On The Radio – 38 million pieces of trash found on remote Pacific island


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The most recent recorded density of litter on Henderson Island was 671 items per square meter. (Jennifer Lavers/Associated Press). 
Jenna Ladd| June 19, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses how an extremely remote island in the Pacific ocean bares the highest litter density in the world. 

Transcript: Henderson Island is one of the most remote islands in the world and is also the most affected by pollution from plastic debris.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

When researchers traveled to the tiny, uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, they were astonished to find an estimated 38 million pieces of trash washed up on the island.

The island is situated at the edge of the South Pacific gyre, where ocean currents meet in a vortex that captures floating trash, carrying some of it from as far away as Scotland.

Over 99 percent of the debris on the island is made of plastic—most pieces are unidentifiable fragments. The researchers say that fishing-related activities and land-based refuse likely produced most of the debris.

The researchers say the density of trash was the highest recorded anywhere in the world, despite Henderson Island’s extreme remoteness. The island is located about halfway between New Zealand and Chile and is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.

To learn more about the island, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

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

On The Radio – Pace of sea level rise tripled since 1990


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A new study found that sea levels are rising nearly three times faster than in previous centuries. (Chris Dodd/flickr)
Jenna Ladd| June 12, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses a recent study that found sea levels are rising at a significantly faster rate than in the past. 

Transcript: Scientists, in a new study, have found that the Earth’s oceans are rising nearly three times as quickly as they were throughout most of the 20th century.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

This new finding is one of the strongest indications yet that a much-feared trend of not just sea level rise, but its acceleration, is now underway.

Their paper, published in May’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, isn’t the first to find that the rate of rising seas is itself increasing — but it finds a bigger rate of increase than in past studies.

The new paper concludes that before 1990, oceans were rising at about almost a half an inch per decade. From 1993 through 2012, though, it finds they rose by almost one and a quarter inches per decade.

To learn more about the study, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

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

On The Radio – Chicago public buildings to switch to renewable energy


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Jake Slobe | May 1, 2017

This On The Radio segment discusses Chicago’s plan to convert its public buildings electricity use to 100% renewable energy by 2025.

Transcript: Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced last month a plan to convert all of the city’s public buildings’ electricity use to 100% renewable energy by 2025.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The plan will consist of transitioning more than 900 government buildings in Chicago to renewable energy. Once implemented, Chicago will be the largest major city in America to have a 100% clean energy mandate for its public buildings.

Together, Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges, Chicago Park District fieldhouses and buildings owned by the city and the Chicago Housing Authority consume 8 percent of all the electricity used in Chicago, according to city officials. Last year, that amounted to nearly 1.8 billion kilowatt hours — enough to power 295,000 Chicago homes.

The 900 government buildings will accomplish the shift through a variety of including purchasing “renewable energy credits,” buying utility-supplied renewable energy through the Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard, and by installing solar panels or windmills on city buildings and public property.

The City Colleges have installed solar panels on the roofs of Richard J. Daley College and the Dawson Technical Institute. Those installations alone have generated more than $16,000 in energy savings.

To learn more about Chicago’s plan, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org

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

On The Radio – Huge crowds attend March for Science rallies in Iowa and worldwide


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Hundreds of scientists and supporters gathered at the Pentacrest for the March for Science in Iowa City on Saturday. The march was one of more than 500 others in communities around the nation.
Jake Slobe | April 24, 2017

This On The Radio segment discusses the March for Science rallies that took place worldwide on Saturday, April 22.

Transcript: On April 22, scientists and science advocates flooded the streets of over 500 cities around the globe to show their support for scientific research and evidence-based policy.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Following in the footsteps of the Women’s March on Washington, the March for Science was the biggest public demonstration against the Trump administration’s budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute of Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and more.

Since February, the momentum behind the March for Science grew quickly, with many organizations offering support. Over 100 science organizations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science supported the March for Science.

The initiative started as a scientists’ march on Washington, D.C., but has since spread to cities across the U.S. and the world.

Organizers of the march have recently announced they plan to transition from organizing marches to creating a global organization focused on science education, outreach, and advocacy.

To learn more about the march, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

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

Warm Gulf of Mexico Waters could cause more spring storms


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Sea surface temperature difference from average. (WeatherBell.com)
Jake Slobe | April 17, 2017

This On The Radio segment discusses the abnormally warm temperature of the Gulf of Mexico this winter and the potential effect on springtime storms.

Gulf of Mexico waters have been exceptionally warm, which could mean explosive springtime storms.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

 This winter, the average sea surface temperature of the Gulf of Mexico never fell below 73 degrees for the first time on record.  Water temperatures at the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and near South Florida are on fire. The warm waters caused historically warm winter in the southern United States and could fuel intense thunderstorms in the spring throughout the southern and central U.S. While this relationship is far from absolute, scientists have found that when the Gulf of Mexico tends to be warmer than normal, there is more energy for severe storms and tornadoes to form than when the Gulf is cooler.

A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in December found that the warmer the Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures, the more hail and tornadoes occur during March through May over the southern U.S.

The implications of the warm water for hurricane season are less clear. Warmer than normal water temperatures can make tropical storms and hurricanes more intense, but wind shear and atmospheric moisture levels often play more important roles in hurricane formation.

To learn more about the warm water temperatures and their effects, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

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

On The Radio – CLE4R project continues to improve air quality and educate Iowans


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In an effort to educate Iowans about particulate air pollution, CLE4R has made Air Beam air quality monitors available for check out at the Dubuque Public Library, Dubuque Community School Districts and at the University of Iowa. (Taking Space)
Jake Slobe | April 10, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses CLE4R, a collaborative project to improve air quality in the city of Dubuque and nearby communities.

Transcript: Clean Air in the River Valley, also known as CLE4R, has continued working to improve air quality in the Upper Mississippi River Valley.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The IIHR—Hydroscience and Engineering project, founded in October of 2015, is a collaborative effort between the University of Iowa, the city of Dubuque, and surrounding communities. Air pollution featuring particulate matter that is smaller than 2.5 microns leads to unhealthy air during at least part of the year for much of the Upper Mississippi River Valley.

Over the last two years, CLE4R has educated more than 1,000 Iowans about air quality. Notably, the project has made hand-held particulate pollution monitors available for checkout from the City of Dubuque and the Dubuque Community School District.

Dr. Charles Stanier, University of Iowa associate professor of chemical and biochemical engineering, is director of the program.

“Air quality is important in Iowa, especially air quality associated with fine particles or have that can get into the deep lung. When particles get into the deep lung they effect cardiovascular health and when air is clean people have better outcomes for cardiovascular diseases like emphysema and COPD as well as lower absenteeism and lower disability.”

CLE4R project representatives will be present at both the Dubuque STEM festival and the Iowa City STEAM festival the weekend of April 22nd.

For more information about the CLE4R project, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

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

 

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.