Iowa’s drought ahead of winter is the worst in a decade

Via U.S. Drought Monitor

Grace Smith | December 13, 2022

Although Iowa’s drought conditions are improving since November, they are still the worst conditions in 10 years heading into winter, where the cold season and frozen grounds do not provide soil moisture an opportunity to improve. 

“Unless you get into a month like December of last year with the derecho and temperatures in the 70s — you will see some improvement from an anomalous event like that — but overall you don’t really see a lot of change through the wintertime,” State Climatologist Justin Glisan told the Iowa Capital Dispatch

Almost 30 percent of the state is suffering from a severe drought and about 73 percent of Iowa is experiencing moderate drought conditions, per the U.S. Drought Monitor

18 counties in the state are experiencing extreme and exceptional drought conditions in northwest Iowa. Some fields in these counties are also undergoing the worst crop yields in the state. In a November U.S. Department of Agriculture report, only 7 percent of northwest Iowa’s topsoil had adequate moisture. 

Despite northwest Iowa’s soil moisture, around 44 percent of Iowa had adequate or surplus topsoil moisture. The state’s corn yield average is still expected to surpass 200 bushels per acre, despite Iowa’s major drought conditions.

Rainfall caused drought to withdraw in some parts of Iowa

Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 14, 2022

After a hot, dry summer and fall, drought conditions are retreating in most parts of Iowa. Last week, the Southern part of the state saw heavy rainfall, reducing drought conditions. The most rain seen was 4.3 inches with the lowest amount around 2 inches.  

The state had been in the worst drought in nine years and desperately needed rain, with northwest Iowa receiving the brunt of the effects. The rain missed this part of the state, not reviving any of the stress the drought has caused. Currently, two-thirds of the state is still suffering from the drought 

According to the Drought Monitor, above 10 percent of the state is listed as being in extreme drought or more severe. The area in extreme drought expands from Humboldt to Sioux City.  

Climate change is threatening ‘the things America values most’

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Grace Smith | November 11, 2022

The U.S. must slow down the use of greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the risk of the threatening of water supplies and and public health throughout the nation, per a federal government release on Monday.

“The things Americans value most are at risk,” the National Climate Assessment authors wrote in the draft, that contained 1,695 pages. “Many of the harmful impacts that people across the country are already experiencing will worsen as warming increases, and new risks will emerge.”

Over the past 50 years, America has warmed 68 percent faster than the rest of the world as a whole. Climate change disasters, such as wildfires, have caused communties around the nation to be displaced. If current conditions continue, the report says millions more Americans could be displaced from their homes. 

In addition, climate change has impacted infrastructure and the economy. On average, the U.S. has experienced eight $1 billion disasters each year for four decades, but has seen a large increase over the past five years with 18 catastrophes. 

The authors of the report offered fast solutions to taking America off the track of destruction it is on, such as increasing public transit, quickening low-carbon technologies, improving agricultural management, and incentivizing renewable energy options such as vehicles.

End of harvest season is approaching as state experiences worst drought in nine years

Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 9, 2022

Harvest season is coming to an end in some parts of Iowa. Despite last week’s heavy rainfall, Northwest Iowa is almost done harvesting as that part of the state continues to face a lengthy drought.  

In total, around 90 percent of corn harvest has been completed while just under 100 percent of soybeans have been harvested. The almost complete harvest season is over a week ahead of schedule compared to the past five years.  

According to State Climatologist Justin Glisan, the heavy rainfall seen last week in south-central Iowa equaled over four inches with an inch of rain seen in the eastern part of the state.  

The rain was much needed as the state is the driest it has been in nine years, said the U.S. Drought Monitor. Northwestern Iowa, affected most by the drought, saw little to no rain.  

Europe’s climate is warming twice as fast as the global average

Via Flickr

Grace Smith | November 4, 2022

Temperatures in Europe have increased more than twice the global average rate in the last 30 years, per a report by the World Meteorological Organization. From 1991 to 2021, Europe increased an average of 0.5 degrees Celsius every decade. Earth has warmed 0.18 degrees Celsius per decade since 1981. 

Europe’s summer months this year brought record-breaking high temperatures and hot days, reaching 0.4 degrees Celsius above last year. In addition, the results of continuous warming in Europe melted about 38 feet of the Alpine glaciers and continue melting Greenland’s ice sheets, raising the sea level. 

“Europe presents a live picture of a warming world and reminds us that even well-prepared societies are not safe from impacts of extreme weather events,” WMO secretary-general, Prof Petteri Taalas, said. “This year, like 2021, large parts of Europe have been affected by extensive heatwaves and drought, fueling wildfires. In 2021, exceptional floods caused death and devastation.”

Reasons why Europe is warming more than other areas of the world include high land mass in Europe, as well as the Arctic and high northern latitudes which are the fasted global warming regions. To decrease climate change effects, the European Union decreased greenhouse gas emissions by 31 percent since 1990 and aims to decrease them by 55 percent by 2030.

Drought conditions predicted to continue through winter

Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 2, 2022

This winter, the drought is expected to continue in the Western region of the United States. This news comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which has forecasted that the extreme drought will continue through the winter.  

The drought has affected Central California the most as the state experiences warmer temperatures and below-average rainfall. However, more states are feeling the effects of the widespread drought. The drought is causing shipping issues in the Mississippi River valley due to low water levels.  

Brad Pugh, the operational drought lead with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said, “We’re going on our third year of this extreme drought for much of the Western U.S.” He continued saying, “It’s adversely affecting agriculture, increasing wildfire danger and has impacts on tourism as well.” 

Around 25 percent of U.S. citizens are facing a drought. The National Integrated Drought Information System predicts that almost half of the U.S. will feel the effects of the drought.  

Mississippi River experiences record low levels

Via Flickr

Grace Smith | November 1, 2022

Central U.S. is experiencing the region’s worst drought in a decade, dropping the Mississippi River to record low levels in October. According to the National Weather Service, the river dropped 10.75 feet by the end of October, which is the lowest level ever documented in Memphis, Tennessee. This surpasses the previous low of minus 10.7 feet in 1988

The Mississippi River makes up 41 percent of the U.S. and drains water from 32 states. Many states in the Mississippi Basin are experiencing extreme droughts throughout June and September, including Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.

In Cairo, Illinois, water levels are the lowest they have been since 1901. The Tennessee Valley Agency said it would add more water from two dams to even out the river’s low levels. “To help stabilize commercial navigation conditions on the lower Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, we are scheduling special water releases from Kentucky Dam on the Tennessee River and Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River to help low river level impacts,” the agency wrote in a Facebook post. 

Through drought in central U.S. and the low levels of the Mississippi River, artifacts and land emerge. Citizens can now walk to Tower Rock, an island normally surrounded by the river and only accessible by boat. In addition, an old riverboat casino — The Diamond Lady — that was running in 1990 but sank in 2021 has submerged in Memphis, Tennessee because of the river’s low levels.

Climate change is a prominent force behind the global food crisis

Via Flickr

Grace Smith | October 21, 2022

Climate change and extreme weather are affecting the global food crisis significantly. Rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns like drought, wildfires, and floods make it extremely difficult for farmers to grow food to feed the hungry.

Samantha Power, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, spoke on this topic during a Thursday night gathering at the Iowa Events Center.

“Climate change is leading to ever-more disastrous shocks, and with so many of the harshest impacts falling on poor farmers, how do we break the cycle of lurching from food crisis to food crisis?” asked Power. “How can we harness the industry, the know-how, and just stubborn determination of farmers around the world as well as the work of tremendous innovators … to feed the planet without accelerating climate change even further?” 

Power brought up the Horn of Africa, where 828 million people go to bed hungry each night because of a drought-driven famine occurring in Somalia killing people and animals. Power said despite the aid received by the U.S., Somalia needs more help. 

At the gathering, Power suggested an idea to help control the global food crisis. Power mentioned World Food Prize Founder Norman Borlaug, who embraced agricultural innovation through research, which started the Green Revolution and saved many citizens from hunger. 

“Despite these trade-offs, the primary lesson of the Green Revolution was clear,” Power said. “With investments in agricultural productivity and publicly funded research, “food supply can grow faster than demand.”

Iowa drought and harvest, an update

Via Flickr

Grace Smith | October 20, 2022

For the first time in nine years, all of Iowa is undergoing a drought, ranging from abnormally dry to exceptionally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. About 27 percent of Iowa experienced a severe drought and around 7 percent of Iowa was labeled as extremely dry, including portions of northwest Iowa.

“For the first time since August 2013, all of the state is experiencing some form of abnormal dryness or drought,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig told the Iowa Capital Dispatch, “but weather outlooks through the end of [the] month are indicating potential shifts toward wetter conditions and warmer temperatures.”

Despite the extremely dry conditions, Iowa’s harvesting is ahead of its five-year average as of Oct. 17. Around 38 percent of Iowa’s corn and 74 percent of soybeans have been harvested this year. Normally, 29 percent of corn and 49 percent of soybeans are harvested this time of year. Farmers have had six days or more on average to harvest in the field in the past two weeks. 

23 percent of crops have been harvested as of Oct. 9, and some farmers are struggling to harvest a variety of wet corn and soybeans versus dry. Farmers can expect a larger expense to store dry corn with dry crops, while wetter crops are more difficult to harvest.

Drought and extreme heat’s impact on trees

Grace Smith | October 6, 2022

Long dry periods while waiting for water are impacting trees everywhere, per the “Iowa Climate Statement 2022: The Many Benefits of Our Trees.” Drought-associated tree disturbances have been amplified by climate change. 

Trees survive by transporting water from their roots to their leaves, and drought disrupts this vascular water transport process. When moisture in the air and soil fall, air bubbles can form in the tree’s vascular system, blocking water flow to the leaves – which a tree needs to do to survive. 

In California, over 129 million trees died as a consequence of a severe drought. And, drought-induced stress on larger trees is happening nationwide. In a 2015 journal, researchers examined 40 droughts and found that tree mortality increased with tree size in 65 percent of the 40 droughts. The 2022 Iowa Climate Statement says that extreme heat stresses urban trees and rural woodlands, even if they are well-watered. 

To save trees for future generations, the climate statement suggests planting diverse tree species that can block unwanted pests and pathogens and effectively store carbon.“With their wealth of ecological and social benefits, the trees we have are valuable. We need to plant diverse species of trees to promote resilience and support and strengthen Iowa’s ongoing tree planting programs,” Heather Sander, Associate Professor in Geographical and Sustainability Sciences at the University of Iowa said. “In the face of climate change, we should both plant more trees and provide essential care for the precious trees we already have.”