Hawaiian volcano erupts for first time since 1984


Mauna Loa looms over Kīlauea
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 30, 2022

Mauna Loa erupts for the first time in 40 years. Located in Hawaii National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, the world’s largest active volcano erupted on Sunday, November 27th, at 11:30 p.m. after large earthquakes that had occurred earlier. Some homeowners in the lava flow path have been evacuated, but no immediate danger is present.  

In their latest update, the U.S. Geological Survey said, “Lava flows are not threatening any downslope communities.” However, the agency warned that residents should remain alert and diligent saying, “the early stages of a Mauna Loa rift zone eruption can be very dynamic, and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly.” 

Ken Hon, the scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told The Associated Press, “Typically, Mauna Loa eruptions start off with the heaviest volume first.” He went on to say that the eruption should slow down in a few days.  

According to scientists, as of now, the lava is slow moving and could take days to reach cities on the east side of the island.  

Drought conditions predicted to continue through winter


Drought
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Elyse Gabor | November 2, 2022

This winter, the drought is expected to continue in the Western region of the United States. This news comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which has forecasted that the extreme drought will continue through the winter.  

The drought has affected Central California the most as the state experiences warmer temperatures and below-average rainfall. However, more states are feeling the effects of the widespread drought. The drought is causing shipping issues in the Mississippi River valley due to low water levels.  

Brad Pugh, the operational drought lead with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said, “We’re going on our third year of this extreme drought for much of the Western U.S.” He continued saying, “It’s adversely affecting agriculture, increasing wildfire danger and has impacts on tourism as well.” 

Around 25 percent of U.S. citizens are facing a drought. The National Integrated Drought Information System predicts that almost half of the U.S. will feel the effects of the drought.  

Iowa’s 20th case of bird flu found in backyard flock


Chicken
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Elyse Gabor | October 25, 2022

Bird flu has been detected in a backyard flock in Dallas County. The flock consists of 48 birds of a variety of species. 

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced the infection Thursday, with Iowa’s Agriculture Secretary, Mike Naig saying, “It is not unexpected that we would face additional highly pathogenic avian influenza challenges in Iowa given that the fall migration is underway, and many other states have recently announced confirmed cases.”  

This is the first detection since last May. However, in September hunters found a few birds containing the virus. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is working with other organizations to keep the birds safe and free from contamination.  

Overall, about 13.5 million birds have been found to have bird flu in Iowa. The virus is expected to last through this year and possibly next. According to Yuko Sato, a poultry extension veterinarian and diagnostician at Iowa State University, “It’s here to stay until it clears itself out. Might not be this year. Might be next year.” 

Solar Energy in Iowa: Policies and Practices at the Municipal, County, and State Levels


Via: University of Iowa

Elyse Gabor | September 26, 2022

On Tuesday, October 11th, Iowa Law is hosting a discussion surrounding the Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative (HELI). The event will feature panel discussions with policy experts, researchers, industry members, public employees, and nonprofit organization representatives. The panels will discuss solar policies around Iowa. Following the guest speakers, the audience will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A. Breakfast and lunch will be included at the event. Attendance is both in person and virtual and open to all ages. If interested, register at: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2lU6iMrnn17eLu6  

For more information, visit: https://events.uiowa.edu/73266 

Solar Energy in Iowa: Policies and Practices at the Municipal, County, and State Levels


Via: University of Iowa

Elyse Gabor | September 19, 2022

On Tuesday, October 11th, Iowa Law is hosting a discussion surrounding the Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative (HELI). The event will feature panel discussions with policy experts, researchers, industry members, public employees, and nonprofit organization representatives. The panels will discuss solar policies around Iowa. Following the guest speakers, the audience will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A. Breakfast and lunch will be included at the event. Attendance is both in person and virtual and open to all ages. If interested, register at: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2lU6iMrnn17eLu6  

For more information, visit: https://events.uiowa.edu/73266 

Iowa State University Introduces New Climate Science Major


57 Iowa State University Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images -  iStock
Via iStock

Josie Taylor | August 2, 2022

Students at Iowa State University will have the opportunity to study climate science in the 2022-2023 school year. This unique program aims to prepare students to solve climate-based challenges.

Chair of geological and atmospheric sciences, Kristie Franz, said she’s excited to introduce the new major to students. Although scientists have been talking about climate change for decades, Franz said it’s become an urgent issue to students in recent years.

The bachelor of science degree will allow students to choose from six areas of focus: advanced climate science, data visualization, design and planning for sustainability, policy and human behavior, science communication and agriculture, and natural resources. 

The coursework will consist of many classes within the university’s earth science department, but will go a step further and integrate economic and communications courses.

Associate professor Lindsay Maudlin who was brought on to teach climate science courses said an interdisciplinary look at climate change is vital to preparing students to tackle the issue.

Airports are looking to convert cooking oil into jet fuel


Airport
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | May 17, 2022

Major airports are converting cooking oil into jet fuel. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is using the grease from the DFW McDonalds to create fuel, helping to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and increase sustainable efforts. 

According to Pratik Chandhoke, the technical services manager for sustainable aviation fuel at Neste US Inc., the chemical makeup of fuel and cooking oil is similar. He said, “If you look at any oil, they all have these building molecules, hydrocarbons. We can take those atoms, and we then do some processing magic in our refineries, and we actually mimic the chemistry of a jet fuel.” 

Around 32,000 pounds of cooking oil is recycled from restaurants at DFW airport and converted to sustainable aviation fuel or SAF. One gallon of cooking oil is about three-quarters of a gallon of SAF.  

Other major airports are committed to becoming more sustainable by eliminating jet fuel. As SAF becomes more common the price will even out and become more comparable to the current price of fossil jet fuel. Right now, the cost of creating SAF can be up to six times higher than normal fuel.  

Company in Le Mars fined $17,000 for fish kills


Dead fish
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | April 5, 2022

According to the DNR, Nor-Am Cold Storage has been fined $17,000 for causing two fish kills.
Based out of Le Mars, the company has polluted a creek nearby with ammonia-laden water. This has occurred twice in the past four years.

The leaks occurred when the refrigeration units on the company’s rooftop were serviced. While performing the tasks, anhydrous ammonia was used as a refrigerant. The ammonia-laden water leaked from a bucket and made its way to a city storm sewer.

The first contamination was discovered in May 2018 when citizens nearby could smell ammonia. The DNR reported that over 20 pounds of ammonia ran into the creek and sewer. The next day, about 50 dead, small fish were reported. Nor-Am spent hours pumping the water out of the creek to prevent the contamination from reaching the Floyd River. The company then agreed to pay a $7,000 fine.

Another fish kill in Le Mars was reported in September 2021. DNR environmental specialist Jacob Simonsen said there were around 20 dead fish near the creek. Soon after, Nor-Am reported that another ammonia leak had occurred just three days before. This time, around four pounds of ammonia had been leaked. The company must report any possible leaks to the DNR but failed to do so due to an unknown reason. However, the company agreed to pay a fine of $10,000 for the leak and is believed to write a plan to the DNR in hopes of stopping future pollution.

Iowa Senate Votes to Allow Retailers to Stop Accepting Bottle and Can Returns


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | March 31, 2022

Under a bill that was approved Tuesday by the Iowa Senate retailers would be allowed to opt out of accepting bottle and can returns starting in 2023. Redemption centers would get a raise, and beverage wholesalers would continue to keep unredeemed deposits. 

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, floor manager of Senate File 2378, said it was “an attempt to save the bottle bill.” Democrats who opposed the legislation said it would do the opposite.

The bill increases the handling fee for redemption centers from 1 cent to 3 cents per container. Retailers that continue to accept containers will continue to receive a penny per container.

One of the main points of disagreement between the two sides is whether the increased handling fee will be enough to encourage new or expanded redemption centers to open. If retailers opt out of the program, more redemption centers will be needed so consumers can return their containers and collect their 5-cent deposit.

The bill passed with a vote of 31-18. Now it will move to the House, which is considering a separate bill that allows some retailers – grocers and some others – to opt out of accepting container returns.

Climate change has harmed Iowa’s tree population


tree
Via Flickr

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.