Rain still falling in Iowa


 

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Iowa Flood Center

Kasey Dresser | September 19, 2018

In years past by September, Iowa no longer expects rain. However that is obviously not the case with heavy rainfall the past 10 days and more expected in the forecast. Professor Gabriele Villarini, a faculty affiliate of the Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa, paired with Assistant Research Scientist Wei Zhang to develop the images above for context around the rain we are currently experiencing.

The top left panel shows that from 1981 to 2010 Iowa could expect at most 2 inches of rain in August and September. The bottom left panel shows that we are currently expecting 8-10 inches.

The top right panel shows that in this time period, Iowa is experiencing the most rainfall since 1948. The bottom right panel shows that in some areas there is more than 80% rain now than the second largest rainfall.

For more information, check out the Iowa Flood Information Center.

On The Radio- Increasing Summer Heat


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Midday heat (wexass/flickr)

Kasey Dresser | September 17, 2018

This weeks segment talks about why Iowa and other mid-latitude states are experiencing hotter summers.

Transcript:

Summers in mid-latitudes, including Iowa, are warming faster than other seasons, a recent study found.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Between forty and sixty degrees latitude in the Northern Hemisphere, an area from the southern Iowa border to mid Canada warmed more rapidly in the summer than in the winter over a thirty-eight-year-period,

The study published in the journal Science attributed this finding to the fact that a substantial amount of Earth’s land mass is concentrated in this zone, and land tends to heat up more quickly than the ocean. This can have serious implications on agriculture, because much of this land is used to grow crops in the summer, particularly in Iowa.

This study was conducted using a fingerprint method, meaning the researchers could distinguish natural climatic warming from increased temperatures due to human activity.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dog-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

 

Could climate change be behind Hurricane Florence?


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The National Hurricane Center shows the “cone of uncertainty” predicting where Hurricane Florence’s eye might travel.

Julia Poska| September 14th, 2018

North and South Carolina have both issued evacuation warnings in anticipation of a very destructive weekend. The eye of Hurricane Florence is made landfall this afternoon, though her rain bands touched land late Thursday.

As of Thursday morning, Florence’s strongest sustained winds of 105 mph put her in Category 2 classification for wind. As of Friday afternoon, she has downgraded to Category 1.  Forecasters say her storm surge, the swell of water pushed onshore by hurricane winds, will be a Category 4. The National Hurricane Center predicts floods over 9 feet above ground in some areas.

States as far inland as Indiana may receive the tail end of the hurricane, which will most likely have weakened to a less windy but still wet tropical storm or depression by then.

Experts debate whether climate change will increase the frequency and severity of tropical storms and hurricanes in coming years, and whether it already has. It is difficult to separate natural variability from human-induced effects when examining any specific storm, but many of the conditions needed to spawn hurricanes are certainly undergoing change.

To many experts, it seems to many that rising sea levels exacerbate storm surge, that rising sea surface temperatures could add more fuel to storms, and that a warmer, wetter atmosphere increases rainfall.  Just look to 2017’s especially devastating season for evidence that these storms are getting nastier.

Other experts say that climate change will increase wind shear, friction between upper and lower level winds moving in different directions, which could actually stop more hurricanes from forming. Only time will tell which factors

As climate change is variable over the Earth’s surface, models show both increase and decrease of all those different factors in different locations. While climate change will almost certainly impact hurricanes, only time will tell the nature of that impact.

 

U.N. official pushes for faster, better climate efforts


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The United Nations headquarters in New York City (wikimedia.commons).

Julia Poska| September 13th, 2018

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called on global leaders to ramp up their Paris Accord commitments and to do it soon in a speech he gave September 10 at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

“If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us,” he said, as quoted in Al Jazeera.

Guterres pointed to record-breaking temperatures and devastating natural disasters like Hurricane Maria as evidence that climate change is outpacing human efforts to reduce it. He called on leaders outside of national government, like industry leaders and local officials, to take initiative as well.

The U.N Paris Accord, signed by almost 200 countries, aims to keep global temperatures at least 2 degrees Celsius below a pre-industrial baseline by the end of the century.  2020.  As of right now, many countries are not on track to meet these targets. Even if the Accord met its full potential, many critics argue the reductions it outlines would not actually meet the 2 degree mark.

Guterres spoke of the agreement, saying “What we still lack, even after the Paris Agreement, is leadership and the ambition to do what is needed,” as quoted in the New York Times. He asked leaders to step up and meet their Paris Accord promises to show citizens of their countries they “care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands.”

The next U.N climate summit, COP24, will be held in Poland this December. At this summit, world leaders who have heeded Guterres’ warning will have the opportunity to announce plans to increase their fossil fuel emission reduction targets.

On The Radio- Soil Conservation Mapping


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Kasey Dresser | September 10, 2018

This weeks segment talks about how Iowa is the country leader in soil conservation mapping.

Transcript:

Iowa is now one of the country’s leaders in soil conservation mapping.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Iowa officials have recently completed a map of the conservation efforts in the state. This map identifies the six different methods of soil conservation used in Iowa—including terraces, ponds, grassed waterways, sediment control basins, and more. The map shows where practices are deployed and how they are funded.

The map also acts as a visual for determining how different areas of Iowa are being funded for their conservation efforts, and whether that funding is public or private.

Iowa is the first state to conduct such a thorough analysis of its conservation practices statewide. The project took three years and was a joint effort between Iowa State University and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Researchers used something called LiDAR—laser imaging software—and years of aerial photographs to compile the conservation map.

Iowa State University is currently performing additional research to build a newer map, one that also shows the reduction of sediment and phosphorous buildup in Iowa’s waterways.

For more information, visit Iowa Environmental Focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E Mason.

 

EnvIowa- Iowa City Climate Action Steering Committee


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CGRER member Charles Stanier speaks about his experience on the Iowa City Climate Action Steering Committee.

Eden DeWald| September 6, 2018

Episode 9 of the EnvIowa Podcast gives an inside look at how the City of Iowa City created its climate plan. We spoke with the Iowa City Sustainability Coordinator Brenda Nations, about her role in the planning process, and about why Iowa City needs a climate action plan. CGRER member Charles Stanier was a part of the steering committee that provided input for the climate action plan, and helped to personalize the plan to fit Iowa City. He provided context for this EnvIowa episode about what it was like being a member of the steering committee and implementing a climate action plan in his community.

The Iowa City Climate Action Plan has ambitious goals—like aiming to reduce Iowa City emissions by 80% by 2050. Take a peek at this episode of EnvIowa to learn more about the process of creating this plan!

 

Border to arid western climate creeps closer to Iowa


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The 100th Meridian, located at 100 degrees west, is shown dividing the United States’ Great Plains. This longitude line has long been considered the border between the arid west and humid east (from Wikimedia Commons).

Julia Poska | August 30, 2018

The divide between America’s dry west and humid east appears to have shifted two degrees east since the 1970’s, according to recent research from Columbia University.

Topography and atmospheric circulation from both coasts create a pattern of increasing aridity from east to west. The 100th meridian, which splits the Dakotas in half and continues south through Texas and into western Mexico, historically separated the United States’ arid and humid climate zones.

The new study, published in the journal Earth Interactions, places the wet and dry dividing line closer to 98 degrees west today. Researcher Richard Seager attributed this in part to rising temperatures in a National Public Radio interview.

The shifting climate has had major implications farms in between the 100th and 98th meridians. Corn requires warmth and humidity, while wheat can grow in more arid conditions, but both crops have suffered where the soil has dried.

Iowa’s westernmost point sits at about 96 degrees. If the western divide were to bring dry conditions another two degrees east, the results would be devastating for Iowa corn growers.

Climate projections for Iowa do anticipate further warming, but they also predict increased humidity rather than aridity (see the 2017 Iowa Climate Statement). Though Iowa is unlikely to dry out anytime soon,  climate change will nonetheless create other serious challenges for agriculture statewide.