Coastal homes are threatened by sea level rise

Beautiful sea front property is being threatened by sea level rise. (flickr/sdobie)

Eden DeWald | June 20th, 2018

Coastal homes all the way from Maine to Florida are feeling the threat of sea level rise. Approximately 300,000 homes along the East and West Coast of the United States are at risk for reoccurring flooding due to sea level rise. According to National Geographic, the global mean sea level has risen four to eight inches over the past century. However, the rate at which sea level is rising has been twice as fast for the last 20 years when compared to the first 80 years of the last century.

Sea level rise is caused by three main factors, all of which are consequences of climate change. Thermal expansion, the melting of ice over Antarctica and Greenland, and the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers, all contribute to the measurable rise that researchers have observed over the past century. In 2012, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that sea level could rise up to 38 inches by 2100.

Sea level rise has serious consequences for homeowners. By 2045, the slowly creeping disaster of chronic flooding could pose great threats to coastal housing markets. The Union of Concerned Scientists conducted a study on the effect that sea level will have on the East Coast and the Gulf area. Kirsten Dahl, an author of the study, stated that the loss of tax revenue from affected homes could cut the tax base of small towns by as much as 70 percent. Coastal homes are highly sought after real estate, but buying a beach house may not be the luxury it once was.


A Silent Summer: Why insects are in danger

There is a growing concern over the slow decline of flying insects (/stock)

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | June 19th, 2018

Insects and bugs are not everyone’s favorite creatures. They are, however, essential to a healthy and balanced ecosystem. And some of them may be in danger of declining.

The decline in the number of flying bugs was spotted first in Britain, where casual observers started noting a lack of bug debris on their windshields. Known as the “windscreen phenomenon“, citizens started writing letters to The Telegraph, noting the strange lack of insect bodies on their windshields as they drove through the countryside.

Where have all my insects gone?” one citizen wrote.

This strange insect silence has been attributed to everything from pesticides to climate change, but the answers are still unclear. The absence of these flying bugs is eerily reminiscent of the honey bee decline that struck the United States back in 2007, when Colony Collapse Disorder was threatening to severely impact the honey bee population.

While anecdotes about the sudden lack of insects on car windows are frequent, proving definitively that these insects are declining is a bit more difficult. A State of Nature 2016 report released in the UK details the decline of flora and fauna, and the volunteer-run data collection site suggests that insects in the UK have declined roughly 59% since 1970.

State of Nature and other similar nature and environment report sites rely on volunteers most of the time to data-gather, and the hope is that this collection of data can help trace the causes of animal and plant declines.


On the Radio- Beavers may help to reduce pollution

A beaver perches on the shore (Bryn D/flickr)

Eden DeWald | June 18, 2018

This week’s segment focuses on a new study about the ecosystem services that beavers provide.


Beavers could help contain pollutants in ponds and streams.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Hydrology professor Richard Brazier at the University of Exeter in England led a study observing a family of beavers. The beavers have been living in a secured re-creation of their habitat since 2011. The scientist primarily studied their dam building routine. Inside the dams, researchers found soil runoff from near by agriculture which contained nitrogen and phosphorus. Agricultural runoff is a concern for wildlife since new pollutants damage all aspects of the ecosystem. The beavers were able to trap the soil in their dam creating less pollutant exposure in the surrounding water. The dams also created more ponds in the ecosystem and increased vegetation.

Research will continue to see if the pollutants can be completely removed from the water.

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

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

Antarctica is melting, and its worse than we thought

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.

Revamping science education in Iowa

The University of Iowa is helping the state to rethink the way kids science. (Karen Apricot/flickr)

Katelyn Weisbrod | June 14, 2018

Innovators in education at the University of Iowa are leading a charge to revitalize science curriculum in Iowa’s K-12 schools.

The effort aims to teach kids how to apply science, like biology, chemistry, geology, and physics, rather than just memorizing terms and facts.

“It’s teaching in a way that attaches an Iowa child to real-world relevance,” said Ted Neal, clinical associate professor in the UI College of Education in an Iowa Now article. “At that point, the child is hooked. She or he cares.”

Neal pointed out that the jobs that these young people will have in the future likely do not exist yet. For that reason, they need to be trained in how to ask and answer scientific questions.

The UI College of Education, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research are conducting surveys with teachers around the state to better understand what changes need to be made to achieve the goals in curriculum changes.

Neal has also written a book detailing how to educate eighth graders in ways that teach science specifically relating to Iowa’s land use, climate, and environmental challenges.

The impact of climate change on food yield and nutrition

Leafy greens can provide calcium, magnesium, and potassium. (ccharmon/flickr)

Eden DeWald | June 13th, 2018

A new study, conducted by a team from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, studies the effect that consequences of climate change will have on the yield and nutritional content of vegetables and legumes. The environmental changes analyzed in the study include any change found in ambient temperature, salinity, water availability, and concentration of carbon dioxide and ozone in the atmosphere. The study complied information from 174 published papers, which utilized a total of 1,540 studies, and conclusions based on the information which encompassed data from 40 different counties.

Variations of each environmental factor analyzed changed prospective vegetable and legume yields in different ways. For example, an increase in carbon dioxide levels was found to increase the mean yields overall, whereas an increase in tropospheric ozone concentration was found to decrease mean yields overall. However, an increase in carbon dioxide was the only factor studied that would produced an increase in mean yields, and all others were found to incur a decrease in average yields. The study could not make an overall comment about a change in food nutrition, but two papers that were analyzed found that an increase in carbon dioxide and ozone resulted significantly  decreased nutrient concentrations within root vegetables.

Vegetables and legumes provide many vital nutrients such as potassium, vitamin C, folate, and dietary fiber. They are cost effective diet staples for many people around the world. A decrease in means yields could negatively affect public health, decrease agriculture revenues, and make living a healthy life style even more expensive.


University of Iowa, for All Of Us

The National Institutes of Health is dedicated to uniting healthcare fronts for physical and environmental safety (/source)

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | June 12th, 2018

The University of Iowa has decided to join the National Institutes of Health in its mission to educate the American public on pressing health issues. The mission plan, called the “All Of Us Research Program“, aims to fund and gather data from various studies on the health and behavioral habits of Americans in the hopes of building a database to reference for medical, sociological, and environmental purposes.

All Of Us is a voluntary initiative, and members of the research team request information from potential candidates via email and online outlets. Candidates are asked to provide anything from blood samples, family health and history, diet and exercise habits and a range of other things.

The aim is to reach underrepresented populations and help them, through data-building. Impoverished and undocumented demographics are especially at a significantly high risk health-wise, as many people in these groups face major barriers when seeking out healthcare. The environments they live in can often be detrimental as well, with many undocumented families settling for dangerously polluted areas as cleaner environments are often inaccessible. The University hopes that, by joining this movement, they can help the National Institutes of Health eventually eradicate environmental poverty and health risks.