Wet September eases drought, creates flood risk in Iowa


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Map from iowaagriculture.gov

Julia Shanahan | October 11, 2019

This past September was the 15th wettest September on record for Iowa, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. This has been able to remove drought locations that happened over the dry summer months.

Iowa’s average rainfall amounted to 6.17 inches — 2.79 inches above normal for September. The temperature average to 68.2 degrees, making it the ninth warmest September on record. While it has been able to offset drought damage, the DNR stated in a press release that saturated soils make the state vulnerable to flooding if rainfall continues.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that June 2018 to May 2019 were the wettest 12 months on record for Iowa since 1895. Iowa received extreme flooding in the spring from the Missouri River. Early snow melt from not only Iowa, but also South Dakota and Minnesota, contributed to the rising water levels in the river.

Iowa also received heavy rainfall, which some reports attributed to a changing climate and warm ocean temperatures. In the June to May time frame, Iowa received 50.73 inches of rain.

Effects of the changing climate in Iowa were seen into the summer months. The Iowa Climate Statement was released Sept. 18, which outlined trends in temperatures and how Iowa can expect more 90 degree days in a year. The report also serves as a warning to Iowans and Midwesterners to expect extreme heat, and provides guidelines on how one can properly prepare.

 

Polar Vortex breaks Iowa cold records


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Temperatures dipped well below minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit in Iowa on Wednesday (flickr).

Julia Poska | January 31, 2019

Early Wednesday morning, while many across Iowa were still asleep, records were broken by the so-called “Polar Vortex” over the Midwest. Before 4 a.m. Des Moines saw a minus 20 degree temperature, making it the coldest Jan. 30 the city has seen in recent history. Waterloo got an even colder minus 24 degrees, breaking the same record in that city. Farther north, temperatures reached minus 29 degrees, as reported by the Des Moines Register.

Windchill made the cold temperatures feel even more brutal. In Cedar Rapids, windchill Wednesday morning reached minus 55 degrees, a tie with the 1985 record for the coldest windchill ever recorded there. According to the Registerwinds were steadily between 15 and 25 mph, but at times blew into the mid-30s.

Climate change and extreme cold

Some studies suggest that such extreme “Polar Vortex” events in the Midwest could become more common with climate change, though more research needs to be done to make a definitive call on the matter.

It appears that warmer arctic temperatures cause the jet stream, a westerly moving band of air circling the northern part of the globe, to dip farther south, bringing the North Pole’s extreme cold into the United States. Read this article from National Geographic for a more in-depth look at the science.

2017 is the third warmest year on record


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The past three years have been the hottest on record. (NASA/flickr)

Eden DeWald | August 8th, 2017

According the the State of the Climate report, 2017 is the third warmest year on record. The annual State of the Climate report is published by the American Meteorological Society and is based on international data taken from land, air, and sea monitoring stations. 2016 still remains the warmest year on record, and 2015 comes in as the second warmest.

The data from 2017 also reveals that last year, atmospheric greenhouse gas levels were the highest ever recorded.  The average global carbon dioxide concentrations reached 405 parts per million. This far surpasses any carbon dioxide concentrations from previous climate data, as well as C02 concentrations found in ice cores from well over half a million years ago.

The report also contains information about continued sea level rise, ocean surface temperatures, coral bleaching, and declining polar ice cap coverage. To read the State of the Climate in 2017, or any of the past reports, click here.

May 2018 is the warmest on record


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NOAA details notable climate events for May 2018 (NOAA)

Eden DeWald | June 6th, 2018

May 2018 is the warmest month of May ever recorded in the United States according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It broke the long held record, which was set back in 1934, during the Dust Bowl. The average temperature recorded in May 2018 was 65.4 degrees, compared to the 64.7 degree average from May 1934.

However, temperatures didn’t just increase on the average, 8,590 daily record breaking highs were set across the United States. Including a notable 100 degree temperature spike for Minneapolis on May 28th, which is the earliest date that a triple digit temperate has been reached for Minneapolis.

Precipitation records for May 2018 also paint a curious picture. The May 2018 average precipitation of 2.97 inches is slightly above the general May average of 2.91 inches. However, more than one-fourth of the United States landmass were under drought conditions. Some areas even experienced record breaking precipitation, such as Florida and Maryland. This data aligns with recent information from NASA, which foresees wet areas getting wetter and dry areas becoming drier due to a combination of human impact, natural water cycles, and climate change.

 

 

Water levels reach historic lows at Saylorville Lake


Photo by Rastoney, Flickr.
Photo by Rastoney, Flickr.

Continuous drought conditions have reduced Saylorville Lake to its lowest recorded levels since 1989.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers’ website, the lake is currently at 832.19 feet – just below the 1989 record of 832.23 feet.

For more information, read the full article at the Des Moines Register.

Des Moines nears record for longest stretch without snow


Photo by jakebouma, Flickr
Photo by jakebouma, Flickr

Des Moines last saw measurable snowfall on March 4th, and unless some unlikely flurries appear tomorrow, the city will break its record for consecutive days without measurable snow.

The previous record of 277 days was set in 1889, and meteorologists say that it’s about to be broken.

“There’s no snow in the next three days, so it’s looking very very likely, unless something comes up, that we’ll beat that record,” National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Skow said.

For more information, read the full article at the Des Moines Register.

Year’s hottest day prompts record energy usage


Photo by Tessss, Flickr.

Alliant Energy reported record-breaking peak energy usage on Wednesday, the hottest day so far in Iowa’s abnormally hot summer.

The peak usage of 3,724 megawatts occurred at 5pm in Alliant’s “West Control Area,” which covers Iowa and Minnesota. The previous record of 3,699 megawatts was set on July 18th, 2011.

“A number of days with high energy usage this summer remind us that an ample supply of electric generation is critical for our customers today and in the future,” said Tom Aller, president of Interstate Power and Light Company, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy.

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