threaten our trees. The Iowa Climate Statement 2022: The Many Benefits of Our Trees released today is focused on the climate threats and strategies to expand and support urban trees and rural woodlands. 

“The August 2020 derecho, the most destructive thunderstorm in US history is emblematic of the impact of climate change on our trees. This extreme event led to the loss of an estimated 7 million rural and urban trees in Iowa,” said Dave Courard-Hauri, Chair of Environmental Science and Sustainability Program, Drake University. “Recovering from this event will take years of coordinated efforts and millions of dollars of investment,” continued Courard-Hauri.  

“With their wealth of ecological and social benefits, the trees we have are valuable. We need to plant diverse species of trees to promote resilience and support and strengthen Iowa’s on-going tree planting programs,” said Heather Sander, Associate Professor, Geographical and Sustainability Sciences, University of Iowa.  “In the face of climate change we should both plant more trees and provide essential care for the precious trees we already have.” continued Sander. 

The twelfth annual Iowa Climate Statement 2022: The Many Benefits of Our Trees was endorsed by Iowa 203 science faculty and researchers from 33 Iowa colleges and universities. 

Learn more at https://iowaenvironmentalfocus.org/iowa-climate-statement/  

25 Iowa beaches had swim advisories this summer


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | October 4, 2022

25 beaches in Iowa were under a swim advisory this summer because of elevated toxins or bacteria. According to the Iowa Environmental Council, swimming was not advised for at least a week for the two-thirds of Iowa beaches that had a swim advisory. 

This summer, there were 107 advisors for E. coli, which was a 22 percent increase from last year. The concentrations of E. coli at Crandall Beach at Spirit Lake were so high in August that the DNR’s technology could not measure it, which can detect up to 24,000 viable bacteria per 100 milliliters of water.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources tests every Iowa beach weekly from May to September, examining levels of E. coli, and toxins. Alicia Vasto, the IEC’s water program director, said that although the IEC has been monitoring this testing for 20 years, it is still unsure of the trend in E. coli or toxin levels. 

“It’s really concerning because we have so few public places in our state — we have so few public lands,” Vasto told the Iowa Capital Dispatch. “And so the public beaches and parks that we have, we really need to protect them and do more to address this issue.”

The DNR said the main solution to decrease watershed pollution is prevention, which means keeping extra sediment, nutrients, bacteria, and other pollutants. Conserving practices in agricultural areas, including wetlands and buffers, can also decrease pollutants in water. 

Solar Energy in Iowa: Policies and Practices at the Municipal, County, and State Levels


Via: University of Iowa

Elyse Gabor | October 3, 2022

On Tuesday, October 11th, Iowa Law is hosting a discussion surrounding the Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative (HELI). The event will feature panel discussions with policy experts, researchers, industry members, public employees, and nonprofit organization representatives. The panels will discuss solar policies around Iowa. Following the guest speakers, the audience will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A. Breakfast and lunch will be included at the event. Attendance is both in person and virtual and open to all ages. If interested, register at: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2lU6iMrnn17eLu6  

For more information, visit: https://events.uiowa.edu/73266 

Properly disposing of materials would lessen CO2 equivalent emissions in Iowa significantly


Via Pexels

Grace Smith | September 30, 2022

Iowans send over 190,000 tons of untouched food to landfills a year—enough to fill dump trucks spanning from Cedar Rapids to Waterloo. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources released a statement breaking down landfills in Iowa and found that 20 percent of all landfilled materials are from food waste. As of 2021, food waste produces 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases per year. 

“Food waste continues to be the single largest landfilled item by weight,” says Tom Anderson with the DNR’s solid waste section. “It continues to grow. It is sad in some ways. Food gets thrown away every day.”

Most of the 20 percent of wasted food is processed, stored, and prepared leftovers. The DNR release said almost seven percent of the wasted food is still in its original packaging – in cans, boxes, and bags. Anderson said most food is wasted because of misinterpreted labels and expiration/ “best by” dates. 

The second and third largest items that end up in landfills include plastics at 8.6 percent and compostable paper at 7.6 percent. The release said that the energy and emissions impact from 854,000 tons of improperly disposed of paper, containers, and compostable materials is tremendous. If these materials were correctly recycled or composted, about 1.4 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions could be decreased. 

The DNR offers a list of ways to combat the growing presence of food waste in landfills:

  • Buy only what you need.
  • Learn how to preserve food. 
  • Compost leftover food. 
  • Recycle.

Hurricane Ian intensified by climate change


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | September 29, 2022

Between Monday and Tuesday, Hurricane Ian became 67 percent stronger, and the water was 1 degree Celsius warmer, because of a phenomenon that scientists call “rapid intensification” by climate change. 

Hurricane Ian arrived in Florida as a category 4 storm with winds intensifying from 125 miles per hour to 155 in a couple of days. As of 2 a.m. Thursday morning, the now classified tropical storm is a category 1 with 75 miles per hour winds. 2.5 million people are out of power as about 20 inches of rain causes flash floods throughout the peninsula. 

Rapid intensification is defined as an increase in winds of a tropical cyclone by 35 miles per hour in 24 hours, and Hurricane Ian has experienced it two times since Sunday. 

“Rapid intensification happens when a tropical cyclone that already has some organization moves over very warm water and within an atmospheric environment of calm surrounding conditions and a moist, unstable air mass,” Richard Knabb, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, told CBS News

Climate change plays a factor in the intensity of a hurricane through warm water that fuels the storm, per the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Climate change is also likely causing hurricanes to move slower, increasing wind speed, storm surge, and rainfall.

Climate resilient military base coming to Florida


Diving into LFA7
Via: Flickr

Elyse Gabor | September 28, 2022

Due to climate change and worsening storms and weather, Florida is building a new military base. The base will be the first of its kind, strong enough to face increasing climate changes. The base will be built where Tyndall Air Force Base once stood before it was destroyed by Hurricane Michael in 2018.  

Col. George Watkins, the commander of the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall, said, “We’re focused on making sure that as we rebuild, that the base is resilient, and that we can continue this mission here for many, many years.” 

The new base will be built to weather the increasing and more severe storms that hit the Florida coast. This comes after the Pentagon labeled climate change as a risk to national security. Following the Army’s strategy guidelines, the base will feature buildings that are designed to withstand hurricanes that are labeled as Category 5.  

 The base is expected to be finished and ready for use in 2026, with construction costs of around $5 billion.  

Tonga volcano eruption may take temporary toll on climate


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | September 27, 2022

A volcanic eruption occurred underwater in the Pacific Ocean in January. The huge eruption near produced a global shock so extensive it sprayed a large amount of water vapor into the stratosphere – enough to fill over 58,000 Olympic swimming pools. This spew of water vapor may cause a short-term upsurge in global warming.  

The eruption on Jan. 15 of the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai volcano in the island nation of Tonga destroyed 90 percent of the uninhabited island of Hunga Tonga Ha’apai after sparking a Tsunami. The eruption also assembled an ash plume half the size of France. Because the volcano was 500 feet below water, molten rock and seawater combined, and the water vapor reached an altitude of 35 miles. 

The amount of water vapor spewing into the upper atmosphere was at least 55 million tons, which may temporarily cause more depletion in the ozone layer, which protects the world from harmful rays from the sun. 

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” said Luis Millán, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and leader of a study examining Tonga volcano effects. Above-ground volcanos don’t release as much water and instead release sulfur dioxide, causing a cooling effect. But, the underwater volcano created a warming effect because of the amount of water vapor spewed into the stratosphere.

Solar Energy in Iowa: Policies and Practices at the Municipal, County, and State Levels


Via: University of Iowa

Elyse Gabor | September 26, 2022

On Tuesday, October 11th, Iowa Law is hosting a discussion surrounding the Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative (HELI). The event will feature panel discussions with policy experts, researchers, industry members, public employees, and nonprofit organization representatives. The panels will discuss solar policies around Iowa. Following the guest speakers, the audience will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A. Breakfast and lunch will be included at the event. Attendance is both in person and virtual and open to all ages. If interested, register at: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2lU6iMrnn17eLu6  

For more information, visit: https://events.uiowa.edu/73266 

Wildfire smoke is destroying air quality progress


Via Pexels

Grace Smith | September 23, 2022

Smoke caused by wildfires has been growing worse and worse over the past decade, decreasing policy-driven improvements in Western U.S. air quality progress, according to a study published Thursday. 

The analysis said the number of people in locations experiencing an “extreme smoke day,” which is said to be unhealthy for all age groups, had a 27-fold increase over the past decade. Extreme smoke days affected 25 million people in 2020 alone.

The study also said increased wildfire smoke is being propelled by climate change, which increases the flammability of fuels, creates worse wildfires, and emits more smoke into the air. Exposure to grainy, particulate matter including smoke and its contaminants causes 48,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. 

“People may be less likely to notice days with a modest increase in fine particulate matter from smoke, but those days can still have an impact on people’s health,” a researcher from the study, Marissa Childs, told the New York Times. Childs said the most extreme smoke days were seldom during 2006-2010, but from 2016-2020, over 1.5 million people were frequently exposed to dangerous levels of smoke. 

A solution to stop the decrease in air quality progress would be to reduce the likelihood of wildfires growing and becoming more destructive, whether that be from prescribed fires or other fire management techniques.