The US is Experiencing Extreme Flooding and Extreme Drought


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | January 4, 2022

As the climate continues to change, the United States of America becomes a place with both devastating amounts of precipitation and deadly droughts. The east, recently Kentucky, is drenched in water. The west, however, is dry and sometimes even on fire. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found that the Eastern half of the country has gotten more rain, on average, over the last 30 years than it did during the 20th century, and at the same time, precipitation has decreased in the West. 

Stronger downpours are a clear symptom of climate change. As the climate warms, increased evaporation pumps more moisture into the air, and warmer air can hold more moisture. That means when it rains now, it tends to rain more.

The US is not the only country experiencing such extremes. Intense precipitation patterns are being observed worldwide. Most of Asia has gotten wetter, and average precipitation has increased in Northern and Central Europe. The Mediterranean has gotten drier, and is experiencing water scarcity. Much of Africa and Eastern Australia has also gotten drier 

Climate scientists are not completely sure if the changes in precipitation are a permanent feature of our warming planet, or if they reflect long-term weather variability. What we are seeing is largely consistent with predictions from climate models, which expect to see more precipitation as the world warms, with big regional differences. Wet places are expected to get wetter and dry places are expected to get drier.

2022 Predicted to be Warm, but a La Niña will Help with Cooling


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Josie Taylor | December 27, 2021

Next year will be one of the hottest on record, with average global temperatures about 1.96 degrees Fahrenheit over pre-industrial averages, U.K. government researchers said Tuesday.

The prediction was part of an annual forecast by the Met Office, the U.K.’s national weather service. The forecast results show that greenhouse gases are warming the globe at a growing rate, said the Met Office’s head of long range prediction, Adam Scaife. The forecast is calculated based on “key drivers” of global climate, but doesn’t include unanticipated events.

Though 2022 may be 1.96 degrees over 1850-1900 averages, it’s still expected to be cooler than January-September 2021, when the temperature was elevated 2 degrees, or 2020, when it was elevated 2.14 degrees. This is due mainly to the “La Niña” weather phenomenon, which has a temporary cooling effect, Scaife said. 

Met Office scientist, Dr Nick Dunstone said: “Global temperature has been slightly suppressed during 2021 because of the cooling influence of La Niña in the tropical Pacific. With another La Niña now underway, making this a so-called ‘double-dip’ La Niña, it is not surprising that we are forecasting another relatively cool year for global temperatures when compared with the run of years since 2015”. 

Severe Weather in Iowa and Across the Midwest Wednesday Night


Trees down in Iowa in August 2020

Josie Taylor | December 16, 2021

There were Tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings throughout the afternoon and evening across the Plains Wednesday. Twisters in Iowa, fires in Kansas and damage across the region has been reported today. 

There were 118 severe thunderstorms and 71 tornado warnings across Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa Wednesday night, the National Weather Service said. 

In Iowa, the weather caused power outages, severe damage and at least one death. Iowa State Patrol troopers say a tractor-trailer was blown over in the wind around 8:30 p.m. killing at least one person. 

There were more than a dozen tornadoes reported in Iowa, with most seen in the western part of the state. Confirmation of tornadoes and damage assessments will be available in the coming days, said Allan Curtis of the National Weather Service.

Des Moines recorded a 74 mph wind gust at the airport at 8:28 p.m. Wednesday. This was the strongest gust not associated with a thunderstorm seen in Des Moines since 1970, the National Weather Service reported on Twitter.

Accurate damage assessment may take days to confirm, but we know that there are many trees down across Iowa, homes have been damaged and some Iowans are still without power today.

Deadly Tornadoes Hit Kentucky and Others this Weekend


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Josie Taylor | December 13, 2021

Late Friday night and early Saturday morning brought deadly tornadoes to Kentucky and other states nearby. There were at least 50 tornado reports from late Friday into Saturday in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

As of this afternoon, the death toll stands at 74 in Kentucky, with 109 Kentuckians still unaccounted for, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. The numbers are coming from emergency management. 

The tornado that devastated numerous communities in Kentucky was on the ground continuously for at least 128 miles in the state, and likely longer, an official with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Paducah told CNN on Monday.

Scientists know that warm weather and precipitation are key ingredients in tornadoes and that climate change is altering the environment in which these kinds of storms form, however they can’t directly connect those dots. The research into the link between climate and tornadoes still lags behind that of other extreme weather events such as hurricanes and wildfires.

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


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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


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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


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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


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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.