Iowa Lost Over 7 Million Trees in the Derecho, DNR Says


Derecho Damage in Ames, IA

Josie Taylor | September 15, 2021

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has reported that last summer’s derecho cost Iowa 7.2 million trees as wind gusts got up to 140 miles per hour in some counties. The cities that lost the most were Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Davenport. 

Iowa cities lost 4.5 million trees, and rural Iowa lost 2.7 million trees. 13 percent of all urban trees were lost to the derecho. Cedar Rapids, however, lost 70 percent of their urban trees as they lost 953,224 trees alone. Iowa City and Johnson County lost 234,567 trees. 

The lack of trees in Iowa will ultimately contribute to climate change since trees capture carbon, reduce air pollution, provide natural shade and provide windbreaks. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called the derecho “the costliest thunderstorm in U.S. history. The state sustained $11 billion in damages and Iowan families have filed for $3 billion, according to the Iowa Insurance Division. 

UI Engineer awarded NASA funding for wildfire research


Via flickr

Elizabeth Miglin | Sep 1, 2021

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) awarded a University of Iowa professor $1.3 million in funding to study atmospheric and climate impacts of wildfires.

Jun Wang, UI Professor of Biochemical and Chemical Engineering, will lead the three-year $540,000 study with co-investor Fangqun Yu, a researcher and professor at the University of Albany. The study will focus on the aerosol composition and temperature in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS) using measurements from a sensor aboard the International Space Station called the Stratospheric Aerosole and Gas Experiment III or SAGE III.

Severe wildfires throughout 2021 have set annual records for land burned, especially in the western United States and Australia. The huge plumes of black carbon aerosols into the UTLS, concentrating approximately six to 18 miles into the atmosphere. Concerns have arisen of the warming effect that could arise from the fires. 

Alongside the SAGE III project, Wang will lead another NASA funded four-year study to develop the first map of fire combustion efficiency from space. The study was granted $800,000 and will be in collaboration with Arlindo da Silva, a research meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. 

Climate Change Costs Billions of Dollars


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | August 30, 2021

Today, we are seeing natural disasters hit all over the United States. There are devastating floods in Tennessee, fires across the west destroying trees, property and wildlife, and hurricane damage is being seen across the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

In 2020 $11 billion of damages were seen across the midwest from the derecho.  850,000 acres of crops were destroyed. 

Already in 2021, $40 billion in insured damage from natural disasters has been reported world-wide. The 2021 damage so far is above the 10-year average of $33 billion. The only other year with more costly damage was 2011, when earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand sent the six-month total to $104 billion.

Swiss Re, a global insurance and reinsurance company, said the increased cost of natural disasters can be attributed to climate change. Climate change is causing a rise in temperatures, sea levels and weather extremes. 

Iowa lawmakers can help with these catastrophic prices. They can extend solar tax credit, which gives intensive to use efficient renewable energy. Iowa also has not completed a baseline study of buildings’ compliance with energy efficiency standards since 2011. These are ways Iowa can help with problems caused by climate change. With the increase in costs worldwide, these costs are bound to hit average American families if nothing is done about it. 

July was Earth’s Hottest Month Ever Recorded


Via Flickr

Elizabeth Miglin | August 18, 2021

In the latest report to sound the alarm about the climate crisis, July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded, according to new data released by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. 

The data found combined land and ocean-surface temperature was 1.67 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 60.4 degrees F, making it the hottest July since records began in 1879. “July is typically the world’s warmest month of the year, but July 2021 outdid itself as the hottest July and month ever recorded,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. The previous record was set in July 2016, which was tied in 2019 and 2020. 

Regionally, Asia experienced its hottest July since the record was set in 2010; Europe had its second-hottest July – tying with July 2010; and North America, South America, Africa and Oceania all facing a top-10 warmest July. It is very likely 2021 will rank among the world’s 10 warmest years on record, according to the NCEI’s Global Annual Temperature Rankings Outlook

The report comes less than three months prior to “COP26,” a major climate summit held in Glasgow. Most members of the Paris Agreement will be at the summit and are expected to submit updated pledges as well as to set tougher targets for emission reductions by 2030. 

Severe Storm Hit Central Iowa Friday


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | July 12, 2021

Friday afternoon through Friday evening, The National Weather service warned central Iowa that “all modes of severe weather may be possible including damaging winds, very large hail, and even tornadoes.” 

The severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Polk County, southwestern Story County, northeastern Madison County, southeastern Boone County and eastern Dallas County Friday afternoon. 

Luckily, this severe storm ended up being quite elevated, so it was not close to the ground. This meant that tornadoes were not touching down in central Iowa on Friday. Hail, however, did occur and was the size of a half-dollar. 

The hail occurred inside of a severe thunderstorm which produced heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and strong winds. 

The National Weather Service called Friday’s storm “dangerous” and told central Iowans to prepare for “large destructive hail capable of producing significant damage.” Officials also warned that residents should shelter inside a strong building and stay away from windows. 

This storm was a drastic change for central Iowa. The counties affected by the storm were all in moderate to severe drought just days before. In fact, Des Moines, which is in Polk County, was just asked to conserve water last week because of the severe lack of rain.

Iowa Experiences Intense Weather Patterns


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | June 30, 2021

Iowa crops are experiencing an intense weather pattern this summer. Despite rain over the past week, some parts of Iowa are still in need of more moisture in order to benefit crops. Some storms were so severe it ended up causing damage to crops. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said that the moisture is very needed, however there were flash floods in southeastern Iowa. 

This past week the average precipitation state-wide was 2.13 inches, when the weekly average is 1.09 inches. Prior to this week, over 90 percent of Iowa was experiencing abnormal dryness, and 44 percent of Iowa was experiencing severe drought. This is a drastic change. 

Northwest Iowa has reported to have inadequate soil moisture in over two-thirds of topsoil. In the opposite part of Iowa, the southeast, 60 percent of topsoil is adequate to surplus. 

Despite the intense changes, crop conditions have been stabilized, and 60 percent of Iowa corn is in good to excellent condition. Soybeans are also blooming earlier than past years. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds has given approval for state resources to be used in order to recover from the effects of this severe weather. This can apply to qualifying individual residents who are damaged by the weather.

Biden Doubles FEMA Funding to Support Proactive Programs


Via Flickr

Elizabeth Miglin | May 26, 2021

On Monday, the Biden administration announced plans to provide $1 billion in additional funding for FEMA in order to prepare communities for the increasingly destructive hurricane season. 

The additional funding will double the current financial size of the Federal Emergency Management Agency program which gives states and local governments money to reduce vulnerability before a disaster occurs. The majority of the funds will go to FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program which seeks to shift federal funding from reactive spending to proactive investment in community resilience. Additionally, a small portion of the funding will directly support disadvantaged communities. 

After years of record storms and wildfires as well as recent assignments to administer coronavirus vaccinations, many FEMA staff members are worn out. Furthermore, the increased funding is expected to cause an even larger administrative burden for FEMA. Regardless, scientists anticipate this hurricane season to be “above-normal” with as many as 10 hurricanes expected, including three to five hurricanes reaching Category 3 or higher. Climate change has caused hurricanes to become more powerful and destructive, making FEMA’s capabilities of increased focus in Washington.

In Iowa, FEMA provided more than $33 million in aid to help communities recover from the derecho which struck in August 2020. Weather patterns such as derechos’ are expected to increase over the next few years in the Midwest, resulting in decreased agricultural productivity and increased flooding and drought

ISU Poll Suggests Few Farmers Agree With Scientists That Climate Change is Mostly Caused By Humans


Via Flickr

Thomas Robinson | April 27th, 2021

In a 2020 poll conducted at Iowa State University (ISU), only a small percentage of respondents agreed with a statement saying that climate change is caused mostly by human actions.

The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll surveys what issues farmers in Iowa and the Midwest find important.  Of all respondents, only 18% agreed with the statement that “climate change is occurring, and it is caused mostly by human activities.” In comparison, 40% of respondents agreed with the statement that “Climate change is occurring, and it is caused more or less equally by natural changes in the environment and human activities” which is an increase from 36% in 2013.  While there appears to be a difference between farmer’s opinions and the scientific consensus that climate change is mostly caused by human activity, the increase in those who think that humans are potentially influencing the climate is promising for changes to public perception.

Participants also agreed more that extreme weather events will become more frequent, and that they are concerned about the ways climate change may influence their farms.  Particularly after severe storm events, like last August’s derecho, and after prolonged periods of drought that have affected much of Iowa, an increased concern about severe storms or the effects of climate change on farms is unsurprising.

Climate change is expected to have a negative effect on agriculture because of reduced rainfall totals, and the increased frequency of weather extremes (colder cold weather, and warmer warm weather). Farms and farmers will be able to adapt to climate change, but there is more that can be done, whether by planting cover crops to prevent soil erosion, or by planting crops that will help fix carbon in our soils.

Drought Conditions Likely To Continue Into Crop Season


Via Flickr

Thomas Robinson | March 9th, 2021

Experts are concerned that the drought conditions currently affecting Iowa are likely to continue into the coming crop season.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor approximately 11% of Iowa is experiencing drought conditions and most of the affected counties are in northwestern Iowa where dry conditions have persisted for most of the year.  There is hope that spring snowmelt could address some of the moisture deficit, particularly if the snow melts slowly which would allow the soil to absorb the water.  Experts believe that reliable spring rainfall could help make up for dry conditions, however, Iowa is predicted to have less spring precipitation than normal because of persistent La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean.

Northwestern Iowa has recently experienced tough conditions as two years of dry soils have followed the heavy flooding in the area back in 2019.  Drought conditions can induce stress in crops which may lead to damage and reduced yields for both soybeans and corn.  After a year of uncertain crop markets, another year of drought is likely bring added difficulty for Iowan farmers.

Iowa’s Drought Is Likely to Stretch into Planting Season


Via Flickr

Thomas Robinson | January 19th, 2021

Iowa is currently experiencing drought conditions in the western portions of the state that climate officials say could last into the spring planting season.

In a recent meeting with regional climate and natural resources officials, Dennis Todey, the director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Midwest Climate Hub, emphasized that Iowa is entering the new year with dry soil and that it is unlikely soil conditions will change quickly.  Since more rainfall is needed to address Iowa’s dry soil there is an increased chance Iowa will continue to be dry into the spring.  2020 was the 36th driest year out of 149 years on the record, leaving around 61% of the state at some level of drought.

Iowa’s drought conditions can likely be attributed to La Niña conditions which usually indicate a greater chance for colder temperatures and average or slightly above average precipitation. La Niña weather patterns develop as colder sea surface temperatures occur in the Pacific around the equator as part of the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO).  These ocean conditions can result in warmer winter temperatures for the southeast U.S, and colder winter temperatures for the north west.