This week’s episode of EnvIowa features a discussion with CGRER co-director Dr. Jerry Schnoor. He is, among other things, a professor of civil and environmental engineering with a long career studying climate change, water quality and environmental toxicology. Listen to hear Schnoor discuss the urgency of climate change, his efforts to clean up chemical pollution using plants and why he wants our youth to get angry.
Vegetation starts turning green earlier in cities than surrounding rural areas, but urban plants are less sensitive to unseasonable warmth, new Iowa State University-led research found. The authors attribute the difference to the urban “heat island” effect.
Cities typically have somewhat higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas because materials like asphalt and brick absorb heat more readily than natural landscapes. For example, New York City is about 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than surrounding areas in summer, according to NASA’s Climate Kids site.
Researchers found this “heat island” phenomenon causes urban vegetation to perceive the start of spring and begin greening an average of six days earlier than surrounding rural plants.
As climate change progresses, however, plants in both rural and urban areas are responding to unseasonably warm temperatures by beginning growth earlier and earlier over time. Pollinators and last frosts have failed to keep up, which has damaged the early bloomers’ ability to survive and reproduce.
The study found that rural vegetation is more sensitive to early spring weather than urban vegetation, perhaps due to the urban heat island effect as well.
ISU Ph.D. student Ling Meng led the research team, which included CGRER member Yuyu Zhou, an ISU geological and atmospheric scientist, among others. The study, published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was based on satellite images from 85 large U.S. cities from 2001 to 2014.
Zhou told the Iowa State News Service that this sort of research can help predict how plants will respond to climate change and urbanization.
CGRER’s Co-director Jerry Schnoor sat down with Iowa Public Radio to discuss what life with climate action would like and how Iowans can adapt their own lives with impending climate changes. We have already seen severe flooding and intense preciptations, but what’s next? You can listen to learn more here.
High temperatures on Wednesday, December 25 2019 broke records across the state of Iowa and much of the Midwest.
Des Moines reached 60 degrees, breaking the 1936 record of 58 degrees. Cedar Rapids reached 58 degrees, breaking the previous record of 54, according to Weather Underground.
The Christmas day highs were preceded and followed by unseasonably warm weather as well.
Though a 60 degree December day is not unheard of (the Des Moines Registerreports that at least one December day in Iowa has reach 60 degrees 29% of years since 1878), average winter temperatures in the Midwest are undoubtedly rising.
A Union of Concerned Scientists report shares that average annual winter temperatures in the Midwest have risen about 4 degrees since 1980. Winter temperatures are forecast to continue rising, while snow and days below freezing will decrease.
Iowans across much of the state awoke Tuesday morning to find a blanket of fresh snow atop vibrant orange and yellow autumn leaves, many still attached to the trees. Parts of east and east central Iowa saw as much as three to four inches, according to the Des Moines Register.
The National Weather Service puts eastern Iowa’s average date of first one-inch snowfall in early December. The unseasonable flurry might have some Iowans questioning how serious Midwestern climate change–characterized by increasing average temperatures– could really be.
But climate (average temperature and precipitation over several decades) is not the same as weather (daily atmospheric conditions). Years of abnormally high snowfall or abnormally cold weather could impact climate averages over time, but singular snow and frost events are products of normal weather variation throughout the year.
Records show that overall, average annual temperatures in Iowa and most of the world are increasing, despite weather variation. This pushes local 30-year climate averages (shown below for Iowa City) up by small increments over time.
Iowans can still expect snow and cold in coming decades, though the overall frequency and intensity of such events may decline over time. Somewhat milder winters will be followed by much hotter, dryer summers, with an increased number of intense rainstorms added to the mix.
The FED central bank released a report this week reviewing the economic strength of various sectors and regions and concluded the agriculture industry is still not doing well economically — a lot of which can be attributed to climate change.
The report said that adverse weather effects has impacted farming conditions, market prices, and has disrupted trade. The Midwest has been hit particularly hard, and the FED reported that midwest sources have concerns about the outcome of this year’s harvest. Iowa experienced heavy flooding in the spring, which damaged grain and farmland. Because Iowa also experienced a period of dry weather over the summer months, some farmers were able to bounce back.
This summer, economic experts at the USDA issued a report that said increasing crop losses will drive up the prices of crop insurance, with climate change being a leading factor in crop loss. There are several government cost-share programs that work to mitigate risk in agriculture, and the average annual cost of these programs amounts to $12 billion using data from the last decade. As severe weather becomes more frequent, the amount of federal dollars is expected to increase.
The report says that all anticipated climate scenarios are expected to lower yields of corn, soybeans, and wheat — but yield volatility is not always impacted by severe weather. In a scenario that greenhouse gas emissions increase at a high rate, the cost of today’s Federal Crop Insurance Program is expected to increase 22 percent.
Kasey Dresser and Tyler Chalfant | October 7, 2019
Just weeks after July 2019 became the hottest month in 140 years of recordkeeping, 216 science faculty and researchers from 38 Iowa colleges and universities have endorsed the ninth annual Iowa Climate Statement 2019: Dangerous Heat Events to Become More Frequent and Severe.
The statement, released on September 18, warns Iowans and Midwesterners of sobering extreme heat projections for the region. Based on the most up‐to‐date scientific sources, the statement makes clear the urgency of preparing for dangerously hot summers in the coming decades.
Betsy Stone, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Iowa, reads this year’s statement in the video above. Access the full written statement here.