Sunday, September 19, 2010

Report suggests increase in severe weather for Iowa

James Pusey in the Ames Tribune (Iowa): Severe flooding, heat waves and storms could become increasingly common in Iowa due to the effects of global warming, according to a recent report. The report, titled “Global Warming and Extreme Weather: The Science, the Forecast and the Impacts on America,” was released by Environment Iowa, a citizen-based environmental advocacy group.

The report highlights several recent extreme weather incidences, including the 2008 floods that caused between $8 billion and $10 billion in damage in Iowa. Jessica Buchberger, field associate for Environment Iowa, said the report should be a call to action to cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases. “Given that unchecked global warming will likely fuel even more severe weather, we need to start cutting global warming pollution now,” Buchberger said.

Scientists at Iowa State University said there is evidence to support the report’s findings, although there are other factors that contribute to the trend of increasing severe weather. Gene Takle, a climate scientist at Iowa State University, said these other factors include irrigation and crop-planting practices. “Irrigation throughout the Great Plains, from the Dakotas all the way to Texas, has led to a tremendous amount of water that’s been mined and put into the atmosphere,” Takle said.

There also has been an increase in corn plants per acre over the last 50 years, Takle said, pulling more water from the soil and evaporating it to the atmosphere. Today’s farmers are planting up to 35,000 corn plants per acre, he said, whereas 50 years ago they planted about 15,000 per acre.

Climate change compounds the problem, he said, because the warmer that atmosphere is, the more water it can hold. This means when water is released from the atmosphere, it is released in higher quantities. In other words, when it rains, it pours….

Ames, IA, August 11, 2010 -- Duff Avenue is impassable as the waters of the Squaw Creek flood Ames businesses. Record flooding swamped the city after back-to-back-to-back storms. Jace Anderson/FEMA

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