RAGBRAI forced to divert around central Iowa flooding


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RAGBRAI riders will have to detour around Ledges State Park due to flooding in the park. (McGhiever/Wikipedia)

Katelyn Weisbrod | July 19, 2018

RAGBRAI will experience a detour after central Iowa flooding left a portion of the route underwater.

The annual bike ride across the state, slated to begin in Onawa on Sunday and end in Davenport on July 28, was supposed to ride through Ledges State Park in Madrid, Iowa on July 24. Portions of the route through the park are under 20 feet of water as the Des Moines River and Saylorville Reservoir have swelled from recent storms.

The ride will now detour around the park on Highway 30 and Quill Avenue — a ride that is about three miles shorter. This also removes a large hill that many riders were looking forward to.

“It’s unfortunate cyclists will not get the opportunity to see the scenic beauty that Ledges has to offer,” Park Manager Andy Bartlett said in a release. “Ledges is definitely a gem within out state parks system and I would encourage those interested in exploring what it has to offer to plan a visit in the future.”

Report calls for more aggressive action on nutrient runoff in Iowa


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Cyanobacteria leads to depletion of oxygen in water, which can be deadly to wildlife and dangerous for swimmers. (California Department of Fish and Wildlife/flickr)

Katelyn Weisbrod | June 28, 2018

A new report provides evidence that cyanobacteria in Iowa’s waterways is getting worse, and more aggressive legislative action is required to make it better.

The report, published by the Iowa Public Policy Project, argues that the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, a voluntary effort for farmers to implement strategies to reduce nutrient runoff into Iowa’s rivers and streams, is failing and more specific action must be taken.

The report calls for vegetative buffers to protect all of Iowa’s streams, which can filter harmful nutrients out of the runoff from stormwater or irrigation. Some states like Minnesota do require vegetative buffers on the banks of waterways. Unlike the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, mandatory vegetative buffers would be on a 10-year timeline.

“This is a reasonable goal that is achievable, effective and quantifiable — unlike the no-deadline, no-requirement nature of the current Nutrient Reduction Strategy,” said David Osterberg, co-author of the report, in a press release.

The report called this strategy a “low hanging fruit” approach to Iowa’s nutrient problem. It would also have an indirect benefit to reducing climate change, because the additional vegetation would pull carbon out of the atmosphere.

Not only is cyanobacteria dangerous for aquatic life, but it can also contain toxins to humans, sometimes requiring beaches to close, and could be risky to communities that obtain their water from contaminated sources.

Antarctica is melting, and its worse than we thought


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Antarctica has lost 3 trillion tons of ice since 1992, according to a new study. (Tak/flickr)

Katelyn Weisbrod | June 15, 2018

A new report found Antarctic ice is melting at an astoundingly higher rate than scientist thought.

The study published in Nature found that from 1992 to 2017, about 3 trillion tons of ice melted from Antarctica, increasing sea levels by about 7.6 millimeters around the world. Although it does not sound like much, a disproportionate amount of that rise was in the last five years. If sea level rise continues to accelerate, levels could be over three feet higher by 2100.

The Antarctic ice sheet, the study said, is an important indicator of global climate change. Rising sea levels is one of the main consequences of climate change, as it will increase flooding in coastal cities, especially during storms like hurricanes.

“This is the most authoritative and comprehensive treatment to date and should further reassure the public and policymakers that the science is solid, while perhaps making people more broadly less assured because the small warming and other climate changes to date have already triggered mass loss,” climate scientist Richard Alley of Penn State University told Axios in an email.

A visit with Dr. James Hansen about his work


Kasey Dresser | May 2, 2018

The University of Iowa was very lucky to receive a visit from scientist, researcher, and adjunct professor Dr. James Hansen. He was gracious enough to sit down with us and interview about his work, education, and relationship with Dr. James Van Allen.

Hansen was trained in astronomy and physics under Dr. Van Allen at the University of Iowa, graduating with the highest distinction in 1963; he then published his dissertation on Venus and helped launch the Pioneer Venus project in May of 1978. Hansen was the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York from 1981 to 2013. Today, he continues his work on climate change as the director of the Program on Climate Science at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and gave a TED talk on climate change in 2012.

This video, discussing his work, will be the first of a 3 part video series. Tomorrow, Dr. Hansen will speak directly to students and the following day will focus on his relationship with Dr. Van Allen.

On The Radio- A decade since the 2008 flood


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Cedar Rapids

Kasey Dresser | April 9, 2018

This week’s segment looks at statistics from 10 years ago when Iowa experienced the 6th largest FEMA disaster in the U.S. 

Transcript:

This year marks a decade since the historic Iowa Floods of 2008.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus. 

Most of the flooding started in early June, finally receding in July. Thousands of Iowans were left displaced and jobless from the rising waters. The banks of the Mississippi, the Cedar, the Iowa, and the Wapsipinicon Rivers all overflowed. Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and the University of Iowa were among the worst affected in Eastern Iowa. Recovery has taken nearly a decade. 

At its peak, the Cedar River was around 20 feet above flood stage. In Cedar Rapids alone, around 10,000 residents were forced to evacuate their homes. The estimated financial assistance received by Iowans as a result of the 2008 floods totaled $848 million. This was the  6th largest FEMA disaster declaration in the U.S.. 

The Iowa Flood Center, established as a result of the 2008 floods, has been working diligently with many communities to make them more resilient to the impact of future flooding. The Flood Center is the only facility of its kind in the nation, dedicated to helping Iowans better prepare for more flooding.

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

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone. 

On The Radio- 793 gigagrams of mercury found in Alaska


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Glacier Bay National Park (pontla/flickr)

Kasey Dresser | March 5, 2018

This week’s segment looks at research published in last month’s Geophysical Research Letters about the amount of mercury found in Arctic permafrost in Alaska.

Transcript: 

New research states that Arctic permafrost in Alaska holds more mercury than expected.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Arctic permafrost is frozen soil, rock, and sediment that stays at or below freezing for at least two consecutive years. A quarter of the Northern Hemisphere’s landmass is covered by permafrost.

Recently a group of scientists drilled into 13 soil cores taken from different parts of Alaska. The findings reported that the permafrost held 793 gigagrams of mercury. This is equivalent to more than 15 million gallons or 23 Olympic size swimming pools. These numbers continue to increase if you add the current thawed layer of soil that sits above it.

By 2100 anywhere from 30 to 99 percent of the permafrost could have thawed leaving the question: Where will the mercury go?

Carl Lamborg, an assistant professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz discussed in an interview that it’s unclear what will happen to the mercury when the permafrost thaws but there is reason for concern. More research will be needed to understand the impact of mercury in the atmosphere.

These new findings were published last month in the Geophysical Research Letters.

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

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

California Wildfires


Kasey Dresser | January 5, 2018

Hello everybody!

I’m Kasey and I’m a student at the University of Iowa. I’m currently visiting home during winter break in beautiful San Diego, California. And as I’m sure you seen on the news I came home after an extremely destructive fire season.  Luckily I live closer to the coast so my home was not affected but my grandma and several of my friends were evacuated.  All of the local high schools, including my sisters, were closed. Last weekend, My dad and I headed inland to film the damage.