Climate Assessment predicts water stress on multiple levels for U.S.


Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 10.04.30 AM
This graphic from the Fourth National Climate Assessment shows groundwater depletion in U.S. aquifers a decade ago. Today, these underground water supplies are even more depleted. 

Julia Poska| November 30, 2018

We already know climate change is having major impacts on rainfall. The 2018 Iowa Climate Statement said the strongest rainfall events of the year may double in intensity by 2025.  Climate change will alter the hydrologic cycle in other ways as well, majorly changing society’s relationship with water.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment, controversially released Black Friday, details the forecasted changes to water supplies in the U.S.. It compiles the findings of over 300 experts and has been reviewed by 13 federal agencies, in an effort to inform top decision-makers and common citizens.

More intense rainfall will be met with more intense drought and reduced snowpack, which is bad news for communities that rely on glacial melt for their water supply. These changes are exacerbating water availability issues caused primarily by overuse of groundwater aquifers in much of the U.S..

As higher temperatures create even higher demand for water for drinking and irrigation, this problem will only get worse and worse, which will have major implications for both the food supply and the industrial sector.

The altered hydrologic cycle will impact the quality of our limited quantity of water as well. Rising water temperatures will impact the health of ecosystems, and changes  runoff patterns of pollutants into water will impact human health and pose challenges for water treatment facilities. Sea level rise could also threaten coastal drinking water supplies with the potential intrusion of saltwater flooding.

The report says the biggest water issues for the Midwest are adapting stormwater management systems and managing harmful algae blooms. Iowa is already familiar with floods produced by intense rainfall.  Algae blooms, fueled by nutrient-runoff from farm fields, will be further increased by rising temperatures.

Other water-related challenges detailed in the assessment include the deterioration of water infrastructure and managing water more strategically in the future.

 

On The Radio- Increasing global temperatures


5524230216_62173f3ee1_o.jpg

Kasey Dresser| November 26, 2018

This weeks segment looks at the effects of growing temperatures from 1901 to 2006. 

Transcript:

Average global temperatures will only continue increasing if nothing is done.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The average global temperature has increased between one point five and one point seven degrees Fahrenheit between 1901 and 2006. While a change of nearly two degrees over the course of a hundred years may not seem like much, the impact this change has is immense, and the consequences can be dire.

Warming in the Gulf of Mexico has increased rainfall especially in the Midwest, making flooding more widespread than in the past.

Heat waves are becoming hotter as well. A heat wave is defined as the five hottest days in a year. Iowa experienced a heat wave over the Memorial Day weekend this year, when temperatures averaged in the upper nineties.

As these changes occur, Iowans will need to invest more to adapt their buildings and storm water management systems to better prepare for more floods and the rising heat. The Iowa Climate Statement 2018 details some of these solutions.

For more information, visit iowa environmental focus dot org.

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

On the Radio- Green infrastructure key to keeping urban flooding at bay


6220750095_c0d10d1c43_z.jpg
Green roofs are a type of green infrastructure (flickr).

Julia Poska | November 19, 2018

This week’s segment looks at flood mitigation approaches that incorporate nature into city design.

Transcript:

As Iowa’s extreme rain events intensify over time, flood management considerations will need to expand beyond river floodplains.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Floods commonly occur when rivers swell over their banks, but flooding can happen far from river systems, too.  Urban flooding occurs when drainage systems fail to move large amounts of storm water away from developed areas quickly.

According to the Iowa Climate Statement 2018, scientists forecast that daily rainfall in Iowa’s most extreme rain events will double by midcentury, meaning cities and towns will have even more water to manage.

One solution is to replace areas of impermeable concrete and asphalt with green infrastructure. These swaths of soil and vegetation absorb and slow down water to process it more naturally and reduce flooding.

Green infrastructure can be incorporated into sidewalks, buildings, backyards and even parking lots. Rain gardens, bio-swales, green roofs and more bring plants, soil and mulch into community design in attractive and helpful ways.

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

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

 

 

 

Hurricane Harvey worsened by Houston skyline


14742363743_44b261a305_z.jpg
The buildings of Houston made the floods it experienced last August more intense, a new study found (flickr). 

Julia Poska| November 16, 2018

Houston can partially blame the unprecedented flooding it experienced during Hurricane Harvey last year on its skyline. A new study co-authored by Gabriele Villarini, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering at the University of Iowa, found that Houston’s topography exacerbated Harvey’s rainfall.

Researchers obtained data on rainfall and water discharge in Houston during the storm from various national agencies, and compared it to a computer model that simulated the same storm with a twist. In the model, the city of Houston was replaced with undeveloped farm fields to calculate the built environment’s effect on the storm’s behavior.

The analysis concluded that urban development in the Houston area increased the likelihood of intense fooding 21 times during that particular storm. In other words, if Houston were really an expanse of farmland instead of a city, less rain would have fallen.

“The buildings stop the air from being able to move forward, away from the ocean,” co-author Gabriel Vecchi from Princeton told NPR. “They sort of stop the air in that general area, and the air has nowhere to go but around the buildings, or up.”

Vecchi said when tall buildings push air farther upwards, the amount of atmospheric water vapor that condenses into rain increases. Houston’s skyline not only stalled the storm, but squeezed more rain out of it.

 

 

 

Iowa Pulitzer winner says ‘Welcome to climate change, Iowa-style’


186223006_9299d723b1_z
Cullen details the consequences of climate-fueled floods and heatwaves for Iowa farms (flickr).

Julia Poska | October 26, 2018

“Welcome to climate change, Iowa-style” -Art Cullen

Over the course the current midterm election campaigns, Iowan farm fields have faced high heatwaves, record-breaking rainfall, flooding and unseasonable cold. Experts say such extreme events are fueled by climate change.

Pulitzer Prize winner Art Cullen, editor of Storm Lake, Iowa’s Storm Lake Times, published a new editorial on The Guardian last week to share his thoughts on the matter.

“Few politicians in the five states around here are talking about regulating agriculture in an era of warmer and wetter nights and long droughts,” he wrote. “Yet farmers are paying attention.”

Cullen based his argument in the findings of regional climate researchers. An Iowa State scientist predicted Iowa’s recent floods 20 years ago. Someone at the University of Minnesota predicts Iowa’s corn yield will halve by 2070. An agronomist, also from Iowa State, said soil erosion is making corn starchier and less valuable.

To combat the change, farmers have historically increased drainage tile. Cullen cited the environmental consequences of that adaption, mainly low oxygen due to excess nutrients in the Gulf of Mexico, and water quality issues within the state.

As the situation has gotten worse and awareness has risen, farmers have started making positive changes, too, Cullen said.  They’re looking at sustainability reports, cover cropping to reduce erosion, and rotating diverse crops and livestock.

Cullen calls for policy makers to “catch up” and provide more financial aid to help farmers implement sustainable practices and even retire land.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Iowa Climate Statement 2018


Press conference_Ulrike and Schnoor
Ulrike Passe (left) and Jerry Schnoor answer questions about the Iowa Climate Statement.

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu and Kasey Dresser | October 11, 2018

The Iowa Climate Statement 2018: Designing Buildings and Communities for Iowa’s Future Climate was released earlier today at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. The statement was announced by Jerry Schnoor, the co-director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, and Ulrike Passe, Associate Professor of Architecture at Iowa State University.

good img 2
Ulrike Passe (left) and Jerry Schnoor read the climate statement and answered questions

The eighth annual statement, “Iowa Climate Statement 2018: Designing Buildings and Communities for Iowa’s Future Climate,” released Thursday, October 11 was signed by a record 201 science faculty and researchers from 37 Iowa colleges and universities. The statement describes the urgent need to fortify our building and public infrastructure from heat and precipitation and looks to the future weather of Iowa, suggesting ways to improve Iowa’s buildings to suit those changing weather patterns.

IMG_2816
The climate statement holds a record number of signers
ExtremeWeather_SocialMedia-widespread Iowa precip
Extreme precipitation is just one factor influencing this year’s climate statement topic

Iowa_Climate_Statement_2018_documents_and_graphics

Watch the press conference on our Facebook page

Read the climate statement

Iowa expects to get drenched


15015873260_551594eea0_z
Iowa expects dark and stormy skies for the next several days (flickr).

Julia Poska | October 5th, 2018

After its third-wettest September on record, Iowa can expect a rainy October, too. The DesMoines Register reported that 4 to 5 inches of rain are forecasted to fall over most of the state in next few days. For some localities, it’s already started.

Southwest Iowa may be hit the hardest. Forecasts there predict 6 or more inches of rain.

The rain is expected to fall almost endlessly at least into early next week. National Weather Service meteoroligst Brooke Hagenhoff told the Register that the widespread nature of the forecast will likely increase the rainfall’s impacts on rivers and low-lying areas.

Some parts of the state are already saturated. Despite a fairly dry start to the month, flood alerts have been active for parts of the Des Moines, Cedar and Iowa Rivers throughout this week thanks to late-September rains in northern Iowa. The Iowa Flood Information System gauged a major flood stage for the Wapsipinicon River at DeWitt as of Wednesday afternoon.