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


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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. 

Climate change affects crop yields in varying ways


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Soybeans are less sensitive to temperature and precipitation changes than corn plants. (Kevin Dooley/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | March 23, 2018

Researchers at the University of Nebraska recently published a study which details how climate change impacts crop yield variance on a hyper-local level.

The study analyzed U.S. Department of Agriculture data from more than 800 counties across North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas from 1968 through 2013. Collectively, they found that climate change caused about 25 percent of crop yield variance during that time. While temperature and precipitation changes were responsibile for 52 percent of crop fluctuations in some counties, they did not have any effect in others.

Similarly, the three crops that were studied: corn, soy and sorghum, all responded to the changing climate differently. Corn is more likely than the other two to be impacted by rising temperatures. When corn plants are not irrigated, yields are twice as likely to be harmed by increased temperatures. However, irrigated corn seemed to do relatively well in these conditions. Irrigated soy and sorghum plants were much less likely than non-irrigated plants to be negatively impacted by precipitation and temperature shifts too.

Suat Irmak and Meetpal Kukal are the study’s authors. They say that their work makes the case for continued climate change studies which consider different climate variables, crop types and growing conditions.

“I hope we are successful in getting across the message that there are changes in temperature and precipitation, (but) those changes are different over time and location, and they are having different impacts on our agricultural productivity,” Dr. Irmak said to the University of Nebraska. “That can help high-level advisers, decision-makers and policymakers to identify locations where those impacts are greatest so that resource allocation or re-allocation can make (fields) even more productive.”

The full study can be found in the journal Scientific Reports.

On The Radio – September brings record heat worldwide


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Temperatures in Kuwait reached 123 degrees Fahrenheit on September 3rd, 2017. (flickr/Lindsay Silveira)

Jenna Ladd | November 27, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses how September 2017 set high heat records all over the world. 

Transcript: September 2017 was the planet’s fourth warmest September since record-keeping began in 1880.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Warmer-than-usual temperatures were recorded across most of the world’s land and ocean surfaces during September this year, despite the absence of an El Niño effect. El Niño events typically bring warmer weather because they cause the ocean to release warm air into the atmosphere. September 2015 is the warmest on record, with September 2016 and 2014 trailing close behind.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s September global climate report noted record high temperatures in many of the world’s oceans and in parts of Africa and Asia. The hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere was 109 degrees Fahrenheit on September 27th in Birdsville, Australia. In the northern hemisphere, temperatures soared to 123 degrees Fahrenheit on September 3rd in Mitribah, Kuwait.

So far, 2017 is on track to become the second hottest year on NOAA’S 138-year record.

For more information and to read the September global climate report in full, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

World Series game one was the hottest on record


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Temperatures soared to 98 degrees Fahrenheit by the first pitch of Tuesday’s game. (accuweather)

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | October 26, 2017

The first game in the 2017 World Series, a match between the LA Dodgers and the Houston Astros, was held in California for the first time in 15 years—and brought with it a record-shattering 103 degrees. The previous World Series heat spike, 94 degrees, was recorded in 2001 in an Arizona game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees. A heat warning for the area extended well into the game and finally lifted around 8pm—or about three hours after the game commenced.

The LA Dodgers, who won the game 3 to 1, might have owed something to the heat. High heat has been proven to have an effect on the distance a ball travels across the field. The University of Nevada-Reno’s Department of Math & Science put together a chart spanning analyzing the average number of home runs per game and the average distance of a batted ball, taking the temperatures of each game into account. After sifting through data from World Series games played between 2000-2011, they found that when the heat of a game spiked beyond 75 (the determined average temperature for an MLB game), home runs for any given team increased by an average of 2, while batted ball distance increased by roughly 2ft, suggesting that heat has a tangible effect on offensive play.

The heat spike spells bad news for other California residents, however, as the increased temperatures and accompanying 50 mph winds have made the ongoing wildfires in the Northern half of the state dangerously powerful. While the LA Dodgers beat the heat and made California proud, the state’s battle with wildfires will likely not ease up anytime soon.

Global temperatures continued to rise in September


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A climate anomalies map from NOAA details significant some climate events during September 2017. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association)

Jenna Ladd | October 20, 2017

Earth’s climate continued to warm during September 2017, setting some alarming records.

September 2017 was the planet’s fourth warmest September since record-keeping began in 1880. The three warmest Septembers were in 2015, 2016 and 2014. This year’s September was especially notable because no El Niño effect was present. El Niño events typically bring warmer weather because they cause the ocean to release warm air into the atmosphere.

Even in the absence of an El Niño effect, temperatures in January through February of this year have made 2017 the second hottest year on the 138-year record kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In the top spot? 2016, which was 1.02 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average.

Sweltering temperatures were experienced across the globe. The hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere was 109 degrees Fahrenheit on September 27th in Birdsville, Australia. In the northern hemisphere, temperatures soared to 123 degrees Fahrenheit on September 3rd in Mitribah, Kuwait.

Record high temperatures are not without consequences. September 2017 also had the second lowest Antarctic sea ice cover during that month on record. The Arctic sea fared slightly better, coming in at number seven for record low sea ice cover during September.

A concise summery of NOAA and NASA’s September climate report can be found here.