High crop fire danger for portions of Iowa


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | October 13, 2022

The lack of rainfall at the beginning of October and the time period of harvesting crops has elevated the risk of cropland fires to “very high,” according to the National Weather Service. As of Oct. 3, three fires in the northwest and northeast Iowa have occurred. 

The Sioux City Fire Department was called to a cornfield fire on Sept. 29. The fire may have been caused by a hot combine bearing, which is normally used to provide motion for the combine with the least amount of friction possible. When fire department chief David Van Holland arrived at the scene, he said a lot of corn was burning. A fire the day before started with a baler and a hay bale, which traveled to cornstalks.

Northeast Iowa also experienced a fire on Sept. 27. The Sumner Volunteer Fire Department responded to a call for a combine fire. When they were at the field, a combine was partially engulfed in flames.

“Though portions of northern Iowa received its first widespread freeze last week, drier and warmer conditions are expected to persist for the foreseeable future and farmers should remain vigilant about combine and field fire risks,” Mike Naig, the state’s secretary of agriculture told the Iowa Capital Dispatch. 

Northwest Iowa conditions are labeled as being in an “extreme” drought. Less than one-fifth of farmland has adequate moisture for crops.

Solar Energy in Iowa: Policies and Practices at the Municipal, County, and State Levels


Via: University of Iowa

Elyse Gabor | October 10, 2022

On Tuesday, October 11th, Iowa Law is hosting a discussion surrounding the Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative (HELI). The event will feature panel discussions with policy experts, researchers, industry members, public employees, and nonprofit organization representatives. The panels will discuss solar policies around Iowa. Following the guest speakers, the audience will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A. Breakfast and lunch will be included at the event. Attendance is both in person and virtual and open to all ages. If interested, register at: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2lU6iMrnn17eLu6  

For more information, visit: https://events.uiowa.edu/73266 

Trees can lower your energy bill


Grace Smith | October 7, 2022

Planting specific types of trees can reduce utility bills, per the “Iowa Climate Statement 2022: The Many Benefits of Our Trees.” The statement said a Midwest electric utility explains that the proper placement of just three trees can save an average household between $100 and $250 in energy costs annually. 

“Attention to the species of trees we plant and their care will be crucial for their survival. Strategies are needed both to sustain the many benefits of existing large mature trees and to increase planting of appropriate new trees for mitigating and adapting to climate change,” said Jan Thompson, Morrill Professor, Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University. 

Trees can provide shade, block the sun, and keep the interior of homes cool. In addition, through a process called transpiration, trees lose water vapor to cool the environment. These processes combined create a lower energy bill for homes. 

In the summer months, plant deciduous trees where direct light enters a home. Deciduous trees have leaves in the summer, but lose them in the fall, allowing sunlight to naturally warm a house in the colder months. During the winter, planting evergreen trees on the sides of houses can stop the wind from entering through a house’s gaps and cracks.

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.”

Iowa Climate Statement 2022 press conference


Floods, droughts, and strong Derechos have become more common and intense weather phenomena in Iowa because of climate change. Our trees are in danger because of these occurrences. The Iowa Climate Statement 2022: The Many Benefits of Our Trees, which was published Wednesday, focuses on ways to increase, and protect rural woods and urban trees in response to climate challenges.

Trees Can Keep Us Cool as Iowa Anticipates Many More Dangerous Hot and Humid Days  


Climate change has caused more frequent and intense weather patterns in Iowa, including floods, droughts, and powerful derechos. These events create conditions that threaten our trees. The Iowa Climate Statement 2022: The Many Benefits of Our Trees released today is focused on the climate threats and strategies to expand and support urban trees and rural woodlands. 

“The August 2020 derecho, the most destructive thunderstorm in US history is emblematic of the impact of climate change on our trees. This extreme event led to the loss of an estimated 7 million rural and urban trees in Iowa,” said Dave Courard-Hauri, Chair of Environmental Science and Sustainability Program, Drake University. “Recovering from this event will take years of coordinated efforts and millions of dollars of investment,” continued Courard-Hauri.  

“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 on-going tree planting programs,” said Heather Sander, Associate Professor, Geographical and Sustainability Sciences, University of Iowa.  “In the face of climate change we should both plant more trees and provide essential care for the precious trees we already have.” continued Sander. 

The twelfth annual Iowa Climate Statement 2022: The Many Benefits of Our Trees was endorsed by Iowa 203 science faculty and researchers from 33 Iowa colleges and universities. 

Learn more at https://iowaenvironmentalfocus.org/iowa-climate-statement/  

25 Iowa beaches had swim advisories this summer


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | October 4, 2022

25 beaches in Iowa were under a swim advisory this summer because of elevated toxins or bacteria. According to the Iowa Environmental Council, swimming was not advised for at least a week for the two-thirds of Iowa beaches that had a swim advisory. 

This summer, there were 107 advisors for E. coli, which was a 22 percent increase from last year. The concentrations of E. coli at Crandall Beach at Spirit Lake were so high in August that the DNR’s technology could not measure it, which can detect up to 24,000 viable bacteria per 100 milliliters of water.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources tests every Iowa beach weekly from May to September, examining levels of E. coli, and toxins. Alicia Vasto, the IEC’s water program director, said that although the IEC has been monitoring this testing for 20 years, it is still unsure of the trend in E. coli or toxin levels. 

“It’s really concerning because we have so few public places in our state — we have so few public lands,” Vasto told the Iowa Capital Dispatch. “And so the public beaches and parks that we have, we really need to protect them and do more to address this issue.”

The DNR said the main solution to decrease watershed pollution is prevention, which means keeping extra sediment, nutrients, bacteria, and other pollutants. Conserving practices in agricultural areas, including wetlands and buffers, can also decrease pollutants in water. 

Solar Energy in Iowa: Policies and Practices at the Municipal, County, and State Levels


Via: University of Iowa

Elyse Gabor | October 3, 2022

On Tuesday, October 11th, Iowa Law is hosting a discussion surrounding the Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative (HELI). The event will feature panel discussions with policy experts, researchers, industry members, public employees, and nonprofit organization representatives. The panels will discuss solar policies around Iowa. Following the guest speakers, the audience will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A. Breakfast and lunch will be included at the event. Attendance is both in person and virtual and open to all ages. If interested, register at: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2lU6iMrnn17eLu6  

For more information, visit: https://events.uiowa.edu/73266 

Properly disposing of materials would lessen CO2 equivalent emissions in Iowa significantly


Via Pexels

Grace Smith | September 30, 2022

Iowans send over 190,000 tons of untouched food to landfills a year—enough to fill dump trucks spanning from Cedar Rapids to Waterloo. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources released a statement breaking down landfills in Iowa and found that 20 percent of all landfilled materials are from food waste. As of 2021, food waste produces 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases per year. 

“Food waste continues to be the single largest landfilled item by weight,” says Tom Anderson with the DNR’s solid waste section. “It continues to grow. It is sad in some ways. Food gets thrown away every day.”

Most of the 20 percent of wasted food is processed, stored, and prepared leftovers. The DNR release said almost seven percent of the wasted food is still in its original packaging – in cans, boxes, and bags. Anderson said most food is wasted because of misinterpreted labels and expiration/ “best by” dates. 

The second and third largest items that end up in landfills include plastics at 8.6 percent and compostable paper at 7.6 percent. The release said that the energy and emissions impact from 854,000 tons of improperly disposed of paper, containers, and compostable materials is tremendous. If these materials were correctly recycled or composted, about 1.4 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions could be decreased. 

The DNR offers a list of ways to combat the growing presence of food waste in landfills:

  • Buy only what you need.
  • Learn how to preserve food. 
  • Compost leftover food. 
  • Recycle.

Solar Energy in Iowa: Policies and Practices at the Municipal, County, and State Levels


Via: University of Iowa

Elyse Gabor | September 26, 2022

On Tuesday, October 11th, Iowa Law is hosting a discussion surrounding the Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative (HELI). The event will feature panel discussions with policy experts, researchers, industry members, public employees, and nonprofit organization representatives. The panels will discuss solar policies around Iowa. Following the guest speakers, the audience will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A. Breakfast and lunch will be included at the event. Attendance is both in person and virtual and open to all ages. If interested, register at: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2lU6iMrnn17eLu6  

For more information, visit: https://events.uiowa.edu/73266