While crop conditions stabilize, corn and soybean yield is expected to drop from previous years


Corn field
Via: Flickr

Elyse Gabor | September 21, 2022

Iowa’s harvest season is here. After a summer full of droughts and unstable crop conditions, experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have rated more than 60% of the corn as good.  

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig, said, “Despite widespread rainfall over the weekend, we anticipate unseasonably warm and dry weather will continue through the end of September, setting up ideal conditions as harvest activities ramp up.” 

The past summers have brought droughts, affecting crop conditions. Last year, 58% of the corn was rated as good. Soybean crop conditions are higher than the previous year, with over 60% of the crop rated as good.  

Southeast Iowa has experienced the worst of the drought. The state is the driest it has been in a year, with the U.S. drought monitor rating the driest places in Iowa as in “extreme” drought.  

Although current corn conditions are better than 2021’s harvest season, the USDA said that Iowa’s corn productions are down about 2.5% from last year. Soybean production is projected to be down almost 5% from last year.  

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


Via: University of Iowa

Elyse Gabor | September 19, 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 

Water temperatures are experiencing a record high


Sunrise Colours
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | September 14, 2022

Recently, the Northern Atlantic and northern Pacific oceans have been experiencing abnormally warm temperatures. Marine life is now experiencing heat waves similar to those on land.  

As the earth warms and climate change becomes more prevalent, the ocean absorbs the heat. With the rise in greenhouse gases comes the warming of land due to hotter temperatures. This heat becomes stored by the ocean. According to a recent study authored by John Abraham, a professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, “The pace of warming has increased about 500 percent since the late 1980s.” 

Dillon Amaya, a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Physical Sciences Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, said that temperatures have risen as much as 9 degrees F. Amaya said, “It’s been very extreme — some of the hottest temperatures we’ve seen on record — and they’ve hung around for several months.” 

The warming of ocean waters can lead to rising water levels and large impacts on marine life like a population rise in invasive species and other effects on marine ecosystems.  

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


Via: University of Iowa

Elyse Gabor | September 11, 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 

A rapid melting glacier could cause sea levels to rise


Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | September 7, 2022

The “doomsday” glacier is projected to melt faster than predicted. The melting of Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is expected to cause a sudden rise in sea levels. 

Anna Wåhlin, a co-author of the study and a professor of physical oceanography at Sweden’s Gothenburg University, told NBC News, “Thwaites ticks several boxes of a glacier that might be experiencing a faster retreat in the future: It is retreating back into a deeper basin, it is in contact with warm ocean currents, it has a very large catchment area that stores large amounts of ice.” 

This glacier, one of Antarctica’s largest, is about the size of the state of Florida. Due to warming temperatures and recent observations, scientists predicted that it could collapse within the next 10 years.  

Experts are unsure of what the outcome of the collapse will hold. However, it is believed that the sea levels will rise about two feet.  

Pheasants are seeing a population boom


pheasant
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | September 5, 2022

Recent population surveys show that Iowa’s pheasant population has grown exponentially. This was caused by a lack of snowfall and mild winter conditions.  

According to Todd Bogenschutz, wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, “If hunters enjoyed last year, they should enjoy this year.” 

Over the years, the population of the birds has drastically decreased. It became so low that hunters were able to shoot hens. This is now illegal as hens are vital for increasing the population numbers.  

The decrease in population was likely caused by loss of habitat, especially in hay acres. Numbers have shrunk to half of what they were 30 years ago. The decline is also caused by the weather and harsh winters with many inches of snowfall. However, due to the moderate winter this past year, the birds are experiencing a population boom.  

Pheasant hunting season opens in late October.  

Swim warning lifted at Spirit Lake beach


Spirit Lake, Iowa
Via: Flickr

Last week, Crandall’s Beach in Spirit Lake, Iowa, reported excessive amounts of bacteria, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Officials noted the area as “swimming not recommended.” The warning was caused by a large amount of blue-green algae toxins that contained traces of E. Coli bacteria.  

Due to the recent rains and new test results, officials have lifted the warning. The rain likely caused the bacteria to flush out into the lake, making the beaches safe for swimming. The DNR (Department of Natural Resources) tests the lakes once every seven days during the summer months as levels of bacteria easily shift in a matter of days.  

Currently, Emerson Bay Beach has issued a warning against beachgoers swimming in the water. The beach is located in West Okoboji, Iowa, just a few miles from Spirit Lake. This beach is among six other beaches in the state that also contain elevated levels of bacteria.  

Rainfall has caused crop conditions to become more balanced


Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | August 24, 2022

After excessive rainfall last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that crop conditions in Iowa have stabilized.  

State Climatologist Justin Glisan reported that Iowa received 23% more rain than usual. Northwest Iowa, which had been in a drought, received substantial amounts of these rainfalls.  

The rain caused a significant reversal in numbers from last week’s report. According to last Monday’s USDA report, more than 60% of Iowa’s corn is excellent. Soybeans report went down one percent with now just over 60% of the crop as excellent.  

The state’s Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said, “While showers and thunderstorms brought heavier totals across the drought region, we need several months of above-average precipitation to relieve the most intense drought conditions.”  

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the state has seen drought conditions becoming more severe in the past months. The state’s Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said, “While showers and thunderstorms brought heavier totals across the drought region, we need several months of above-average precipitation to relieve the most intense drought conditions.” 

Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Drinking Water Sources


Elyse Gabor | May 20, 2022

Neonicotinoid Insecticides have been found in Iowa’s drinking water. This pesticide is the most used in the world as it is sprayed on many specialty and orchard crops. The chemical is often associated with harming bumblebees or honeybees.  

Neonicotinoid or Neonics for short sticks to insects, like aphids, and kills them. The insecticide is water-soluble, meaning it moves with the water rather than sticking to the soil. According to a study from the USGS, Neonics can be highly detected in Iowa streams.  

The USGS also conducted a study where they tested Iowa City’s and the University of Iowa’s drinking water to see if Neonics would be removed by conventional drinking water treatments. The results showed that conventional drinking water treatments do not remove the insecticide. However, Iowa City’s water treatment plant does a much better job of removing the chemicals as the plant uses GAC or granular activated carbon. GAC is found in common water filters, such as a Birta.  

Greg LaFevre, an assistant professor in environmental engineering and in the department of civil and environmental engineering at IHR at the University of Iowa, said, “One of the things that we want to do as the next step is understand if there’s ways that we could engineer different types of activated carbon that could help remove these even better.” 

To learn more about Neonicotinoids insecticides in drinking water sources, click here.

Airports are looking to convert cooking oil into jet fuel


Airport
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | May 17, 2022

Major airports are converting cooking oil into jet fuel. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is using the grease from the DFW McDonalds to create fuel, helping to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and increase sustainable efforts. 

According to Pratik Chandhoke, the technical services manager for sustainable aviation fuel at Neste US Inc., the chemical makeup of fuel and cooking oil is similar. He said, “If you look at any oil, they all have these building molecules, hydrocarbons. We can take those atoms, and we then do some processing magic in our refineries, and we actually mimic the chemistry of a jet fuel.” 

Around 32,000 pounds of cooking oil is recycled from restaurants at DFW airport and converted to sustainable aviation fuel or SAF. One gallon of cooking oil is about three-quarters of a gallon of SAF.  

Other major airports are committed to becoming more sustainable by eliminating jet fuel. As SAF becomes more common the price will even out and become more comparable to the current price of fossil jet fuel. Right now, the cost of creating SAF can be up to six times higher than normal fuel.