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


artic_pack_ice
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.

2016 to be hottest year on record


3915051331_042abcc5b1_o
2016 will likely be the third consecutive year that shatters global temperature records, according to the World Meteorological Organization. (Fosco Lucarelli/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | November 15, 2016

The World Meteorological Organization (WHO) released a report yesterday which predicts 2016 to be hottest year on record.

The report, which was published at the global climate summit in Morocco, found the current global temperature to be 34 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. Earth’s global temperature has reached a new peak for the last two years, and 2016 could make three. Experts say that the El Niño weather phenomenon is partly responsible for higher temperatures during the first part of the year, but human activity can be blamed for the rest. Petteri Taalas is the WMO secretary general. He said, “Because of climate change, the occurrence and impact of extreme events has risen. Once in a generation heatwaves and flooding are becoming more regular.”

Extreme heat waves have been reported around the world throughout the year. Temperatures soared to 109 degrees Fahrenheit in South Africa in January, 112 degrees Fahrenheit in Thailand in April and 129 degrees Fahrenheit in Kuwait during July. WMO stated that at least half of the extreme weather events of recent years have been human-induced, they noted that the risk of extreme heat has increased by ten fold in some places. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has found extreme weather and climate-related events effect the farming and food security of over 60 million people worldwide.

Climate scientist Michael Mann of Penn State University responded to the report. He said,

“It is almost as if mother nature is making a statement. Just as one of the planet’s two largest emitters of carbon has elected a climate change denier [Donald Trump] – who has threatened to pull out of the Paris accord – to the highest office, she reminds us that she has the final word.”

Mann added, “Climate change is not like other issues that can be postponed from one year to the next. The US and world are already behind; speed is of the essence, because climate change and its impacts are coming sooner and with greater ferocity than anticipated.”

Not all of the report’s findings were negative. Carbon emissions have largely stabilized over the last three years after decades of growth, which experts say is mostly due to China burning less coal. Also, even though 2017 promises to be an extremely hot year, it most likely will not break records.

On The Radio – UI research looks at the accuracy of current hurricane models


screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-11-03-21-am-1
The forecast from the National Hurricane Center on Hurricane Matthew on Sept. 5, 2016. (National Hurricane Center)
Jake Slobe | November 14, 2016
This week’s On The Radio segment discusses research on hurricanes led by University of Iowa researchers.

Transcript: University of Iowa led research recently examined the accuracy of forecasting systems in predicting rainfall from hurricanes that reach the United States.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Comparing five state-of-the-art weather prediction models, researchers found current models can accurately forecast both where and how much rainfall a tropical hurricane will produce up to two days in advance. However, the forecast’s accuracy decreased drastically when the projection window increased to five days.

The research was published just weeks before Hurricane Matthew caused record flooding in North Carolina.

Gabriele Villarini,  UI associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and author on the paper, says the research focused on predicting the impacts of hurricanes because that information is more useful than conventional forecasts that predict how many storms are expected in a season.

The researchers’ findings were based on fifteen North Atlantic hurricanes that came within three-hundred miles of the U.S. coastline from 2007 to 2012.

For more information about the hurricane research, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

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

Linn County voters overwhelmingly support conservation ballot measure


14695323048_cc5e162030_o
Indian Creek is one of many waterways in Linn County which will benefit from the $40 million conservation bond passed on Tuesday. (Flickr/Carl Wycoff)
Jenna Ladd | November 11, 2016

Despite a divisive national political climate, voters in Linn County spoke with one voice in favor of conservation measures in their county on Tuesday.

Introduced by the Linn County Conservation Board, the ballot measure proposed a $40 million bond to be used for land and water conservation efforts in the county. Unlike other ballot measures in the state, which are typically decided by razor-thin margins, the conservation bond proposal passed with over 74 percent voter approval. The Linn County Conservation Board plans to use 55 percent of the funds for water quality and land protection, 30 percent for parks, and 15 percent for trail improvements. The group has issued a list of 30 potential projects which include wetland development along the Cedar and Wapsipinicon Rivers and several smaller creeks, woodland restoration, native prairie restoration, and improvements to outdoor recreation facilities.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said that this year’s September floods in Cedar Rapids may have influenced the voters’ decision. He said, “We’re coming off the September flooding event that raised to the top of people’s minds how important watershed management is. Many people I visited with about this subject matter looked at this as water quality and watershed management.” Linn County Conservation Deputy Director Dennis Goemaat agreed. He said, “People value their recreation and water quality in natural areas.”

Goemaat added that the board wants to begin working with  Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other invested groups as soon as possible in order to work on funding the projects. It will take time to raise the $40 million, representatives say, but Mayor Corbett is hopeful that the success of the ballot measure will encourage legislators to allocate money to the Iowa DNR’s Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund of 2010, which funds Iowa DNR programs.

Hillary Hughes is vice-president of the Linn County Conservation Board. She said, “This is an affirmation vote. I think this should demonstrate to lawmakers statewide that conservation is important to citizens of Iowa.”

Precipitation in Iowa falls below average for first time since June


screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-1-01-25-pm
Streamflow remains above average for much of northeastern Iowa as the state heads into the driest season of the year. (Iowa DNR)
Jenna Ladd | November 8, 2016

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently released its latest Water Summary Update. Each update provides an overview of the status of Iowa’s water resources using four categories: precipitation, streamflow, drought, and shallow groundwater. The latest update provides a water resource snapshot of trends from October 10 through November 3.

As Iowa heads into the driest season of the year, stretching from November through February, October was recorded as the first month since June in which rainfall fell below normal levels. “Abnormally dry,” or drought conditions persisted for south-central Iowa, with the lowest reported October rainfall of 0.54 inches recorded in Story County. Areas of north central and northeastern Iowa, which had experienced heavy rainfall throughout much of September, saw drier conditions at last.

Temperatures throughout the month of October were warmer than they have been since 2007, averaging about 4.5 degrees above normal. This season’s first freeze is yet to occur for the Des Moines metro area, as well as far eastern and southeastern Iowa. The northwest two-thirds portion of the state experienced its first deep freeze on October 13.

Since the previous Water Summary Update, streamflow in the Chartion River Basin in south central Iowa has decreased to normal levels. However, streamflow for most of Iowa remains above average. More specifically, streamflow in the Cedar, Des Moines, and Upper Iowa River basins remain far above average. The forthcoming four months not only mark the driest season of the year, but also the most hydrologically stable. During this period of time Iowa usually receives about 15 percent of the year’s total rainfall, or 5.5 inches of precipitation. In contrast, summer months in the state bring more than 18 inches of precipitation on average.

Water Summary Updates are released every two weeks or as water resource conditions in Iowa significantly change. They are prepared by the Iowa DNR in partnership with Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the U.S. Geological Survey, and The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division. A complete record of Iowa Water Summary Updates can be found here.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-1-07-45-pm
(Iowa DNR)

On The Radio – Fairfield receives $25 million loan from U.S. Department of Agriculture


wastewater-division3-jpg-scale-large
Jake Slobe | November 7, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses the $25 million dollar given to Fairfield to better their wastewater facility.

Transcript: The city of Fairfield has received $25 million dollars in order to make enhancements to its wastewater facility that will improve the water quality in southeast Iowa.

 This is the Environmental Focus.

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program is awarding a $25 million direct loan to the City of Fairfield that will help rehabilitate the city’s existing wastewater facility and bring it into compliance with Iowa Department of Natural Resources requirements.

 The existing plant was originally constructed in 1966, with updates and improvements added in 1984 and 2013. Still, the plant is not able to meet pollution limits and overflows into local streams during heavy rain events.

This loan, the largest USDA Water and Environmental Program loan ever issued in Iowa, will allow city leaders to implement a master plan over the next 10 years to make improvements to the treatment plant, repair much of the collection system, and address high flows during heavy rains.

Treatment plant upgrades will include new trash screens, new grit removal systems and pumps, as well as an enlarged flow equalization basin.

 For more information about the Fairfield project, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

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

On The Radio – 2016 ‘water year’ much wetter than average


water-update
Each  Water Summary Update provides the current status of water resources in Iowa measuring precipitation, stream flow, shallow groundwater, and drought monitoring. (Iowa DNR)
Jake Slobe | October 31, 2016
This week’s On The Radio segment discusses Iowa’s 2016 Water Summary Update, released by the Iowa DNR in October.

Transcript: Iowa’s 2016 Water Year, which ended on September thirtieth, is the third wettest year on record in 144 years.

 This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

 The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recently released its most recent Water Summary Update. The report provides an overview of the status of Iowa’s water resources and significant events that affect water supplies using four categories: precipitation, stream flow, shallow groundwater, and drought monitoring.

 The most recent update is a snapshot of the state’s water resources from August 31 through October 10. The update reveals that average statewide rainfall was 6.29 inches or 2.91 inches above average, making it the rainiest September since 1986.

 “The 2016 water year, which began in October 2015, and continued through September of this year, surprised Iowans with major unseasonal events including flooding on Thanksgiving last year, rainfall in January, and major flooding in September. While perhaps unexpected, these are consistent with early predictions from climate scientists that global warming will be characterized by increased variability of weather patterns. For Iowans, this implies that we have to be vigilant and prepare year round. Always stay tuned to the current weather conditions and forecasts.”

Streamflow was also found to be above average throughout the state. Following heavy rain events at the end of September in the Cedar and Wapsipinicon River basins, peak streamflow in several locations was found to be the second-highest in recorded history. These values were only topped by the historic 2008 flood.

 For more information about weather and climate in Iowa, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

 From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jenna Ladd.