Crops Affected by Drought in Half of Iowa


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | August 3, 2022

Drought conditions are likely to develop over the southern half of the state in August as the month starts with abnormally hot days with little chance for rain, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

What started as a portion of the state being abnormally dry or in varying degrees of drought has expanded to more than half of the state. It’s the first time the dry area has been that large since April. The latest Drought Monitor report on Thursday showed an expansion of severe and extreme drought in northwest Iowa and the extension of abnormally dry conditions across much of southern Iowa.

Southwest Iowa previously led the state in available soil moisture, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In early June, about 96% of its topsoil and subsoil had adequate or surplus moisture. As of Sunday, about 27% of topsoil and 36% of subsoil had adequate water for crops to grow.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for Tuesday afternoon for the western half of the state. 

Last week, the state averaged temperatures of about 3 degrees cooler than normal with abysmal rainfall. Much of the south had no rain, and the highest reported rainfall accumulation was .89 inch near Churdan.

The state’s corn was rated 76% good or excellent, down from 80% the previous week. Soybeans were rated 73% good or excellent, down from 75%.

Alaska Experiences Extreme Wildfires


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | July 25, 2022

In Alaska, wildfires are burning in ways that are rarely seen. Areas that are usually fireproof, or mostly fireproof, are burning.

More than 530 wildfires have burned an area the size of Connecticut, and the usual worst of the fire season is still later in the summer. While little property has burned, some residents have been forced to evacuate.

Recent rains have helped but longer-term forecasts are showing a pattern similar to 2004. In 2004, July rains gave way to high-pressure systems, hot days, low humidity and lightning strikes that fueled Alaska’s worst fire year.

The acreage burned by mid-July was about the same as now, but by the time that fire season ended, 10,156 square miles were burned.

Heat waves and droughts are making wildfires more frequent, destructive, and harder to fight in many places. This month, wildfires have torn through Portugal, Spain, France, England and Germany, which have seen record-high temperatures.

Europe Experiences Record Breaking Heat


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | July 20, 2022

For the first time on record, Britain experienced temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius — 104 Fahrenheit — on Tuesday, as a heat wave moved northwest. This heat wave is leaving a trail of wildfires, lost lives and evacuated homes across Europe. The continent is extremely ill-equipped to deal with the extreme weather.

Britain is far from the only country suffering from the heat wave. France saw severe wildfires. 2,000 firefighters battled fires that have burned nearly 80 square miles of parched forest in the Gironde area of the country’s southwest.

Spain, Italy and Greece also endured major wildfires. In London, a series of grass fires erupted around the capital on Tuesday afternoon, burning several homes.

At least 34 places broke the old British record for heat on Tuesday, according to the Met Office, the national weather service, including at least six that reached 40 Celsius. Scotland broke its old record of 32.9, with temperatures of 34.8 in Charterhall. 

Network Rail, which operates the country’s rail system, issued a “do not travel” warning for trains that run through areas covered by a “red” warning issued by the Met Office. The red zone covered an area stretching from London north to Manchester and York. Several train companies canceled all services running north from the capital.

Forecasters across Europe are predicting the temperatures will cool down midweek. In Britain, some showers are expected, and temperatures are forecast to lower, staying below 80 Fahrenheit in most of the country on Wednesday.

Crops in Northwest Iowa Suffer Due to Drought


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | July 6, 2022

Corn and soybean plants are continuing to suffer in some parts of Iowa from excessive heat and drought. This has been seen especially in far northwest Iowa where drought conditions are worsening. 

Large areas of Plymouth and Woodbury counties are in extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. It’s the first time in nearly a year that any part of the state was that dry. 

Much of the state’s corn crop is at its peak demand for water, and the soybean crop is approaching its peak. A small percentage of corn had begun to show silk for pollination as of Sunday, and about 13% of soybeans were blooming, the USDA report said.

In the past three weeks, the percentage of the state’s corn that is rated good or excellent has dropped from 86 to 77. 

Although there is drought in part of the state, soil moisture is still improved from a year ago. About two-thirds of the state’s topsoil and subsoil has adequate or surplus moisture, whereas last year more than half of the soil was short, according to the USDA report.

New Research Found Climate Change Will Increase Hospitalizations


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | March 10, 2022

Climate change is expected to increase the number of people requiring hospitalization due to critically low sodium levels in the blood, a condition known as hyponatremia. A new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden predicts that a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius would increase the burden on hospitals from hyponatremia by almost 14 percent. The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Climate change is expected to trigger a rise in average global temperatures in the coming decades, resulting in a myriad of heat-related consequences for human health. One of those is hyponatremia, which can occur from a variety of diseases such as heart, renal and liver failure as well as from excessive sweating or fluid intake that dilute the sodium concentration in the blood.

Our bodies need sodium to maintain normal blood pressure, support the function of nerves and muscles and regulate the fluid balance in and around our cells. If blood sodium levels drop, it can lead to nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps, seizures and even coma.

It is well known among doctors and scientists that hyponatremia cases increase in the summer months. Still, data on temperature thresholds above which risks amplify have been lacking, complicating clinical planning and predictions of health burden in future climate scenarios.

The UN Warns of Increased Wildfires this Century


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | February 24, 2022

A new landmark United Nations report has reported that the risk of wildfires around the world will likely surge by over 50% in coming decades as climate change further intensifies what the report described as a “global wildfire crisis.” 

The scientific assessment was made as a result of deadly wildfires around the world, like in Australia and even the Arctic. It is the first by the organization’s environmental authority to evaluate wildfire risks worldwide. 

The report, produced by more than 50 researchers from six continents, estimated that the risk worldwide of highly devastating fires could increase by up to 57% by the end of the century, primarily due to climate change. Some regions are expected to experience much more severe fires than others. It is a stark warning about the increased heat and dryness that human-caused global warming is bringing about. 

In a moderate scenario for global warming, the likelihood of extreme, catastrophic fires could increase by up to 33% by 2050 and up to 52 percent by 2100, the report estimates. If emissions are not curbed and the planet heats up more, wildfire risks could rise by up to 57% by the end of the century.

Revisiting Iowa Climate Statements: Increased frequency of dangerous heat events


Via the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 12. 2021

In 2019, Iowa climate activists were concerned about the frequency and severity of dangerous heat events. Through the Iowa Climate Statement two years ago, signatories informed Iowans they would be seeing more extreme weather disasters in coming years.

The statement focused on the Earth’s surface continuing to warm at an unprecedented rate, as recent years continually breaking records for the hottest years on record. Hundreds of Iowans signed the climate statement, agreeing that Midwesterners ware seeing dramatic changes in weather with changing rainfall, higher humidity, and warmer nights. Many homes in lower-income areas across the U.S. were not equipped with air conditioning units, leading to more incidents of heat stroke and potential fatalities.

The 2019 Iowa Climate Statement suggested adaptions to these increasingly severe and frequent heat events would require more preparedness, increased energy usage to cool houses and buildings, changing livestock facilities, and halting outdoor work in extreme heat conditions.

Two years later, heat remains the leading cause of weather-related deaths. Another concern from 2019 that remains is the risk to animals with increasing temperatures. Hogs, cattle, and poultry are essential to Iowa’s agricultural industry and the animals continually are at risk of dying from extreme heat events alongside human beings.

Iowa has seen record-breaking heat waves in the past few months. Heat advisories were administered across the country, including in the Midwest where Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois saw several days where temperatures ranged in the 100s. Concerns regarding dangerous heat waves continue in Iowa as they become more frequent and severe, as predicted by the Iowa Climate Statement in 2019.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021 will be released on Wed. Oct. 13.
The eleventh annual Iowa Climate Statement 2021: Strengthening Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure will be released on Wednesday, October 13, 10:15 am at a Zoom press conference and live on CGRER’s Facebook page. The lead authors of the statement will present the statement and take questions. 

OSHA Announced New Federal Workplace Heat Checks


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | October 4, 2021

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Sept. 24 announced that they will establish a federal workplace heat standard. They will hold heat inspections and enforce rules that protect workers from heat related hazards. 

In 2020, 882 emergency visits were caused by heat-related illnesses. Of those 882 patients, 44 were hospitalized. 

Heat-related illnesses and stresses can affect both workers who work outside and indoors. This is because of issues like lack of air conditioning or fans in some workplaces. 

An investigation by Politico and E&E News found that federal workplace safety officials have refused to set a workplace heat standard across nine presidential administrations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first recommended OSHA write heat-specific protections in 1975.

This problem is going to get worse as climate change raises temperatures, especially in the summer. This past July was the warmest month on record.  A study recently published found that children born today will likely experience, on average, seven times as many heat waves as their grandparents. 

OHSA said area directors will begin prioritizing inspections of heat-related complaints, referrals and employer-reported illnesses, and initiate onsite investigations where possible.

60 degree Christmas part of a larger pattern of atmospheric warming


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Temperatures across Iowa at 2:51pm Dec. 25 (via Iowa Environmental Mesonet). 

Julia Poska| December 27, 2019

High temperatures on Wednesday, December 25 2019 broke records across the state of Iowa and much of the Midwest.

Des Moines reached 60 degrees, breaking the 1936 record of 58 degrees. Cedar Rapids reached 58 degrees, breaking the previous record of 54, according to Weather Underground.

The Christmas day highs were preceded and followed by unseasonably warm weather as well.

Though a 60 degree December day is not unheard of (the Des Moines Register reports that at least one December day in Iowa has reach 60 degrees 29% of years since 1878), average winter temperatures in the Midwest are undoubtedly rising.

A Union of Concerned Scientists report shares that average annual winter temperatures in the Midwest have risen about 4 degrees since 1980. Winter temperatures are forecast to continue rising, while snow and days below freezing will decrease.

Iowa flooding will become more frequent and severe


Flood 2008
Photo of 2008 flood by Jon Fravel, Flickr

Tyler Chalfant | September 10th, 2019

Iowans across the state experienced severe flooding this year, and according to a report released Thursday by the Iowa Policy Project, flooding events like those of 2019 will likely become more frequent and severe as the climate changes. While temperatures and precipitation have been shown to be rising, flooding patterns are harder to predict, but this year’s “100-year flood” seems to be the fourth flooding event of its kind in only 30 years, following severe floods in 1993, 2008, and 2011.

Both the Mississippi and Missouri River Basins flooded this year, with the Mississippi breaching a levee in Davenport, and the Missouri breaching every levee south of Council Bluffs on the western side of the state. In addition to the damage caused to flooded roads, homes, and businesses, these floods have harmed agriculture. Farmers were forced by flooded fields to plant late or not at all this year. The floods spoiled stored crops, caused the deaths of livestock, and damaged farm infrastructure. Flooding and extreme heat also pose a threat to human health through contaminated water supplies, the spread of disease-carrying insects, and harm to mental health. 

The period from May 2018 to April 2019 set new records for precipitation in the Midwest, with Iowa exceeding the regional average with over 50 inches. Since the 1970s, Iowa’s average annual rainfall has been rising by 1.25 inches per decade – the highest rate of any state in the country – and snowfall this February reached three and a half times the recent average. Springtime rainfall in the upper Mississippi is projected to increase 20 to 40 percent. The report also covered temperature increases, which are projected to be the highest in the Midwest during the warm season.