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.

Marshalltown, IA continues to struggle after tornado in July


 

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Debris still in the streets

Kasey Dresser | September 12, 2018

On July 19th of this year, Marshalltown, IA was hit with a devastating tornado. 89 homes were destroyed and 525 sustained major damage. The  tornado struck a low income part of town making it very difficult for the small town to bounce back. Many people in the area had little to no insurance.

Lennox and JBS Swift & Co., the two largest employers have made sizable donations to help rebuild property. With disaster relief help, several employers have been able to continue to provide health insurance to their employees despite no longer having jobs for them. However, the process is slow and there are many people in the town still living in destroyed homes despite the tornado occurring months ago. Marshall County Family Long Term Recovery Committee is currently going door to door to evaluate which homes can still be lived in long term. Greg Smith, chairman of the Iowa Disaster Human Resource Council, stated, “It is not unusual for the poorest of the community to become poorer after a disaster.”

There is also large concern from business owners they may not have the insurance money to rebuild their company. It is a city requirement to use the original materials instead of replacing it with something cheaper, like wood. The collapse of these business will leave many people unemployed.

Even after the physical damage is cleared away Marshalltown will likely face a difficult couple years. Jim Zaleski, the city’s economic development director and tourism marketer, has helped with tornado relief in other towns. He believes,” the tornado was a catalyst, ” and will “force the community to take some hard looks at what was going to happen over the next decade.”

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!

 

Heavy flooding expected in Cedar Rapids


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Picture taken at Tuesday, September 4th 12:11pm

Kasey Dresser | September 5, 2018

The Cedar Rapids area is currently under river flood warning. The Cedar Rapids River is expecting to crest at 16.5 feet midday Thursday. The crest is the highest point of a flood wave. For reference, Cedar Rapids’ last flood was in 2016 and crested at 22 feet. The devastating 2008 flood crested at 31 feet.

Mayor Brad Hart held a press conference yesterday stating that preparations were in place. City workers are preparing for 18 feet to be safe. Hart stated, “I’m confident that no matter how high the river gets this week, that we’ll rise above it and protect the community as best we possibly can.”

Right now there is expected to be no damage. City Public Works Director Jen Winter’s biggest concern is “water coming back into our storm sewer system and backing up.” “Unless something fails, we anticipate that no, that there would not be damage,” she said. “In some cases, depending on the age of a building, some people do get water in their basements despite the fact that we have kind of plugged off the river from backing up.”

You can access updates on the City of Cedar Rapids website.

An alternative to artificial preservatives


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Bowl of fruit (photo credit to Suzy Hazelwood)

Kasey Dresser | August 22, 2018

A research team at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have found a plant- based preservative that could replace artificial preservatives.

Flavonoid is a group of phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables that has recently been used as a natural preservative in food.  The naturally occurring chemical is responsible for defending the plant against pathogens, pests, or other environmental stressors. It is also the reason onions, tea, strawberries, kale, grapes and other foods have such vivid colors.

During testing in a room temperature environment, food with flavonoids were able to stay fresh for 2 days without refrigeration while current artificial preservatives succumb to bacteria after 6 hours.

This research could not be announced at a better time as just last month the American Academy of Pediatrics had 67,000 pediatricians in the U.S. step forward about their concerns of nitrates and nitrites being used to preserve meat products. Research has show that nitrates and nitrites can interfere with thyroid hormone production, the metabolic process and cause gastrointestinal and nervous system cancers. Flavonoids are packed with vitamins and do not cause harm to the digestive system.

A former adviser to the World Health Organization and consultant Medical Oncologist, Dr. Gabriel Oon Chong Jin said in an interview, “Flavonoids are important natural food supplements with vitamins, but also used as food additives, without causing harm to the human system. This is unlike currently available artificial preservatives used in most processed foods such as aspartame and nitrates, which may cause cancer among other adverse health effects.”

The research team is being led by Professor William Chen, the Director of NTU’s Food Science & Technology program. The recent findings were published in last month’s Food Chemistry journal.

Dead zone in Gulf of Mexico smaller this year than expected


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The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico was measured at nearly half its expected size this summer (NOAA)

Katelyn Weisbrod | August 9, 2018

Scientists found the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is smaller this year than in years past.

The zone of water lacking sufficient oxygen to support aquatic life at the end of the Mississippi River measured just over 2,700 square miles — about the size of the state of Delaware and the fourth-smallest the zone has been measured since 1985.

Experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association expected the dead zone to be more than double this size this year. The lack of oxygen in the water is caused in part by algal blooms stimulated by nutrient runoff from farm fields in states like Iowa into the Mississippi River. Algae deplete dissolved oxygen in the water making survival nearly impossible for fish and other aquatic life.

A possible explanation given by Dr. Nancy Rabalais of Louisiana State University is that winds in the area may have mixed oxygenated water with the water lacking oxygen, reducing the zone’s size.

Scientists from Louisiana State University measure the zone’s reach annually, but the size can vary significantly throughout the year. In 2017, the zone was measured at its largest size ever recorded — over 8,700 square miles. These data help inform efforts like the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy about the progress of such initiatives to keep agricultural runoff and other nutrient loads from entering the Mississippi River.

Trump Administration proposes reduced fuel-efficiency standards


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The Trump Administration plans to reform fuel-efficiency standards for new cars. (Robert Jack/Wikipedia)

Katelyn Weisbrod | August 3, 2018

The Trump Administration has proposed to freeze fuel-economy standards for new vehicles produced in the United States beginning in 2020.

This would reverse the Obama Administration’s regulation which requires auto manufacturers to build vehicles with an average of 51 miles to the gallon by 2025. Under the proposal, the target would be 37 miles to the gallon.

Supporters of the proposal say reducing the standard would save consumers money by reducing the cost of cars without the fuel-saving technology. It also could encourage people to upgrade if they are driving old, unsafe cars to avoid buying an expensive, efficient vehicle.

Critics, however, say the proposal disregards the savings to consumers by spending less on gasoline. There is also the larger cost of burning more fossil fuels and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further accelerating the effects of climate change.