India is experiencing a heatwave that is impacting the wheat harvest


Wheat field
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Elyse Gabor | May 3, 2022

India is experiencing a record-breaking heatwave. Dangerous temperatures have affected millions of people. Some regions are predicted to reach 120 Fahrenheit, which will have detrimental effects on the country’s wheat harvest.

India and the United States make up nearly a third of wheat exports. India was expected to produce around 122 million tons, a record amount. However, the country has just experienced its hottest March to date. The heatwave hit the central wheat-growing regions and is expected to last long into harvest season. 

The hot spell has affected India’s farmers, with many of them experiencing a depletion in their wheat crop. A farmer from the Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah district, Devendra Singh Chauhan, said in a text message to NBC News, “If such unreasonable weather patterns continue year after year, farmers will suffer badly.”

Harjeet Singh, senior adviser to Climate Action Network, said, “[Wheat] prices will be driven up, and if you look at what is happening in Ukraine, with many countries relying on wheat from India to compensate, the impact will be felt well beyond India.” 

Climate change has harmed Iowa’s tree population


tree
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Elyse Gabor | March 29, 2022

Intense temperature changes, lack of rain, and more frequently occurring storms have harmed Iowa’s tree population. Climate change has caused the loss of hundreds of trees around the state. One of the leading causes of tree loss was the derecho in 2020. 

Mark Rouw, who resides in Des Moines, has measured Iowa’s largest trees for more than 40 years. His findings are shared on the Big Trees of Iowa official registry for the DNR. In his 2021 update, he noticed that many trees that had been previously on the list no longer existed due to the derecho. Some of the lost trees include a 92-foot-tall ponderosa pine in Cedar Rapids and a 70-foot tall butternut in Lisbon. 

“I had so many big trees I’ve been monitoring so many years it’s almost like losing a friend,” Rouw said. “Especially some of those that were so big and impressive and unique that after they came down, you’re looking at the contenders and there’s nothing else that comes close.”

Last week, Rouw measured Atlantic white cedars at the Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, where he saw University of Iowa arborist Andy Dhal. The two frequently measure Eastern Iowa trees. The state champion tree is a black walnut located on the University of Iowa’s Pentacrest. 

While at Brucemore, they found a new winner, an Atlantic white cedar that now holds the title of state champion. 

New Research Found Climate Change Will Increase Hospitalizations


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Josie Taylor | March 10, 2022

Climate change is expected to increase the number of people requiring hospitalization due to critically low sodium levels in the blood, a condition known as hyponatremia. A new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden predicts that a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius would increase the burden on hospitals from hyponatremia by almost 14 percent. The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Climate change is expected to trigger a rise in average global temperatures in the coming decades, resulting in a myriad of heat-related consequences for human health. One of those is hyponatremia, which can occur from a variety of diseases such as heart, renal and liver failure as well as from excessive sweating or fluid intake that dilute the sodium concentration in the blood.

Our bodies need sodium to maintain normal blood pressure, support the function of nerves and muscles and regulate the fluid balance in and around our cells. If blood sodium levels drop, it can lead to nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps, seizures and even coma.

It is well known among doctors and scientists that hyponatremia cases increase in the summer months. Still, data on temperature thresholds above which risks amplify have been lacking, complicating clinical planning and predictions of health burden in future climate scenarios.

The UN Warns of Increased Wildfires this Century


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Josie Taylor | February 24, 2022

A new landmark United Nations report has reported that the risk of wildfires around the world will likely surge by over 50% in coming decades as climate change further intensifies what the report described as a “global wildfire crisis.” 

The scientific assessment was made as a result of deadly wildfires around the world, like in Australia and even the Arctic. It is the first by the organization’s environmental authority to evaluate wildfire risks worldwide. 

The report, produced by more than 50 researchers from six continents, estimated that the risk worldwide of highly devastating fires could increase by up to 57% by the end of the century, primarily due to climate change. Some regions are expected to experience much more severe fires than others. It is a stark warning about the increased heat and dryness that human-caused global warming is bringing about. 

In a moderate scenario for global warming, the likelihood of extreme, catastrophic fires could increase by up to 33% by 2050 and up to 52 percent by 2100, the report estimates. If emissions are not curbed and the planet heats up more, wildfire risks could rise by up to 57% by the end of the century.

Contaminated water in Iowa continues to grow


Trout Run Creek near Decorah IA 854A3231
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | February 22, 2022

According to the Iowa DNR’s 2022 draft inventory, Iowa has more contaminated water now than in 2020. The reasons for the water bodies making the DNR’s list were due to large numbers of bacteria and fish killings.

As shown in the state’s 2020 list of Category 5 impairment, the DNR reported that the state recorded 585 sources of water with a total of 778 contaminates. In 2022, the DNR’s findings have gone up to 594 sources of water with a total of 783 containments.

Over half of Iowa’s rivers and streams have impairments, or at least one reason they do not meet the standard for safe drinking water, water activities, or the support marine life. Just under 70 percent of lakes and reservoirs in the state do not meet these standards as well. There are still over 150 other water sources that contain contaminated water; however, the state has not been required to set a limit on pollution for these sites.

According to an executive team member for the Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter Wally Taylor, the bacteria found in Iowa’s water was due to animal waste and large-scale animal production.

The US Will See Sea Levels Rise at an Unprecedented Rate


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Josie Taylor | February 21, 2022

According to a new government report, the US coastline will see sea levels rise in the next 30 years by as much as they did in the entire 20th century. The projected increase is especially alarming given that in the 20th century, seas along the Atlantic coast rose at the fastest clip in 2,000 years.

By 2050, seas lapping against the U.S. shore will be 10 to 12 inches (0.25 to 0.3 meters) higher, with parts of Louisiana and Texas projected to see waters a foot and a half (0.45 meters) higher, according to a 111-page report issued Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and six other federal agencies.

The report did have some good news, like the worst of the long-term sea level rise from the melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland probably won’t kick in until after 2100. 

The report “is the equivalent of NOAA sending a red flag up” about accelerating the rise in sea levels, said University of Wisconsin-Madison geoscientist Andrea Dutton, a specialist in sea level rise who wasn’t part of the federal report. The coastal flooding the U.S. is seeing now “will get taken to a whole new level in just a couple of decades.”

The reason why sea level rises more in some places than others is because of sinking land, currents and water from ice melt. The U.S. will get slightly more sea level rise than the global average. 

While higher seas cause much more damage when storms such as hurricanes hit the coast, they are also becoming a problem on sunny days.

Cities such as Miami Beach, Florida; Annapolis, Maryland; and Norfolk, Virginia, already get a few minor floods a year during high tides, but those will be replaced by several “moderate” floods a year by mid-century.

New Study Finds Glaciers Contain Less Ice Than Previously Thought


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Josie Taylor | February 10, 2022

Advances in satellite technology have revealed that the world’s glaciers contain significantly less ice than previously thought, according to a study published in Nature Geoscience on Monday.

The Nature Geoscience study assessed how quickly glaciers were moving across the landscape, or their velocity. These measurements allow scientists to more accurately measure volume, but collecting this information has been limited by technology.

The work analyzed more than 800,000 pairs of images of glaciers taken between 2017 and 2018, and found that many were shallower than previously assessed. Scientists now estimate there is 20 percent less glacial ice present with the potential to melt into the ocean and raise sea levels. 

The revised estimate reduces global sea level rise by 3 inches if all glaciers were to melt. This raises concern for some communities that rely on seasonal melt from glaciers to feed rivers and irrigate crops. If glaciers contain less ice, water will run out sooner than expected. Between 2000 and 2019, these rivers of ice lost roughly 5.4 trillion tons.

Countries are already struggling with disappearing glaciers. Peru is investing in desalination to make up for declining freshwater, and Chile hopes to create artificial glaciers in its mountains.

On February 9th the University of Iowa is hosting its Decarb2040 Seminar


The Old Capitol Building on the University of Iowa Campus.
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | February 8, 2022

The University of Iowa Decarb2040 Seminar will be held virtually on February 9th from 12-1 PM. It will feature guest speakers Mahdi Al-Kaisi, Alejandro Plastina, and Ron Rosmann. 

Mahdi Al-Kaisi is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University. Alejandro Plastina is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at Iowa State University. Ron Rosmann is a master farmer in Harlan. 

The seminar will talk about the benefits the state of Iowa and individual farmers will receive from expanding carbon markets and other opportunities to reduce net carbon dioxide emissions through various management practices. They will present a question and answer session that will discuss the opportunities and barriers to the adoption of climate-friendly farm practices. The speakers will address topics including:

  • Climate-smart agriculture practices and carbon capture.
  • Lessening CO2 emissions through crop rotations, fertilizer practices, and other cropping and livestock system decisions.
  • Economic opportunities in removing carbon from the atmosphere. 

You can register for the event at https://bit.ly/3KmLIF4

Common Crops Around the World are Being Impacted by Climate Change


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Josie Taylor | January 27, 2022

Climate change is hurting many crops, including some people’s favorite food. Research has shown for a long time that coffee is the most susceptible crop to climate change. A new study found that avocados and cashews are also being impacted by rising temperatures. 

In some of the countries that currently are reliant on cashews as a key cash crop the news is harmful. India loses significant areas of suitability, while Benin loses half its suitable areas under the lowest modeled increase in temperature. These countries’ economies rely on this crop. 

For avocados, the picture is complicated, especially in the biggest producing countries. Mexico, the world’s largest producer, sees a major increase in suitable lands, up over 80%. However, Peru, another major grower, loses around half its suitable areas under the same climate model.

While the rise in temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns might make some areas more suitable, the researchers are concerned that a major shift to develop these crops in new regions might see more forests converted to farmland or a rise of invasive species.

Although this study focused on coffee, cashews and avocados, climate change is impacting all farmers. Climate change is causing both extreme drought and extreme precipitation. Both of those have great impact on growing crops.