Tonight, University of Iowa students will discuss climate justice through film, theatre, and storytelling.


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Join the Climate Narrative Project Fellows tonight for an evening of film, theatre, art and storytelling focused on issues of climate justice and climate change.

Wednesdsay, December 7 
7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Becker Communication Studies Building Rm 101

The Climate Narrative Project is a special media arts initiative through the Office of Sustainability designed to reach across multilpe academic disciplines and provide regenerative approaches to energy, food, agriculture, water and waste management, community planning, and transportation.

Jeff Biggers is the Writer-in-Residence at the University of Iowa’s Office of Sustainability, where he oversees the Climate Narrative Project.

This semester, eight fellows worked with Biggers on semester-long investigative projects. This year’s eight fellows include:

Shelby Cain:The Conscience and the Consumer
Carlo Acevedo: El clima y la justicia:Poemas
Shirley Wan: Voices of Huo
Nazira Coury: The Other Side: Las Voces
J. Creek Hoard: Four Walks
Solomon Worlds:Edu-nature-nal
Kate Gylten: The Art of Oil
Jeffery Recker: Not One or a Million

The Climate Narrative Project is an investigative initiative: What accounts for the gap between science and action on climate change, and what can we do more effectively to communicate informed stories and galvanize action?

Learn more about the fellows here and see the the Climate Narrative Project outlines and discussions visit https://sustainability.uiowa.edu/climatenarrative/

Northey requests additional funds to prepare for potential Avian flu outbreak


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The 2015 Iowa bird flu outbreak resulted in the death of 30 million hens. (Open Gate Farm/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | December 6, 2016

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey requested an additional $500,000 in funding last week for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Animal Industry Bureau.

The money would be used to prepare for and respond to a potential High Path Avian Influenza Disease outbreak. Northey’s request follows Iowa’s Avian Influenza outbreak last year, which resulted in the death of 30 million hens and 1.5 million turkeys. Northey said,

“I recognize we are in a very tight budget time in the state, due in large part to the challenging economic environment in Iowa’s ag industry.  However, it is important we continue to invest in priority areas that put the state in a good position for continued growth.”

Following the 2015 outbreak, Iowa’s economy took an estimated $1.2 billion hit and 8,400 people lost their jobs. Northey said that the funds would be used to help farmers increase biosecurity efforts against the disease, which can include vaccines and disinfecting shoes, hands, tires, and anything else that may come in contact with a poultry flock.

“The value of Iowa’s animal industry is $13.45 billion, and growing. Unfortunately, the High Path Avian Influenza outbreak last year showed how devastating a foreign animal disease can be in our state.  These funds would allow the Department to better prepare for a future animal disease emergency response,” Northey said.

In his statement, the secretary also emphasized his support for a proposal passed by the Iowa House of Representatives which would provide nearly $500 million through 2029 for water quality improvement.

On The Radio – Sea ice at poles is disappearing at an alarming rate


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Jake Slobe | December 5, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses the melting of arctic sea ice.

Transcript: Arctic sea ice is disappearing at an alarming rate due to abnormally high temperatures in the region.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, late last month arctic sea ice coverage was nearly one million square kilometers less than the previous record low in 2012. Experts note that arctic sea ice should be spreading during this time of year, instead it is static or declining.

The melting of arctic ice has a significant effect on the Arctic climate system. As the climate warms and ice melts into the dark ocean, more sunlight is absorbed into the water during the summer months. In contrast, light-colored ice helps to deflect the sun’s rays away from earth. The heat that is contained in the ocean can also prevent ice from forming in the future.

Researchers point out that sea ice cover in Antarctica is also at a record low, most likely due to weather patterns in the Pacific. Gerald Meehl, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said that additional melting of sea ice in the Antarctic can be expected for the next five to ten years.

For more information about sea ice coverage in the poles and to this report in whole, visit iowaenvironmentafocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

Researchers perplexed by tornado clusters’ growing size


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An image of a tornado touching down in Oklahoma in May of 1981 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s photo archive. (NOAA/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | December 2, 2016

A recent study in the journal Science reveals that tornado outbreaks are growing in size, and scientists are unsure why.

The study was published just days after 18 tornadoes devastated parts of the Southeast United States Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. The study’s lead author, Michael Tippett of Columbia University, said that 50 years ago tornado clusters, may have involved about 12 tornados, now they average roughly 20. The researchers studied the most extreme outbreaks, which happen about once every five years, and discovered a steady increase in tornado cluster size since the mid-1960’s.

Before the outbreak on Tuesday, 2016 had seen a record low number of tornadoes. In an interview with the Associated Press, Tippett said,“Something’s up. The tornadoes that do occur are occurring in clusters. It’s not any increase in the (total) number of tornadoes.” In contrast with upticks in other kinds of extreme weather, researchers are not seeing a connection between human-induced climate change and larger tornado clusters. Tippett said, “It’s not what we expected. Either it’s not climate change because not everything is, or it is some aspect of climate change we don’t understand yet.”

The article mentioned that the circulation of warm water in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans could be responsible for the tornado clusters’ growth over the years, but there is no evidence yet to support this claim.

Other scientists question the validity of Tippett’s study, claiming that increased reporting and the prevalence of urban sprawl may be responsible for the perceived growth of tornado outbreaks. One critic is Howard Bluestein, a meteorology professor at the University of Oklahoma. He said, “It’s a useful exercise, but I would be very, very careful in accepting it.”

Seven people were killed by this week’s tornado cluster, several more were injured.

EPA to maintain fuel economy standards


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The fuel economy standards require all new fleets of light trucks and cars to average 54.5 miles per gallon. (Robert Couse-Baker/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | December 1, 2016

Despite objection from automakers, the Obama administration decided on Wednesday to maintain fuel economy requirements for light trucks and cars.

Following a technical analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it was concluded that vehicle manufacturers are able to continue meeting emissions standards and fuel economy requirements for model years 2022-2025. The standards require that new fleets of light trucks and cars average 54.5 miles per gallon, with a reduction to 50.8 miles per gallon should buying habits change. In a statement Wednesday, the EPA said that the requirements help to save drivers billions of dollars at the pump, double new-car gas mileage and drastically reduce carbon emissions. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said,

“Although EPA’s technical analysis indicates that the standards could be strengthened for model years 2022-2025, proposing to leave the current standards in place provides greater certainty to the auto industry for product planning and engineering. This will enable long-term planning in the auto industry, while also benefiting consumers and the environment.”

Dan Becker is the director of the Safe Climate campaign environmental group. He said, “Numerous studies demonstrate that automakers have ample, affordable technology to achieve the program’s cost-effective goals.” Becker also said that the EPA plans to make the decision final before president-elect Trump is inaugurated in January.

The EPA is accepting public comment on the decision through December 30th, 2016. Comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov to Docket EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0827.

University of Iowa to hold forum on the water rights tonight in the University Capitol Center


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(Flickr / Peter Esser)
 Jake Slobe | November 30, 2016

Tonight in the University Capitol Center, the University of Iowa will hold a forum discussing the significance of humans having access and rights to water.

University Capitol Centre Rm 1117
Wednesday, November 30 
7:30 PM – 9:00 PM

During this event, the panelists will discuss the fundamental importance of the basic human right to water and it’s implications for human health and well-being. The event aims to engage community members and students in a productive dialogue concerning how these rights and our water resources are being threatened in surprising and worrisome ways domestically and globally. The goal that those in attendance leave feeling informed about the often unconsidered implications of these threats and use their knowledge to stand up for their rights to water and those of others.

The Panelists will include Eric Tate, assistant professor of Geography and Sustainability Studies, and Maureen McCue, an adjunct clinical assistant professor at the University of Iowa Colleges of Public Health and Liberal Arts and Sciences.  She is a founding member, faculty, and former director of the University of Iowa Global Health Studies Program. UI students Kareem Butler and Channon Greer will also be on the panel.

The panel discussion is sponsored by Iowa Chapter  of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Co-sponsors are the UI Global Health Studies Program, the Office of Sustainability,  the UI Center for Human Rights.

Statewide floodplain maps near completion


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Associate Director Nathan Young outlines the benefits of the Iowa Flood Center’s statewide Floodplain Mapping Project. (Jenna Ladd/CGRER)
Jenna Ladd | November 29, 2016

The Iowa Flood Center hosted an event yesterday to mark the completion of its statewide Floodplain Mapping Project.

In partnership with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) is wrapping up a nearly four year effort ahead of schedule. The Draft Flood Hazard Maps delineate boundaries of flooded areas for 100-year (1 percent annual chance) and 500-year (0.2 percent annual chance) for 85 of Iowa’s counties. IFC’s efforts are focused on those counties that were declared Presidential Disaster Areas following the 2008 floods. Iowa’s remaining 14 counties are being mapped by the Army Corps of Engineers and are expected to be complete over the next calendar year.

The standing room only event featured a presentation by the project’s Associate Director, Nathan Young. Young said, “We’ve been able to either create or update floodplain maps across the entire state that can be used by people in large cities or out in rural communities to better understand their flood risk.” In addition to 100 and 500-year boundary maps, Flood Risk Management Maps are available to Iowans, thanks to a partnership with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. These maps provide Scour-prone floodplain areas, flood depths, and gradients of flood risk.

Information from both flood mapping products will be shared with the (FEMA). Young said,

“The majority of the information produced is available for people to make their own decisions about how to address their flood risk. In some cases the DNR and FEMA have been able to generate enough funding to take our products through the review process and have them adopted by the National Flood Insurance Program. The 100-year floodplain boundary on those maps will be used to establish flood insurance rates.”

Researchers used recently collected light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data provided by the DNR to map all streams in Iowa which drain to one square mile or more. The statewide mapping project is five to ten years ahead of national flood mapping efforts, IFC Director Witold Krajewski reported in his opening remarks.

Beyond providing Iowa citizens with real-time floodplain maps, water resources engineer Harvest Ellis said that IFC has encouraged DNR to use the information available in the flood maps to inform state-led flood mitigation efforts.

Both the Draft Flood Hazard Maps and the Flood Risk Management Maps are available for public use at www.iowafloodmaps.org.