NOAA expects Iowa winter to be unpredictable


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Iowa falls between regions of the country that will a experience particularly  cold winter and those that will have a particularly warm winter. (NOAA)
Jenna Ladd | October 21, 2016

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its predictions for winter weather on Thursday.

Last year the midwest experienced the warmest winter on record in 121 years, but this year NOAA says that Iowans can expect a grab bag of both warm and cold temperatures. Both temperature and precipitation are expected to hover around average from December through February for much of the state, except for the northern most part of the state, which is expected to be colder than usual.

NOAA also expects a weak La Niña this year. La Niña is characterized by particularly cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, and often affects weather trends in the United States. Variances in La Niña’s strength and duration from year to year can make forecasting winter temperatures difficult. Mike Halpert is deputy director with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, he said, “Because there is still some uncertainly about when La Niña will develop and persist through the winter, probabilities on the maps this year are fairly conservative.”

Winter 2015-2016 was the wettest Iowa winter on record in 101 years. Other parts of the Midwest and the Western U.S. are predicted to receive high amounts precipitation this year, with Idaho, North Dakota and the Ohio Valley all among those that will be affected. Unusually cool temperatures are on the forecast from Eastern Montana through Wisconsin.

In short, NOAA expects wetter and colder than usual temperatures for the far northern Midwest and warmer with drier winter conditions for the Southern U.S., and most of Iowa falls somewhere in the middle. Much like most winters, Iowans should prepare for anything.

UI study finds increase in heavy rainfall in upper Midwest


Photo by turtlemoon, Flickr.
Photo by turtlemoon, Flickr.

A study from the University of Iowa shows that heavy rainfall has become more frequent in the upper Midwest over the last 60 years.

This could be related to an increase in temperature in the region since warmer surface temperatures allow for more water to be absorbed by the atmosphere.

Read more about the study here.

Midwestern water has unexpected future value


Photo by Shes Not There, Flickr

The Great Lakes provides the Midwestern United States with a hefty water supply, beautiful scenery as well as fishing and recreational oppertunities.  However, the water itself has the potential to become far more valuable as time goes on.

Midwest Energy News reports:

Journalist (and regular contributor to Midwest Energy News) Dan Haugen directed my attention to an interesting column by Eric Reguly in the Toronto Globe and Mail on water scarcity and industrial growth.

In a nutshell, while China and other Asian countries provide cheap labor, they’re limited by increasing demand on limited water resources.

Anyone who watches China closely cites water scarcity as the biggest threat to the country’s growth. In a recent presentation to clients, Michael Komesaroff of Urandaline Investments, an Australian consulting firm that specializes in capital-intensive industries, especially Chinese ones, called water “the one issue with the potential to stop China’s growth and rewrite the China Story.” Note the word “stop,” not “slow.”

As water becomes more scarce, Reguly argues, opportunities for industrial expansion will open up in countries like Canada. It’s already making things like incredibly water-intensive oil sands extraction practical in places where it otherwise may not.

Suncor, the oil sands giant, is one of the world’s most water-intensive companies, as measured by direct water withdrawal per $1 million in revenue. Teck Resources is another hog. But water scarcity isn’t an existential risk for companies here, although many are trying to reduce their water footprints. If the geological gods had plunked the oil sands in the western United States instead of Western Canada, they probably wouldn’t have been developed.

But you know who else has a lot of water? The upper Midwest. All the more reason, as Forbes writer Chris Turner pointed out last week, why cleantech manufacturing will be vital for the region’s economic future.