Bird flu in Iowa for a few more weeks


Wild Turkey
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | December 7, 2022

Bird flu has been sweeping through Iowa and it is here to stay. According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the most recent case of the virus was found at a Buena Vista County commercial turkey facility. Around 40,000 birds are in that facility. 

Fall and this time of year are when the state sees the most bird migration, usually leading to flocks becoming infected with the contagious bird flu. This was the third case detected in Iowan backyard flocks.  

Waterfowl, like geese and ducks, have also been detected with the virus as hunters have tested them. Orrin Jones, the DNR’s waterfowl biologist said, “It’s very difficult to predict the prevalence of avian influenza based solely on waterfowl activity.” He went on to say, “How common is it out there? What types of birds is it affecting? This new strain is affecting a wider range of species and having a wider range of effects than previous strains. There’s still a lot of uncertainty.” 

About 53 million birds have been killed by the avian influenza, this year in the U.S. This fall, the pathogen was detected in five flocks, leading to the deaths of over two million birds. Although deadly to birds, the virus is not a significant health risk to humans.  

Hawaiian volcano erupts for first time since 1984


Mauna Loa looms over Kīlauea
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 30, 2022

Mauna Loa erupts for the first time in 40 years. Located in Hawaii National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, the world’s largest active volcano erupted on Sunday, November 27th, at 11:30 p.m. after large earthquakes that had occurred earlier. Some homeowners in the lava flow path have been evacuated, but no immediate danger is present.  

In their latest update, the U.S. Geological Survey said, “Lava flows are not threatening any downslope communities.” However, the agency warned that residents should remain alert and diligent saying, “the early stages of a Mauna Loa rift zone eruption can be very dynamic, and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly.” 

Ken Hon, the scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told The Associated Press, “Typically, Mauna Loa eruptions start off with the heaviest volume first.” He went on to say that the eruption should slow down in a few days.  

According to scientists, as of now, the lava is slow moving and could take days to reach cities on the east side of the island.  

As temperatures rise, fungal infections are spreading


IMG_0163
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 28, 2022

As temperatures warm, fungal infections are expected to spread outside of their typical regions. Currently, around 10% of infections are found in environments outside of where the fungus grew.  

Dr. George Thompson, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Davis, said, “We’re definitely seeing disease in locations that we previously have not.” 

Thompson went on to say, “And that’s concerning, because if we’re recognizing those locations, where are the places it’s occurring that just have not been recognized quite yet?” Due to the lack of data, mistreatments are common, and it is hard for scientists to gauge how common fungal infections are. 

Fungal infections happen after an open sore has occurred on the body. Most immune systems fight it off, leaving people with symptoms like that of colds or cases of flu. However, some people can get more severe symptoms or even illnesses because of the infection, including meningitis or pneumonia.  

Polar bears continue to move inland as ice melts, creating danger for people


Polar Bear
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 21, 2022

As the ice melts in arctic regions, polar bears are pushed onto land. Their territories will now range into small towns. Researchers in Churchill, Manitoba, also known as the polar bear capital of the world, have begun to explore how to detect the animal’s presence in remote areas through radar technology. The instruments could be in use by next summer.  

Due to polar bears’ aggressive and dangerous nature, they pose a threat to civilization. By using technology that costs thousands of dollars, the animals can be tracked, helping to prevent any unwanted conflict. 

Senior director of conservation and staff scientist, Geoff York, said, “If we’re asking people to conserve a large predator like a polar bear, we have to make sure people who live and work with them are safe.” 

According to York, “Churchill is unique in that bears come to shore, depending on the year, from July to August, and they’re on land until this time of year.” Churchill has around 800 polar bears that roam its shores.  

As rising temperatures and global warming continue to melt ice, polar bears spend more time on land. It’s predicted that a larger number of polar bears will be forced on land and near the town. So, the response program will help to ensure people’s safety.  

Carbon emissions have risen since pandemic


Pollution
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 16, 2022

As 2022 comes to an end, record high amounts of carbon dioxide emissions remain. According to a report, the Earth has less than 10 years to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals. In 2015, the Paris Agreement was signed by about 200 countries. Although cuts in emissions production have been made, it is not enough to prevent global warming. The Global Carbon Project and its’ scientists estimate that global warming will rise one and a half degrees Celsius.  

A climate modeler at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and author of the study, Pierre Friedlingstein, said, “This is more evidence that time is running out.” Other climate organizations have concluded similar results from their studies. According to Friedlingstein and his team, if carbon dioxide stays the same, in nine years, the planet will likely rise one and a half degrees.  

Just this year, around 40.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide have been put into the atmosphere, similar to the number of levels in 2019. Due to the pandemic causing a slower pace of life, emission levels lowered, but since have risen.  

Rainfall caused drought to withdraw in some parts of Iowa


Drought
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 14, 2022

After a hot, dry summer and fall, drought conditions are retreating in most parts of Iowa. Last week, the Southern part of the state saw heavy rainfall, reducing drought conditions. The most rain seen was 4.3 inches with the lowest amount around 2 inches.  

The state had been in the worst drought in nine years and desperately needed rain, with northwest Iowa receiving the brunt of the effects. The rain missed this part of the state, not reviving any of the stress the drought has caused. Currently, two-thirds of the state is still suffering from the drought 

According to the Drought Monitor, above 10 percent of the state is listed as being in extreme drought or more severe. The area in extreme drought expands from Humboldt to Sioux City.  

End of harvest season is approaching as state experiences worst drought in nine years


Harvest
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 9, 2022

Harvest season is coming to an end in some parts of Iowa. Despite last week’s heavy rainfall, Northwest Iowa is almost done harvesting as that part of the state continues to face a lengthy drought.  

In total, around 90 percent of corn harvest has been completed while just under 100 percent of soybeans have been harvested. The almost complete harvest season is over a week ahead of schedule compared to the past five years.  

According to State Climatologist Justin Glisan, the heavy rainfall seen last week in south-central Iowa equaled over four inches with an inch of rain seen in the eastern part of the state.  

The rain was much needed as the state is the driest it has been in nine years, said the U.S. Drought Monitor. Northwestern Iowa, affected most by the drought, saw little to no rain.  

Global warming will cause famous glaciers to melt


Yosemite
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 7, 2022

According to UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, nearly a third of glaciers are predicted to disappear by 2050. These glaciers include Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, Yellowstone’s Yosemite, and Italy’s Dolomites. The cause of the disappearances is linked to rising temperatures caused by global warming.  

The loss of these glaciers will majorly impact the landscape of these areas, often focal points for tourists. To combat the losses, UNESCO says that policies should be made surrounding these glaciers to help reduce natural disasters and risks caused by their disappearances. According to Tales Carvalho, lead author of the report, “As glacier lakes fill up, they can burst and can cause catastrophic floods downstream.” 

Each year, around 58 billion tons of ice melt off the glaciers and cause sea levels to rise. Carvalho says the best way to save the glaciers would be to lessen carbon emissions. 

Across 50 of its World Heritage sites, UNESCO monitors 18,600 glaciers. Out of these sites, a third of them are set to disappear. However, the remaining glaciers can be saved if temperatures stay controlled.

Drought conditions predicted to continue through winter


Drought
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 2, 2022

This winter, the drought is expected to continue in the Western region of the United States. This news comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which has forecasted that the extreme drought will continue through the winter.  

The drought has affected Central California the most as the state experiences warmer temperatures and below-average rainfall. However, more states are feeling the effects of the widespread drought. The drought is causing shipping issues in the Mississippi River valley due to low water levels.  

Brad Pugh, the operational drought lead with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said, “We’re going on our third year of this extreme drought for much of the Western U.S.” He continued saying, “It’s adversely affecting agriculture, increasing wildfire danger and has impacts on tourism as well.” 

Around 25 percent of U.S. citizens are facing a drought. The National Integrated Drought Information System predicts that almost half of the U.S. will feel the effects of the drought.  

EPA comes up with plan to protect children from lead exposure


Kindergarten - Re-opened!
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | October 31, 2022

Lead has been found in the blood of fifty percent of children in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to limit and reduce exposure and illnesses caused by lead through screening more children, training people for a job in lead remediation, and so on.  

Carlton Waterhouse, the deputy assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, said, “This for the first time represents the agency looking not only to limit the amount of exposure that children and others have to lead, but in fact to make significant improvements and advancements with regards to environmental justice by also addressing disparities, long standing disparities, in terms of who finds themselves adversely affected by lead.” 

According to a study last year by The Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, the Midwest sees the highest numbers of exposure to lead. The EPA is working hard to reduce levels of lead that can be found in lead paint, soil, and so on. This includes changing the policy guidelines for Residential Soil Lead Guidance for Contaminated Sites and remedying 15 lead Superfund sites.  

Waterhouse said, “So we’re very focused on going towards those places that have hot spots, going towards those places and determining what the dominant and primary sources of that are in those communities.”