Artificial Snow Heightens Risks For Skiers

Via Flickr

Simone Garza | January 13, 2022

As climate change increases, athletes encounter safety concerns when skiing. With differences between Alpine and Nordic skiing, challenges arise from artificial snow. Artificial snow is used for outdoor winter sports due to limited snowfall.

With lessening snowfall, artificial snow that is used for racing tends to be more dangerous for athletes. The artificial snow is known to have an increase in moisture content. Skiers claim that man made snow can quickly turn into ice. The artificial snow also has increased the number of falls when racing. Interacting with the artificial snow makes skiers race faster than usual. 

The process of creating the man-made snow is done by water that is blown through nozzles in order to break down the water to small droplets which then freeze up. The larger density and water content of the artificial snow. 

With smaller amounts of natural snowfall, race courses have also shortened. Another factor to consider is the prediction of avalanches. Due to climate change, severity of dryness and heat accumulate wildfires that also trigger avalanche hazards. Climate change has also put a strain on traveling through uncontrolled terrain in growing a section during colder seasons with the decrease of natural snow.

Due to warmer climate, the prediction of shorter snowfall will likely double by the year of 2050. 

The International Ski Federation, keeps track of global reports of injuries such as snow boarding, ski jumping, Alpine skiing and freestyle skiing. The organization has declined to give information on reports made at this time.

Road salt as a deicer continues to harm the environment

Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 3, 2022

As snow returns to Iowa, road salt is being used to deice roads and walkways while it is bad for a variety of environments.

After the state’s first major snowstorm of 2022 hit on New Years weekend, the Iowa Department of Transportation continues to primarily use rock salt to deice roads across the state. Based on Iowa DOT estimates, the department uses nearly 200,000 tons of rock salts on highways and other roadways to clear ice and snow annually. The salt, however has various negative affects on the environment.

A 2018 study found that 37 percent of the drainage in the U.S. has seen an increase in salinity in the past half-century. The dominant source of the salinity increase was found to be road salt across the country. Drainage can also see increased levels of chloride because of deicing salt. If these chemicals get into waterways and streams, it can increase levels of salt and chloride that exceed guidelines for aquatic life as well as deplete oxygen from bodies of water.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency road salt can also contaminate drinking water, increase soil erosion, and kill wildlife. There are, however, alternatives to road salt as a deicer that cause less damage to the environment. Using more porous pavement on roads removes liquid from the roads faster, limiting its ability to freeze-thaw periods and preventing too much ice from forming on roadways. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride deicers are also less harmful. The two agents also help improve soil structure when the water drains.

DNR 2019 precipitation summary recalls Iowa’s rainy year

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From the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. 

Julia Poska | January 10, 2020

2019 was Iowa’s 12th wettest year on record, with an average of 41.49 inches of rainfall across the state, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. Rainfall in May, September and October was especially high, while the summer months experienced below average rainfall.

The two-year 2018/2019 period was the wettest on record, with 19 more inches of precipitation than average. Stream flows were above normal all 2019 following heavy snow in the winter months. The rainy spring and fall seasons are indicative of projected climate change models for the region.

2019 temperatures in Iowa were cooler than average, however, by 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit. During the January “Polar Vortex,”one station in Emmet County recorded a -59 degree windchill. Summer was slightly cooler than average, though July and September were warm, andChristmas week broke record temperature highs.


Does October snow contradict climate change theory? Absolutely not.

Julia Poska | October 30, 2019

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Map from Iowa Environmental Mesonet (accessed through Des Moines Register).

Iowans across much of the state awoke Tuesday morning to find a blanket of fresh snow atop vibrant orange and yellow autumn leaves, many still attached to the trees. Parts of east and east central Iowa saw as much as three to four inches, according to the Des Moines Register. 

The National Weather Service  puts eastern Iowa’s average date of first one-inch snowfall in early December.  The unseasonable flurry might have some Iowans questioning how serious Midwestern climate change–characterized by increasing average temperatures– could really be.

But climate (average temperature and precipitation over several decades) is not the same as weather (daily atmospheric conditions). Years of abnormally high snowfall or abnormally cold weather could impact climate averages over time, but singular snow and frost events are products of normal weather variation throughout the year.

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Records show that overall, average annual temperatures in Iowa and most of the world are increasing, despite weather variation. This pushes local 30-year climate averages (shown below for Iowa City) up by small increments over time.

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From U.S. Climate Data


Iowans can still expect snow and cold in coming decades, though the overall frequency and intensity of such events may decline over time. Somewhat milder winters will be followed by much hotter, dryer summers, with an increased number of intense rainstorms added to the mix.

November 2017 brought drought to Iowa

A portion of the dried up East Indian Creek southeast of Nevada during the 2012 drought. (Carl Wycoff/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | December 5, 2017

Last month was the driest month since 2007 according to state climatologist Harry Hillaker.

Hillaker spoke with Radio Iowa this week and said, “Overall a state average of .43 of an inch of moisture for the month, which is about 20 percent of what is usual. And actually the driest of any calendar month going back to November of 2007.”

Conditions were abnormally dry at all monitoring stations, especially in northwestern Iowa, where some areas of Ida county and Cherokee county received zero precipitation last month. The whole state only saw a minuscule amount of snow for the eighth time in Iowa’s 131-year weather record.  Hillaker said, “The statewide average was just a trace of snow and typically we’d get three to four inches of snow during the month of November.”

While there were some colder days in the beginning of November, warmer than average temperatures during the second half of the month made snowfall even less likely. The climatologist pointed out that there was virtually no precipitation in the state after the 18th of November.

November wraps up the fall season of September, October and November. Although November 2016 brought record-high temperatures, Iowa Environmental Mesonet reports that temperatures for last month were near average.

Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts cold, snowy winter

A barn and snow covered field in southern Linn County. (Rich Herrmann/Flickr)
A barn sits on a snow covered field in southern Linn County during the 2014-2015 winter. (Rich Herrmann/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | August 19, 2015

If predictions in the Old Farmer’s Almanac are correct, Americans should brace for a cold and snowy winter even in parts of the country that typically see more mild temperatures.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac – which has been in publication since 1792 – predicts that the Midwest will see frigid conditions while the Northeast will experience below-average temperatures. Parts of the South are expected to see icy conditions and the traditionally temperate Pacific Northwest will experience its snowiest weather beginning around the middle of December and possibly continuing through February.

“Just about everybody who gets snow will have a White Christmas in one capacity or another,” Almanac editor Janice Stillman told the Associated Press.

Some meteorologists and other critics question the scientific accuracy of the Almanac’s method for predicting weather patterns. Criticis cite that the Almanac’s formula fails to “account [for] the finer nuances of meteorology, like pressure systems, cyclical weather patterns, and—of late—climate change.” Meteorologists also cite that El Niño will likely be a more accurate indicator of winter weather patterns that the Almanac’s formula.

Though the exact formula is a secret, the Almanac’s writers and editors focus on three main factors.

“We employ three scientific disciplines to make our long-range predictions: solar science, the study of sunspots and other solar activity; climatology, the study of prevailing weather patterns; and meteorology, the study of the atmosphere. We predict weather trends and events by comparing solar patterns and historical weather conditions with current solar activity.”

The first day of winter (the winter solstice) begins on December 21.

Snow expected in Iowa after South Dakota hit with first major snowfall of the season

Snowfall in St. Paul, Minnesota on Monday, November 11, 2014. (Grace/Instagram)
Snowfall in St. Paul, Minnesota on Monday, November 11, 2014. (Grace/Instagram)

Nick Fetty | November 11, 2014

Up to 8 inches of snow fell on parts of South Dakota Monday afternoon and the system is expected to move east into Iowa and parts the Great Lakes region today.

The system is expected to bring up 3 inches to portions of northeast Iowa throughout the day on Tuesday, according to Paul Markert, a meteorologist with MDA Weather Services. The snow is not expected to be a significant threat to farmers who are mostly done harvesting soy beans for the season and who are 82 percent done with the corn harvest. Corns crops are able to withstand cold temperatures however the snow may present some issues with harvesting.

Data released from the United States Department of Agriculture on Monday shows that this year’s corn crop is expected to produce a record harvest with 14.407 billion bushels nationally, down slightly from October’s estimate of 14.475 billion. The soy bean harvest is expected to produce a record 3.958 billion bushels nationally, up less than 1 percent compared to October’s estimate.

Monday’s snow coverage extended from Montana to Wisconsin with areas in between seeing as much as 12 inches. Regions of northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan are expected to be hit with the heaviest snowfalls today, though these are not livestock-heavy areas. In October 2013, roughly 22,000 cattle died after an unexpected blizzard blasted South Dakota with freezing rains, heavy snows, and winds gusts up to 70 miles per hour.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Des Moines recorded its snowiest November day on November 10, 1968 with 11.8 inches. This was Des Moines’s highest single-day accumulation of snowfall in November since record keeping began in 1878.

On the Radio: Bitter and snowy winter predicted

A snowy farm in rural Iowa. (Alexandra Stevenson/Flickr)
A snowy farm in rural Iowa. (Alexandra Stevenson/Flickr)

October 27, 2014

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at brisk temperature and precipitation predictions for the coming winter. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.


Iowans should brace for another “bitter and snowy” winter if predictions from the Farmer’s Almanac are correct.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Farmer’s Almanac was first published in 1792 and supplies farmers with weather predictions using its own unique formula which takes into account temperatures and precipitation levels as well as sunspot activity over the past 30 years. This year’s forecast calls for the coldest period to be between early December and about halfway through January.

Snowy periods are expected to hit mid-December, early February and again in March. Temperatures in April and May are expected to be higher than usual while precipitation levels look to be below normal.

Last winter was the coldest Iowa has seen in 35 years and ranked as the 9th coldest winter in Iowa since record keeping began in 1872.

For more information about these weather predictions, visit

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Iowa water levels in good shape for 2014


PHoto by Carl Wycoff (Flickr)
Photo by Carl Wycoff (Flickr)

Normal snow levels over the winter season and cooler spring temperatures may lead to a more moderate 2014 in Iowa, according to state water and climate experts.

In an interview with KCRG, Mike Gannon of the University of Iowa’s IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering labs said that Iowa saw normal snowfall in the winter period and normal rainfall over the past few weeks, in contrast to roller coaster precipitation levels over the past three years. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources uses groundwater monitoring stations across the state to assess water quality, drought levels and future water supply.

State Climatologist Harry Hillaker told KCRG that lower temperatures have also contributed to stable groundwater levels by preventing groundwater from evaporating too quickly.

In addition to groundwater, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources also monitors Iowa’s lakes, wetlands, streams and beaches.