Lyme disease more common due to climate change


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Deer ticks thrive in hot and humid forested areas. (flickr/Joslyn Gallant)
Jenna Ladd| August 17, 2017

As temperatures and humidity rise in the United States, conditions are becoming more favorable for disease-carrying deer ticks.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that climate change has expanded the geographical range of ticks. Deer ticks specifically are most active when temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity is at least 85 percent. As temperatures and humidity rise in many parts of North America, so too are tick populations. The EPA reports that the incidence of Lyme disease in the U.S. has doubled since 1991.

The Northeastern U.S. has experienced the sharpest increase Lyme disease transmission. This part of the country is becoming more humid, making conditions better for ticks to emerge from the ground and latch onto hosts. New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont have seen the largest spike in Lyme disease incidence since 1991, followed closely by Delaware and Massachusetts. On average, the EPA reports, these states now see 50 to 100 more cases per 100,000 people than they did in 1991.

In the future, deer tick populations are expected to double in the U.S. and become up to five times more numerous in Canada.

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Incidence of Lyme disease per 100,000 people. (EPA)

Extreme weather reaches ‘uncharted territory’


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Hurricane Matthew is just one example of the climate change-related extreme weather events that have taken place in 2017. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | March 23, 2017

Last year was a record-breaking year for climate change and not in a good way. Global temperatures set record highs for the third consecutive year and sea ice coverage worldwide shrunk by 4,000,000 square kilometers, that’s about the size of the European Union.

These extraordinary climate conditions led to extreme weather events all around the world. Among them, Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean, the first category four storm to reach land since in 1963 and severe droughts in southern and eastern Africa. A recent report from the United Nations World Meteorological Organization found that extreme weather has carried over into 2017.

So far this winter, severe storms in the Atlantic Ocean have caused Arctic “heat waves” so that while ice cover in the region should be refreezing, many days it was close to melting. North Africa and the Arabian peninsula have seen colder than usual winter temperatures while parts of Canada and the U.S. have been much warmer than is typical.

David Carlson is the World Climate Research program director. He said, “Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system.”

In the month of February alone, nearly 12,000 warm temperature records were broken in the U.S.

Carlson added, “We are now in truly uncharted territory.”

Intense summer heat to become more likely due to climate change


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Sydney, Australia saw record heat this summer, with mean temperatures 37 degrees Fahrenheit above average. (Bernard Spragg/Flickr)
Jenna Ladd | March 3, 2017

Southern Australia just endured its hottest summer ever recorded, and recent research found that the likelihood of more extreme summer weather is on the rise.

Following summer months where Sydney’s mean temperature remained 37 degrees Fahrenheit above average, Dr. Perkins-Kirkpatrick at the University of New South Wales in Sydney began to study the relationship between human-induced climate change and summer heat waves.

Along with other researchers at the World Weather Attribution, Perkins-Kirkpatrick concluded that climate change has made it 50 times more likely that New South Wales will experience another similarly scorching summer. Simply put, before 1910 extreme weather like that experienced this summer was likely to occur once every 500 years, now it is likely to occur every 50 years on average. If climate change remains unabated, researchers say that likelihood could increase even more.

The report said, “In the future, a summer as hot as this past summer in New South Wales is likely to happen roughly once every five years.”

Energy companies in New South Wales had trouble supplying enough electricity to meet the demand for air conditioning units during the heatwave’s most intense days from February 9th through the 11th. Meanwhile, according to report by The Guardian, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull criticized renewable energy efforts, calling renewable energy goals in the country “completely unrealistic.”

Dr. Andrew King of Melbourne University was another one of the report’s authors. He said, “Yes, people would have experienced 40C [104 degrees Fahrenheit] days several decades ago around different parts of Australia and in Sydney but we know that these incidences of very hot days are getting more frequent and we are setting more records for heat.”

King added, “The purpose of the analysis in this report is to raise awareness that climate change is already impacting on weather in Australia. Hopefully it motivates action on climate change, because we know what the solution to climate change is.”

2016 to be hottest year on record


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2016 will likely be the third consecutive year that shatters global temperature records, according to the World Meteorological Organization. (Fosco Lucarelli/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | November 15, 2016

The World Meteorological Organization (WHO) released a report yesterday which predicts 2016 to be hottest year on record.

The report, which was published at the global climate summit in Morocco, found the current global temperature to be 34 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. Earth’s global temperature has reached a new peak for the last two years, and 2016 could make three. Experts say that the El Niño weather phenomenon is partly responsible for higher temperatures during the first part of the year, but human activity can be blamed for the rest. Petteri Taalas is the WMO secretary general. He said, “Because of climate change, the occurrence and impact of extreme events has risen. Once in a generation heatwaves and flooding are becoming more regular.”

Extreme heat waves have been reported around the world throughout the year. Temperatures soared to 109 degrees Fahrenheit in South Africa in January, 112 degrees Fahrenheit in Thailand in April and 129 degrees Fahrenheit in Kuwait during July. WMO stated that at least half of the extreme weather events of recent years have been human-induced, they noted that the risk of extreme heat has increased by ten fold in some places. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has found extreme weather and climate-related events effect the farming and food security of over 60 million people worldwide.

Climate scientist Michael Mann of Penn State University responded to the report. He said,

“It is almost as if mother nature is making a statement. Just as one of the planet’s two largest emitters of carbon has elected a climate change denier [Donald Trump] – who has threatened to pull out of the Paris accord – to the highest office, she reminds us that she has the final word.”

Mann added, “Climate change is not like other issues that can be postponed from one year to the next. The US and world are already behind; speed is of the essence, because climate change and its impacts are coming sooner and with greater ferocity than anticipated.”

Not all of the report’s findings were negative. Carbon emissions have largely stabilized over the last three years after decades of growth, which experts say is mostly due to China burning less coal. Also, even though 2017 promises to be an extremely hot year, it most likely will not break records.

Cooler temps offer needed relief for RAGBRAI bikers


Cyclists ride through rural Iowa during RAGBRAI (Dave Herholz/Flickr)
Cyclists ride through rural Iowa during RAGBRAI (Dave Herholz/Flickr)

After enduring two days of high temperatures and gusting winds, RAGBRAI cyclists will get a much-needed reprieve from the heat during Wednesday’s leg of the ride.

Today’s RAGBRAI route takes bikers from Forest City to Mason City, a distance of 38.5 miles. Conditions in both cities are dry and mild, with comfortable temperatures and low wind. Cyclists were greeted in Forest City yesterday by above-average temperatures and wind gusts at up to 30 miles per hour. The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for western Iowa Monday and Tuesday which was lifted Tuesday night.

With average summer temperatures in Iowa expected to increase over the next few decades, RAGBRAI will become even more challenging for bikers who make the trek across the state. Extreme heat combined with exercise can cause elevated heart rate, and increased sweating can lead to dehydration and electrolyte depletion, putting even more strain on the heart. A respected cyclist suffered a fatal heart attack during Monday’s RAGBRAI route, the first cyclist to die during RAGBRAI since 2010.

On the Radio: Visitation increases at Iowa’s state parks


Dolliver State Park in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Photo by DopT, Flickr.
Dolliver State Park in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Photo by DopT, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses increased visitation at Iowa’s state parks.

After a number of wet summers, the dry conditions of 2012 seem to have helped increase visitation at Iowa’s state parks

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Continue reading

2012 drought worse than ’88


Photo by illinoisfarmbureau, Flickr.

State Climatologist Harry Hilaker said the 2012 Iowa drought has exceeded it’s 1988 predecessor by both breadth and severity.

“This one is worse than ‘88,” Hillaker said Monday. “You would have to go back to 1936 to find a drought worse than this one.”

Climatologist Brian Fuchs from the National Drought Mitigation Center attributed the 2012 drought to a high pressure-system that settled over the grain belt and repelled storms. He said the system has strengthened, and could continue to hold out for another two months.

For more information, read the full article at The Gazette.