A Carbon Pipeline was Proposed in Iowa


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | January 13, 2022

Another out-of-state company has announced a plan to build hundreds of miles of pipeline in Iowa to transport carbon dioxide from ethanol plants and pump it into the ground. 

Wolf Carbon Solutions said it has an agreement with Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) to take carbon dioxide from its facilities in Cedar Rapids and Clinton and transport it to an existing carbon sequestration site in Decatur, Illinois. The pipeline would run about 350 miles and would have additional capacity to accommodate captured carbon from other facilities.

The Iowa Utilities Board, which oversees the permit process for hazardous liquid pipelines, has not received formal word from Wolf that they would start the process, said Don Tormey, a spokesperson for the board.

It would be the third carbon pipeline proposed in recent months that would connect to ethanol and fertilizer plants in the state. Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures filed requests to hold public informational meetings for their proposed pipelines in August and October, which is generally the first step in the permit process. 

To help limit greenhouse gas emissions, the federal government gives tax credits to companies that capture and sequester the carbon they would otherwise expel. The Navigator pipeline alone could net hundreds of millions of dollars in credits each year for the owners of ethanol and fertilizer plants connected to it.

Scientists say 2021 was Earth’s fifth-hottest year on record


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 11, 2022

2021 was the Earth’s fifth hottest year according to European scientists, indicating global warming is here to stay.

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said the average global temperatures over the year were 1.1 to 1.2 Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial era, according to Voice of America News. The scientists used satellite measurements for 2021 temperatures. The hottest years on record remain 2020 and 2016. A consequence of higher temperatures according to the scientists is the air absorbing more moisture, leading to increased amounts of rainfall and flooding.

The past seven years are all within the top seven hottest years on record. 2021 beat our 2015 and 2018 to get the fifth place spot, according to the New York Times. Freja Vamborg, a senior climate scientist at Copernicus, said the last seven years are quite close together in warming trends and were well off from the temperatures of years prior.

Copernicus has been keeping temperature records since 1950, but can go back even further with additional analyses of historic documents. The team’s analysis also found the rate of increasing carbon dioxide levels appear to have been down in 2021, while methane concentrations have grown at their fastest pace in the last 20 years.

Major weather events, like the La Niña early on in 2021, helped lower the overall temperature of 2021, allowing it to secure a lower spot on Copernicus’s rankings.

Over 40% of Americans Experienced Climate Related Disasters in 2021


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | January 6, 2022

2021 was a year of disasters for many Americans. Wildfires, extreme heat, drought, flooding, hurricanes and more hit so many. There is little doubt that the future will see even more disasters, and the disasters will be catastrophic. 

More than 40% of Americans live in a county that was hit by climate-related extreme weather last year, according to the Washington Post. More than 80 percent experienced a heat wave. This is not surprising to scientists because the US has generated more greenhouse gases than any other nation in history. 

At least 656 people died due to these disasters, media reports and government records show. The cost of the destruction hit $104 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This number is probably higher because officials have not calculated final tolls of wildfires, drought and heat waves in the West.

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency identified fewer climate-related disasters in individual counties last year, it declared eight of these emergencies statewide, the most since 1998, affecting 135 million people overall.

For the track the US is on now, it is unlikely that 2022 will be much different. In order to see changes we will have to massively cut down on greenhouse gas and carbon emissions.

Health risks from smoke worsen with more wildfires in the Western U.S.


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 5, 2022

As wildfires worsen in the Western U.S., air pollutants are reaching concerning levels.

Ozone and smoke are the two air pollutants that are most common to result from wildfires and extreme heat. The increase in the pollutants across the country can affect people’s lungs and cardiovascular systems alongside aggravating chronic diseases according to The New York Times. Increased levels of ozone and smoke in a community’s air can also lead to premature death.

A new study monitored the levels of ozone and smoke in the Western U.S. from 2000 to 2020. It found millions of people were exposed to more days of combined dangerous levels of smoke and ozone pollution every year. Researchers involved with the project said the worsening wildfires and heat that result in these pollutants are linked to climate change.

Daniel Swain, one of the climate scientists who authored the study, said the damages of wildfires are both short and long term, even if the shorter term risks usually get the most attention.

“Something may not necessarily have a high likelihood of killing you personally in the short term,” he told the Times. “But if you impose that same risk on tens of millions of people over and over again, the societal burden is actually very high.”

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


Via Flickr

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”. 

Disaster Cleanup from Last Weeks Storms will be Expensive and Time Consuming


Josie Taylor | December 23, 2021

Communities across the U.S. Southeast and Midwest will be assessing damage from the tornado outbreak on Dec. 10-11, 2021 for some time. It’s clear that the cleanups will take months, possibly years, and will cost a lot of money. 

Dealing with mass amounts of debris and waste materials is one of the most significant challenges for communities in the wake of natural disasters. Often this task overwhelms local waste managers, leaving waste untouched for weeks, months and even years. 

Climate-related disasters like floods, landslides, storms, wildfires and extreme hot and cold waves afflict millions of people around the world. These events have been increasing over time, particularly over the past several decades. There has also been an increase in loss from natural disasters. 

Disasters, like tornadoes, commonly produce thousands to millions of tons of debris in a single event. For example, waste can include vegetation, such as trees and shrubs; municipal solid waste, such as household garbage; construction and demolition materials; vehicles; and household hazardous materials, including paints, cleaning agents, pesticides and pool chemicals.

Eastern Iowa to see wind, record-breaking heat this week


Via Flickr.

By Eleanor Hildebrandt | December 14, 2021

Iowa is preparing for severe weather this week—and not the kind typical of this time of year.

As the second full week of December 2021 begins, Iowans could see record highs for the month on Wednesday. The temperature is expected to reach 70 degrees based on the National Weather Service’s predictions. The typical high is 36 degrees. But that isn’t the only extreme weather Midwesterners can expect this week. Strong and dangerous winds are predicted to reach 40 mph on Wednesday alongside the heat.

The winds follow a tornado that killed dozens across Kentucky last Friday. Tornadoes were seen across five other states as well. Iowans are not expected to see tornadoes this week according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The state could see downed powerlines and trees across the state due to the winds. The Weather Service also warned taller vehicles be wary of traveling. The service has a hazardous weather conditions warning in effect until the afternoon of Dec. 15. The weather will impact plants and crops that are still growing since most of Iowa hasn’t seen its first freeze.

Temperatures are expected to fall on Thursday, however, and come closer to the weather Iowans typically see this time of year. Iowa City has yet to see snow since February. The Weather Service does not have projections for flurries or flakes within the next week.

Deadly Tornadoes Hit Kentucky and Others this Weekend


Via Flickr

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.

Tonight: Webinar on Climate, Extreme Weather and Impacts on Infrastructure and Society


Josie Taylor | December 9, 2021

Tonight from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. the College of Engineering in partnership with CGRER and the CASE colloquium series presents a series of 4 webinars by world-renowned scientists. These scientists will have a focus on climate related issues. They will explain the latest scientific findings, discuss measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change, adaptation to the effects on extreme weather, and natural systems, and ideas on engineering infrastructure for resilience in the face of change.

The third webinar in the series will be presented by Dr. Gabriele Villarini, Director of IIHR – Hydroscience and Engineering, and a leading climate scientist with expertise in hydrometeorology, extreme events, water resources, hurricanes, and climate predictions and projections. The topic for this third webinar is an important aspect of climate change that is related to precipitation patterns and flooding, and has immediate relevance to the state of Iowa. The title of the talk is: “Iowa’s Flood Future”

Join the webinars via zoom. The link can be found here.