Waterloo experiences higher-than-average rainfall


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Waterloo’s average rainfall amounts have increased significantly

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | October 16th, 2018

The National Weather Service recently reported on Waterloo, Iowa’s rainfall average for the past few months, and the town has been getting more rain than ever before, with a total of 13.35 inches of rain for September alone.

The heavy rain beat down on and off throughout the month, something of an unusual weather pattern, with 12 consecutive rain-free days breaking up the monotony before the weather returned to storms.

While floods are not uncommon in the Midwest, flooding this time of year is very unusual. The average temperature of the state has risen about 1 degree Fahrenheit between 1901 and 2006.

The temperature increase is caused by the steady and increasing release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. While a degree may not seem like much, the overall temperature increase changes the pattern of water evaporation. Warmer oceans create more moisture, which in turn increases rainfall and flooding in the Midwest.

Flooding was the subject of this year’s most recent climate statement.

Go here to read the statement in full

Go here to read Todd Dorman’s take on the statement

On The Radio- Climate change affecting the moss in Antartica


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Red lichens, moss, hair grass, and pearlwort make up the fauna of Antarctic (Karen Chase/ flickr)

Kasey Dresser | October 15, 2018

This weeks segment highlights the affect of climate change on plant life in East Antartica.

Transcript:

There is evidence of climate change affecting moss beds in East Antarctica.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

In East Antarctica, green moss beds emerge after the snow melts for 6 weeks. West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula have experienced significant climate changes, but East Antarctica was yet to experience anything major.

Professor Sharon Robinson from the University of Wollongon in Australia was surprised to see abrupt changes in the moss. In 2003 the monitoring system was first set up and the moss beds were lush and bright green. When her team returned in 2008 the majority of the plants were red. The dark red color indicates the plant is stressed.

The red pigment is meant to act as sunscreen. On the team’s most recent trip to East Antarctica, there were also patches of grey moss indicating the plant is starting to die. This behavior is caused by a drying climate in the region. It is now too cold and windy for the moss beds to live primarily under water. The drier climate is a result of climate change and ozone depletion.

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

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

Reflecting on the 2018 Climate Statement


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This visual from Iowa Environmental Mesonet shows extreme rainfall in Des Moines this past summer.

Julia Poska | October 12, 2018

The UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research had a big day yesterday; we released the 2018 Iowa Climate Statement at the Cedar Rapids Public Library for the press and public. Today we can reflect on the magnitude of the statement’s message.

Titled “Designing Buildings and Communities for Iowa’s Future Climate,” the statement warns of the urgent need to adapt buildings and public infrastructure to withstand the extreme weather of tomorrow. Scientists predict that average annual heat waves will increase by 7ºF and the most extreme rainfall events will double in intensity by midcentury.

“These are really scary numbers which will have negative consequences for the elderly, the economy, for corn and soybeans, as well as beef, hogs and poultry even under sheltered confinement,” said Jerry Schnoor, co-director of CGRER. “We must start now to adapt our built environment, including buildings and flood mitigation systems, to this changing climate.”

Schnoor presented the statement yesterday with Associate Professor of Architecture Ulrike Passe, director of Iowa State University’s Center for Building Energy Research.

“Water will also enter buildings from the foundation or basement walls,” Passe said. “In particular, heavier rain events and higher water tables affect foundations, and standards going forward must reflect that.”

She provided examples of several adaptations that can be made to buildings to prepare them for increased heat and precipitation, including steeper roof slopes, increased insulation and better ventilation. She said Iowan communities should consider managing increased rainwater runoff with green, vegetation-based infrastructure like rain gardens and urban forestry as well.

These adjustments need to be made as soon as possible; Iowa’s weather is already feeling the effects of climate change.

“Warming over the Gulf of Mexico is helping feed large rain events in Iowa and the Midwest,” Schnoor said. “That’s why we’re prone to intense downpours and major flooding like Des Moines saw on June 30 and like eastern Iowa has been experiencing for the past six weeks. People’s homes and businesses are being flooded that have never been flooded before.”

Burning less fossil fuel and reducing atmospheric carbon emissions can help mitigate climate change’s impacts as well, but at this stage, adaptation is absolutely crucial. We at CGRER hope those with decision-making power take the statement to heart, and listen to the record 201 science faculty and researchers from 37 Iowa colleges and universities who endorsed it.

 

The Iowa Climate Statement 2018


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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.

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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.

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The climate statement holds a record number of signers
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Extreme precipitation is just one factor influencing this year’s climate statement topic

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Watch the press conference on our Facebook page

Read the climate statement

Iowa caught in an intense flood season


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The constant rainfall is beginning to affect rivers and creeks in the Midwest (/stock)

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | October 9th, 2018

The past few weeks have seen heavy rainfall and constant flash flood warnings for Iowa. Many towns and cities in the central and eastern parts of the state are already experience flooding as their rivers and creeks overflow, with some places battling 6-inch-high water.

Constant flooding and unpredictable rain pose a threat for more than just Iowa’s infrastructure. Iowa farmers have been seeing negative impacts on their crops and property as a result of the inclement weather, with many vendors at the popular Farmer’s Market in Davenport taking breaks during the storms and losing profit as a result. The struggle continues at the farm as well; rain creates mud, and mud slows down the process of harvesting vegetables considerably. Some plants become suffocated with the water and drown in the too-drenched soil.

While crops are being negatively impacted, cities suffer as well; the damage that water causes to the infrastructure of buildings and urban structures is well-documented at this point. Currently, multiple affected counties in Iowa are waiting on government funding so they can carry out their flood plans. Des Moines plans to buy and remove flood-prone property, but can do nothing until their funding comes through; Parkersburg and Lake City await money for a tornado-safe room and a new generator, respectively. With funding trickling in at a snail’s pace and the rain continuing relentlessly, what transpires in the next few weeks is ultimately up to the weather.

On The Radio- Farmers are profiting from environmental conservation


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Kasey Dresser | October 7, 2018

This weeks segment talks about an incentive for farmers to be more environmentally friendly. 

Transcript:

Farmers are finding profitable ways to help the environment.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Agriculture practices are creating environmental challenges for our water, air and soil.

Public concern about the environment has led to increased adoption of conservation efforts. However, many conservation methods are costly.  A new study from the Environmental Defense Fund is providing more options for farmers to find profitable ways to help the environment.

One of the main ways that farmers are able to improve the health of their land is through the use of cover crops. Cover crops keep topsoil intact and improve the health of crops overall. Other methods include diversifying crop rotation and switching to more environmentally friendly herbicides.

These conservation practices come with an initial expense, but have proven to be cost effective overall for many farmers in the Midwest.

Three participating farmers provided a transparent look into their financial gain since implementing these conservation methods. While they experienced some profit, they all expect greater gains in the future as they gain more experience.

For more information, visit Iowa Environmental Focus dot org.

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