The Majority of Iowa is Experiencing Abnormal Dryness


Josie Taylor | May 3, 2021

According to the Iowa drought monitor, 74.5 percent of Iowa is abnormally dry, with extreme drought conditions in northwest Iowa. Last week only 40.8 percent was in drought. Iowa is expected to be in a drought until the early part of crop season, but possibly longer. 

State climatologist Justin Glisan clarified in an interview that the majority of Iowa is not in what is classified as a drought, but it is something to keep an eye out for this summer. 

This drought is vastly different than last year, which had flooding and storms. Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said that he has visited farms that are still recovering from heavy flooding from two years ago, and are now being affected by dryness. Much of Iowa is still recovering from last summer’s derecho as well. 

Glisan also warned that if moisture levels don’t improve, “we could see some physiological issues with corn and soybeans”. Iowa farmers continue to suffer during the crop season, and current predictions show northwest Iowa may not get the rain they need soon. 

CGRER Co-Directors to Speak at Hawkeyes Give Back: Combatting Climate Change (Virtual Event)


University of Iowa professors and CGRER Co-directors Gregory Carmichael and Jerald Schnoor will speak at a virtual event on Thursday, April 29 from 4-5 pm as part of the Hawkeyes Give Back events. Carmichael and Schnoor will speak on their current efforts to combat climate change. 

Carmichael is a professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at UI. He has done intense research on air quality along with its environmental impacts. His research includes the “development of comprehensive air quality models and their application to regional and international air pollution problems”.

Schoor is a professor of civil and environmental engineering, as well as occupational and environmental health at the UI. His other environmental work includes hydroscience research and climate advocacy.

Both professors are experts in the field of environmental science. Students, alumni and friends have the opportunity to hear them speak by registering at this link

Biden Begins Earth Day Climate Summit with World Leaders


Via Flickr

Elizabeth Miglin | April 22, 2021

President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate begins today, on Earth Day, and will conclude on Friday. The summit will be attended by 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, alongside business leaders. The summit intends to rally public and private sector finance to reach net-zero emissions, according to the New York Times

To begin the summit, Biden announced goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. Although specific plans are undisclosed, the administration is focusing on establishing union jobs in the climate industry and U.S. economic competitiveness in a government-wide approach. The administration hopes to encourage world leaders to adopt similar ambitious policies. 

The summit comes as climate scientists warn ambitious proactive action is necessary in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Naraendra Modi, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa all noted the need to better coordinate equitable efforts with developing countries in their opening speeches.

The Leaders Summit on Climate is one of several world leader meetings held in anticipation of the 26th session of the United Nations’ Climate Conference of the Parties (COP26), scheduled for November. 

How Climate Change Impacts Iowa


Via Flickr

Maxwell Bernstein | April 7, 2021

Climate change will increase the damage from drought, flooding, air pollution, and toxic algae in the Midwest and also, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that the number of storms causing $1 billion or more are increasing Peter Thorne, the head of the University of Iowa’s Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, said in an interview with the Iowa Capital Dispatch.  

As the climate changes, Iowans’ health will be affected. Iowans with hay fever will have their symptoms increase and pests such as the Lone star tick will become more common in Iowa, which can increase the spread of tick-borne diseases.

When disasters increase, the toll of climate change will be the greatest on children, older adults, communities of color, and low-income communities, according to the American Public Health Association. “We must focus more specifically on equity issues, and what it means to involve communities that have been historically marginalized in this planning process,” Sylvia Secchi, associate professor in the University of Iowa’s Department of Geographical and Sustainable Sciences said in an interview with the Iowa Capital Dispatch. 

Climate Change Could Lead to Six-Month Summers by the Year 2100


Via Flickr

Nicole Welle | March 22, 2021

A new study found that summers in the Northern Hemisphere could last up to six months by the end of the 21st century if global warming continues at its current pace.

The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that climate change is causing summers to increase in length over time. Researchers analyzed daily climate data from 1952 to 2011 to find the start and end of each season, and they discovered that global warming caused summers to increase from 78 to 95 days over the 60-year period. They then used the data to create a model to predict the length of future seasons, according to an NBC News article.

Climate scientists found that if global warming continues at the current rate, summers will last for six months by 2100, while winters will only last for two. This shift would negatively impact a wide range of areas, including human health, the environment and agricultural production. Scott Sheridan, a climate scientist at Kent State University, warned that shifting seasons would impact many plants’ and animals’ life cycles.

“If seasons start changing, everything isn’t going to change perfectly in sync,” Sheridan said in a statement to NBC. “If we take an example of flowers coming out of the ground, those flowers could come out but bees aren’t there to pollinate yet or they’re already past their peak.”

Plants coming out of the ground earlier than normal could have serious implications for farmers who rely on a regular planting season. In fact, a “false spring” in March of 2014 caused peach and cherry crops to spring from the ground early, only to be destroyed when temperatures plummeted again in April. Events like this will become more common as climate change continues to alter Earth’s seasons, and they may force us to rethink our methods of food production in the near future.

John Kerry Says Current Goals Under the Paris Climate Agreement Are Insufficient to Limit Earth’s Temperature


Via Flickr

Nicole Welle | February 1, 2021

John Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, said Sunday that the goals outlined under the Paris Climate Accord will not be enough to limit the Earth’s rising temperatures.

Kerry said that the goal of reaching a 1.5°C limitation on global warming is appropriate, but the promises countries have made to reach that goal are insufficient to achieve it. However, he added that there is still time to take more aggressive action to fight climate change if governments are willing to do so. Kerry has expressed personal approval of implementing a carbon tax to help combat the climate crisis, and President Joe Biden is likely to consider that move after saying that he would support it during the 2020 presidential campaign, according to a CNN article.

President Biden recently announced that the U.S. will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and has set a goal for the country to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Climate experts have said that this aggressive goal is achievable. However, while Biden has already signed multiple executive orders aimed at combatting climate change, he may face pushback from congress as he pursues further climate legislation.

Biden will also have to incorporate climate change into his administration’s foreign policy if he hopes to address the issue on a global scale. That would mean introducing it into trade policies, foreign aid programs and bilateral discussions, a shift that would become Kerry’s responsibility as the new envoy for climate change, according to a New York Times article.

Are We Already Past the Point of No Return for Climate Change?


Via Flickr

Nicole Welle | November 16, 2020

A new study found that global temperatures may continue to rise for hundreds of years even after humans completely cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Authors of the study, which was published Thursday in the British Journal Scientific Reports, wrote that the only way to stop global warming would be to eliminate human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and find a way to extract huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the air, according to an article in USA Today.

The scientists used a model to study the effect of greenhouse gas emission reductions on the Earth’s climate from the year 1850 to 2500. They then created projections of global temperatures and sea level rises. The model showed that cutting greenhouse gas emissions at any point in the future will not be enough if it is the only tool humans employ to combat rising temperatures and sea levels.

As the burning of fossil fuels release gases like methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, global temperatures increase. This causes Arctic ice and carbon-containing permafrost to melt, a process that releases even more carbon into the atmosphere and reduces the ability of Earth’s surface to reflect sunlight. Human action triggered these processes, and they will continue to warm the earth unless humans capture carbon in the atmosphere and make the Earth’s surface brighter, according to the study’s authors.

This study was an important thought experiment, but some environmental experts are skeptical about the accuracy of its results. Penn State University meteorologist Michael Mann said that the computer model used was too simple and failed to accurately represent large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns that could affect the results.

Regardless of the results’ accuracy, this study still reflects on the importance of finding ways to combat climate change even after global emissions reach net zero. The authors also urge other scientists to follow up and expand on their work.

How Trump’s and Biden’s Plans for the Environment Compare


Via Flickr

Nicole Welle | October 19, 2020

With election day drawing nearer, it is important to know where the two presidential candidates stand on environmental policy issues.

Joe Biden has spoken repeatedly about his comprehensive plan to combat climate change, but president Trump has not clearly outlined his plans for the environment if he is reelected. In order to see where exactly Trump stands, one must look at his past actions and brief comments on the issue.

Joe Biden proposed a $2 trillion clean energy plan. This plan sets a number of research and development goals, the primary one being reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. He believes these goals will ultimately increase job opportunities and reduce the negative effects of climate change on communities according to an Iowa Public Radio article. Here are some of the main goals Biden has pledged to address:

  • Allocate 40% of clean energy plan investments toward low-income and minority communities more heavily affected by pollution and climate change.
  • Seek to rejoin the Paris climate accords.
  • Increase climate-focussed investments in the auto and transportation industries to cut emissions and create jobs.
  • Implement energy upgrades in 4 million buildings, weatherize two million homes in the U.S. and build 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units.
  • Create a division within the Justice Department that regulates and penalizes companies for environmental effects on communities.

President Trump has denied the validity of climate science in the past and has made a number of statements about his stance on climate change that often contradict each other. Here are some of Trump’s past actions and statements that could reflect his plans if reelected:

  • The president’s website lists partnering “with other nations to clean up our planet’s oceans” as one of his innovation goals for the future. He has also supported legislation to remove garbage from the oceans.
  • He put $38 billion toward “clean water infrastructure.”
  • He allocated additional funding for national parks and public lands.
  • He pulled the U.S. out of the international Paris climate deal and has tried to push policies that back the coal industry.
  • He has supported boosting production of oil and natural gas in the U.S.
  • Trump has called man-made climate change a “hoax,” and reversed multiple climate policies put in place during the Obama administration.

Some Republican lawmakers have begun to separate themselves from the outright denial of climate change, and they are pushing for a “clean energy mix” that involves multiple energy sources. This makes it unclear what Trump’s reelection could mean for energy policy in the next congress, according to an article in Market Watch.

Takeaways from 2020 Iowa Climate Statement: Will COVID-19 Lessons Help Us Survive Climate Change?


Maxwell Bernstein | October 7, 2020

The Iowa Climate Statement for 2020 is focused on the connections and lessons we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and applying this knowledge to fight against climate change. 

The three main lessons that the statement touches upon are: 

  1. “The best available science as described by professional organizations remains by far the most reliable source of information.” 
  2. “The cost of late action far outweighs the costs of prevention and preparation.” 
  3. “Building community resilience against multiple threats is critical, especially for the most vulnerable among us.” 

To mitigate the consequences of climate change, the climate statement talks about maximizing trust in expert opinion and reliable gathering of information, planning for potential future impacts that will be caused by the impacts of climate change, and reducing racial and social inequality. 

“These lessons show us that smart investments in public health and climate mitigation and adaptation will create more resilient communities and people,” said Eric Tate, Associate Professor of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences at the University of Iowa. “Building community resilience against multiple threats is critical, especially for the most vulnerable among us.”

The statement has 230 signatures from Iowa science faculty and researchers who represent 37 universities across Iowa.

Greenland Ice Sheet is Melting at a Historically High Rate


Image of Greenland’s ice melt by NASA, via Flickr.

Maxwell Bernstein | October 2, 2020

Research that was published in Nature shows that the Greenland Ice Sheet is melting at some of the fastest rates since the Holocene because of rising global temperatures. 

The largest pre-industrial rate for mass loss occurred in the early Holocene, the title for the last 11,700 years of Earth’s history since the end of the ice age, with around 6,000 billion tonnes of mass lost per century.  

If humans manage to maintain warming within 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the current goal for the Paris Agreement, the Greenland Ice Sheet is expected to lose 8,800 billion tonnes over the 21rst-century.

If humans continue to produce the high greenhouse gas emissions we see today, the Greenland Ice Sheet is expected to lose 35,900 Billion tons of mass over the 21rst-century. 

“In addition to storm surges and high tides that will increase flooding in many regions, sea level rise exacerbates events like hurricanes,” NASA said in an article that described the implications of Greenland’s ice loss. “Greenland’s shrinking ice sheet also speeds up global warming. The vast expanse of snow and ice helps cool down Earth by reflecting the Sun’s rays back into space. As the ice melts and retreats, the region absorbs more solar radiation, which warms the planet.”