On The Radio – New study looks at freshwater flood risk from hurricanes


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On October 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew made landfall on southwestern Haiti as a category-4 storm—the strongest storm to hit the Caribbean nation in more than 50 years. Just hours after landfall, NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image. (NASA)
Jake Slobe | March 27, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses a new study showing that hurricanes can often cause more damage to land further inland than previously thought.

Transcript: A study including researchers from the University of Iowa has found that hurricanes often do more damage in the form of freshwater flooding, sometimes thousands of miles inland, than they do on the coasts.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The study looked at freshwater flood risk from North Atlantic tropical hurricanes as part of a groundbreaking study linking hurricanes to flood insurance claims. The authors were the first to analyze future flood impacts due to climate change and urbanization.

The study found that the number of insured residential losses from freshwater flooding is twice as high as that from coastal flooding.

The study’s findings, published in Scientific Reports, could influence the way policy makers think about risk management, emergency services, flood insurance, and urban development.

Until now, research into freshwater flood risk due to hurricanes has been limited. They analyzed all significant flood events associated with U.S.  hurricanes that reached land from 2001 to 2014.

The researchers found that just one-third of total residential flood insurance claims were related to storm surge and that the impact of freshwater flooding from hurricanes was much more significant.

To learn more about the study, visit iowaenvironmentfocus.org

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

UI to hold Media Workshop and Forum on post-truth culture this Friday


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Jake Slobe | March 22, 2017

Friday, March 24, 2017
11:30am – 2:00pm
UI Main Library
TILE Classroom 1140

This Friday, POROI (Project on the Rhetoric of Inquiry) will host “A Moment of (Post) Truth: a Media Workshop and Forum.” The event will focus on new challenges that audiences and journalists are facing in a moment when the legitimacy of the press, science and facts themselves are vigorously  opposed. The forum will open up a dynamic space for students, researchers, journalists, faculty, scientists and politicians to reflect together on the stakes of post-factualism in a democracy, along with issues of dissent, authority and authoritarianism.

During the event will be a panel with three speakers from the University of Iowa. First, will be Jiyeon Kang’s speech titled, “Desires Gone Viral: Reading Fake News, Rumors and Internet Bubbles as Political Symptoms.”  Second John S. Nelson will give a presentation titled, “Truth as Common Sense and Fervent Feeling in American Populism, Left and Right.” Lastly will be a presentation by Jerry Schnoor titled, “Climate Change: The Truth and Post-Truth from the Trump Administration, and How the Press Should Report It.”

The event is free and open to the public. Click here to register for the event.

Participants

  • Jeff Charis-Carlson, reporter, Iowa City Press-Citizen
  • Jiyeon Kang, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, University of Iowa
  • Frank Durham, Associate Professor of Journalism and Director, Masters Program in Strategic Communication, University of Iowa
  • Meenakshi Gigi Durham, Professor of Journalism and Associate Dean of CLAS, University of Iowa
  • John S. Nelson, Professor of Political Science and founder of POROI, University of Iowa
  • Jerald Schnoor, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa

SCHEDULE

11:30 – Interactive Media Workshop
12:15 – Drinks & snacks
12:20 – Panel: Truth & Consequences
1:10 – snacks & drinks
1:15 – Roundtable & Group Discussion
1:50 – Collective Reflections

On The Radio – UI announces it will be coal-free by 2025


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Infographic of the University of Iowa’s path to zero coal. (Josh Brdicko, Marketing & Design, BFA ’18)
Jake Slobe | March 20, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses the university’s recent announcement to get rid of coal by 2025.

Transcript: University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld announced late last month that the university will be coal-free by 2025.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The UI has taken steps to reduce its dependence on coal. In 2008, the university established seven “sustainability targets” to be achieved by 2020.

Since 2008, the UI has managed to reduce its use of coal by 60 percent.

The university’s current energy portfolio includes oat hulls, miscanthus grass, wood chips and green energy pellets.

UI partnered with Iowa State University in 2013 to develop a miscanthus grass energy crop. Working with farmers within 50 miles of Iowa City, the university has planted 550 acres of the miscanthus and will plant an additional 250 to 350 acres this spring. The goal is to establish up to 2,500 acres locally by 2020.

To learn more about the university’s plan to go coal free, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org

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

The Weather Channel gives a forecast from the year 2050


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Jake Slobe | March 15, 2017

Mega-droughts. Long-lasting heat waves. Flooded coastal cities. These are the weather scenarios for 2050 from a series of imaginary, yet realistic, reports from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) that predict a future of warmer, wetter and more extreme weather.

WMO released four series of future weather reports in 2014 and 2015 to highlight the need for action to minimize the risks of extreme weather and climate events. Series 4 was launched in advance of the Paris conference on the Climate Change Convention in November 2015, Series 3 supported the Third World Conference on Disaster risk Reduction held in Sendai, Series 2 was launched in December 2014 during the Lima conference on the Climate Change Convention, and Series 1 was launched in September 2014 to support the UN Secretary-General’s call for action at the UN Climate Summit.

Three of the station’s best-known personalities—Sam Champion, Jim Cantore and Stephanie Abrams—each contribute to segments that imagine a world besieged by the kind of extreme weather scientists expect to see a lot more of by midcentury.

Climate reporter Andrew Freedman said about the video forecast:

“This Weather Channel video of a weather forecast in 2050 may be the most compelling climate advocacy vid I’ve seen. It represents an aggressive, almost advocacy-oriented, move on the part of The Weather Channel, which began covering climate change more routinely during the past two years after virtually ignoring it entirely for several years.”

What they created are only possible scenarios and not true forecasts. Nevertheless, they are based on the most up-to-date climate science, and they paint a compelling picture of what life could look like on a warmer planet. The events dramatized in both pieces are entirely in keeping with what climate scientists expect to see as human-spewed carbon continues to saturate the atmosphere.

You can watch all the videos here.

 

 

Statewide monarch butterfly conservation strategy released


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Monarch Butterfly picture taken at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Jake Slobe | March 13, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses the recently released monarch butterfly conservation strategy.

Transcript: A statewide strategy for the conservation and advancement of monarch butterflies was released last month in response to declining monarch populations.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The strategy was prepared by the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium, a group of more than thirty organizations including agricultural and conservation groups, agribusiness and utility companies, county associations, universities and state and federal agencies. It includes scientifically-based conservation practices such as using monarch friendly weed management, utilizing the farm bill to plant breeding habitat, and closely following instruction labels when applying potentially toxic pesticides.

Monarch butterflies provide many vital ecosystem services like the pollination of agricultural and native plants. They have seen a population decline of 80 percent in the last two decades due primarily to extreme weather events and the pervasive loss of the milkweed plant. In June 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will determine whether or not to list monarch butterflies as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

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

More than half of world’s food calories produced by small farms


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Map of mean agricultural area by farm size in three global regions. (Environmental Research Letters)
Jake Slobe | March 8, 2017

A new study published in Environmental Research Letters (ERL) estimates that more than half the food calories produced worldwide come from regions where the average farm size is less than five hectares.

Despite the importance of this farming activity in providing food security to millions – particularly in South and East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America – information on the subnational distribution of smallholdings can be hard to find. To address this, researchers based in the US, Canada and Australia joined forces to generate a map of the mean amount of land per farming household.

The team showed that the combined output of developing world regions dependent on small-scale farming (with an average farm size of less than 5 hectares) contributes more than 80% of global rice production and 75% of the world’s output of groundnuts and palm oil. Small-scale farming regions also provide a large proportion of the world’s millet (60%), cassava (60%), cotton (40%) and sugarcane (40%) found to the study.

The study drew on household micro-data and satellite images of landcover to classify agricultural activity in a way that highlights smallholder contributions to the global food picture. The data cover 2412 subnational units in 83 countries across South and East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America.

To evaluate the prevalence of smaller or larger farms, the scientists use a metric dubbed “mean agricultural area” (MAA), which is defined as hectares of agricultural land divided by the number of farming households.

Units with an MAA of less than five hectares play a dominant role in Asia, the researchers found. In sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion drops slightly with smallholder units producing half of the food calories in the region – supported by places with a medium-density of farm households, which account for another 26%. The situation changes again in Latin America, with 70% of food calories produced in regions with large and very large MAAs.

The team hopes that its results will help not just policy makers, but also technology developers in tackling issues such as food security, poverty reduction and conservation. One of the next steps in the project is to identify factors that lead smallholder regions to be successful.

On The Radio – Hy-Vee supermarkets tackle food waste


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Hy-Vee is an employee-owned chain of more than 240 supermarkets located throughout the Midwestern United States. (Flickr / Picture Des Moines)
Jake Slobe | March 6, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses Hy-Vee’s recent strategy to reduce food waste within their stores. 

Transcript: Iowa’s Hy-Vee supermarket chain recently announced an initiative to reduce food waste.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The employee-owned corporation began its “Misfits” program in mid-January, and now offers “ugly” produce in nearly all of its 242 stores. “Ugly” produce are those vegetables and fruits that typically are not sold at market due to industry size and shape preferences. The program’s produce offerings include peppers, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and apples, among other fruits and vegetables. On average, consumers can expect to pay 30 percent less for the “ugly” items.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply goes to waste. Food waste makes up the vast majority of waste found in municipal landfills and quickly generates methane, which is a greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than CO2 during its first two decades in the atmosphere.

Hy-Vee’s Misfit program supports the USDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency effort to achieve a 50 percent food waste reduction nationwide by 2030.

For more information about Hy-Vee’s food waste reduction efforts, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

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