Drought conditions predicted to continue through winter

Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 2, 2022

This winter, the drought is expected to continue in the Western region of the United States. This news comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which has forecasted that the extreme drought will continue through the winter.  

The drought has affected Central California the most as the state experiences warmer temperatures and below-average rainfall. However, more states are feeling the effects of the widespread drought. The drought is causing shipping issues in the Mississippi River valley due to low water levels.  

Brad Pugh, the operational drought lead with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said, “We’re going on our third year of this extreme drought for much of the Western U.S.” He continued saying, “It’s adversely affecting agriculture, increasing wildfire danger and has impacts on tourism as well.” 

Around 25 percent of U.S. citizens are facing a drought. The National Integrated Drought Information System predicts that almost half of the U.S. will feel the effects of the drought.  

Energy Saving Tips for the Winter

Via Flickr

Maxwell Bernstein | January 6, 2021

This winter, Iowans can save money and energy through several tips from the Department of Energy (DOE). The DOE suggests people first conduct home energy audits to find inefficiencies within their places of residence.

do-it-yourself home energy audit can be performed by: 

  • Locate and seal air leaks.
  • Consider ventilation for backdrafts. 
  • Check insulation
  • Inspect heating and cooling equipment.
  • Replace lightbulbs with energy efficient ones or research controls to reduce lighting use. 
  • Check the energy usage of appliances and electronics.
  • Assess energy expenditure and look into a professional home energy audit

When it comes to fall and winter energy-saving tips, the DOE suggests

  • Open curtains on south-facing windows during the day to take advantage from heat from the sun.
  • Cover drafty windows.
  • Reduce temperature when asleep or out of the house.
  • Detect air leaks (here’s how). 
  • Maintain heating systems.
  • Maintain the fireplace and chimney by checking the seal on the flue, and general cleaning and upkeep. 
  • Lower water heating costs by reducing the water heater’s temperature to the warm setting or 120°F. 
  • Use LED’s for holiday lighting and check for the Energy Star certification.  

Environmental film festival benefits Indian Creek Nature Center

The shrinking of the Bears Ears monument in Utah is just one example of the Trump administration rolling back public land protections. (Jeffrey Sullivan/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | January 26, 2018

A sold out environmental film festival is set to take place at Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City this evening.

The Backcountry Film Festival is hosting a screening in the new brewery as a part of its international tour. Founded by the Winter Wildlands Alliance, the film festival seeks to promote participation in human-powered snow sports on public lands. The festival collaborates with nonprofit organizations worldwide to raise funds for environmental causes. The Indian Creek Nature Center of Cedar Rapids will be the beneficiary of this event.

Lindsey Flannery is the marketing and development manager for Indian Creek Nature Center. She said, “[The festival] directly connects to our mission. This film festival encourages others to be outside, and that’s important to us,” according to the Daily Iowan.

The screening includes eight films featuring people enjoying winter sports on public lands and comes as public land agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service are facing extreme budget cuts.

Keili Bell is the director and producer of the festival. She said, “There has been a lot of national funding cuts to a lot of budgets that actually help a lot local environmental programs. [The festival] has gained a lot of public interest from people all over the world because we can share what is happening to public policy and environmental programs.”

All proceeds from ticket sales and raffle entries will go directly to the Indian Creek Nature Center.

NOAA expects Iowa winter to be unpredictable

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.

On the Radio: ISU researchers study heated pavement

Iowa State researchers studying snow- and ice-free pavements for airport runways.
Iowa State researchers studying snow- and ice-free pavements for airport runways (Christopher Gannon, Iowa State University News Service).

April 27, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at at Iowa State University, where researchers are studying heated pavement as a way to remove ice and snow from roadways. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Heated Pavement

Researchers at Iowa State University are studying heated pavement as a way to remove ice and snow from airport runways as well as streets  and sidewalks.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

A team of 19 faculty, staff, and students are looking at ways that airports can use heated pavement as a more environmentally-friendly way of clearing icy and snowy runways. Using pavement heating technologies would mean a reduction de-icing salts as well as emissions caused by the mandatory task of treating salty wastewater.

The research is part of a larger national program led by Purdue University and including Iowa State University, which is home to the National Concrete Pavement Technology Center.

The Federal Aviation Administration is providing seven-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollars in funding for the study and Iowa State University is matching this sum.

For more information about this study, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

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



UI reminds students to “Power Down” over break

A flyer for the University of Iowa’s Power Down campaign. Download here.

KC McGinnis | December 17, 2014

With thousands of students and faculty finishing up the Fall semester, the University of Iowa is reminding the UI community to “Power Down and Unplug Over Break.”

The UI Office of Sustainability has forwarded a checklist to remind students, faculty and staff what electrical items need to be unplugged over winter break in order to reduce the university’s carbon footprint. Appliances like microwaves, LCD screens, printers and small refrigerators can use up substantial energy even when turned off, adding unnecessary expenses and increasing carbon emissions from power plants. The UI recommends these appliances and devices be unplugged, rather than turned off, whenever possible.

The UI also recommends turning down the heat over break, listing tips for cutting down on energy use, like opening south-facing blinds during the day. Doors and windows should remain closed whenever possible, and fume hood sashes in labs should be closed as well. Even power strips should be unplugged, since they can draw energy even when turned off or with nothing plugged into them.

Those who complete the UI’s power down checklist will be entered in a drawing to win LED flashlights.

For a helpful table showing how much energy various appliances use in power save mode, click here.

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 IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

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


Frigid weather threatens Decorah eagle eggs

Photo by Brendon Lake, Flickr.
A bald eagle nest in Iowa.
Photo by Brendon Lake, Flickr.

This winter’s polar vortex is expected to generate subzero low temperatures and daytime temperatures hovering around ten degrees for over a week, threatening the Decorah eagle’s eggs.

The pair laid their first egg on Sunday and more are expected to arrive this week.

In order to keep the eggs from freezing, one of the parents will have to stay on the nest at all times.

To read more about the Decorah eggs in peril, head to the Gazette. Or, the eagle pair and their nest can be live streamed here.


Iowa prepares for first winter storm of the season

Photo by iowa_spirit_walker, Flickr
Photo by iowa_spirit_walker, Flickr

The state’s first winter storm of the season is expected to hit Iowa on Wednesday afternoon, and will likely bring strong winds and heavy snowfall in parts of the state.

National Weather Service meteorologist Keven Skow said some areas of the state are expected to receive several inches, and the snow will likely stay on the ground due to sub-freezing temperatures throughout the rest of the week.

“If it falls, it will probably be on the ground through Christmas,” Skow said.

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