Iowans can expect more extreme weather like the 2012 drought, due to global warming caused by greenhouse gases. That’s the Climate Statement signed and delivered this week in Des Moines by more than 130 scientists and researchers from 27 colleges and universities – urging state residents to act now to reduce economic costs due to climate change.
This year’s statement focuses on the prospects for future Iowa extreme weather events like the 2012 drought and the extreme flooding that preceded it. Specifically, the scientists said, the following observations support the case that more droughts and floods are likely in the future.
Globally over the past 30 years, there is clear statistical evidence that extreme high temperatures are occurring disproportionately more than extreme low temperatures. The climate likely will continue to warm due to increasing global emissions and accumulation of greenhouse gases.
In a warmer climate, wet years get wetter and dry years get dryer. And dry years get hotter – precisely what happened in Iowa this year. We can expect Iowa to experience higher temperatures when dry weather patterns predominate. The latest science, based on overwhelming lines of physical evidence, indicates that we can expect dry periods to be more frequent as soon as the 2020s.
Iowa also has experienced an increasing frequency of intense rains over the past 50 years (Iowa Climate Change Impacts 2010), likely due to a higher surface evaporation in a warmer world. Because of these extremes in precipitation (drought and flood), Iowans will increasingly need infrastructure investments to adapt to climate fluctuations while developing and implementing mitigation.
“Iowans are living with climate change now and it is already costing us money,” commented Dave Courard-Hauri, chair at Environmental Science and Policy Program at Drake University. “Iowans can be a part of the solution, creating jobs and growing our economy in the process.”
The strong support for the statement represents the growing consensus among Iowa science faculty and research staff that action is needed now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement mitigation strategies.
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“We have confidence in recent findings that climate change is real and having an impact on the Iowa economy and on our natural resources,” said Jerry Schnoor, co-director, Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research at the University of Iowa. “The climate likely will continue to warm due to increasing global emissions and accumulation of greenhouse gases. There is solid evidence that extreme high temperatures are occurring disproportionately more than extreme low temperatures.”
The statement ends with a call to action: “As global citizens, Iowans should be a part of the solution. We can prosper, create jobs, and provide an engine for economic growth in the process (Iowa Climate Change Advisory Committee 2008 report). Iowa should lead innovation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improve resilience in agriculture and communities, and move toward greater energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy.”
The lead authors of the “Updated: Iowa Climate Statement: The Drought of 2012” include: Gene Takle, director, Climate Science Program, Professor of Agronomy, Professor of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University; Jerald Schnoor, co-director, Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, University of Iowa; Christopher J. Anderson, research assistant professor, Climate Science Program, Iowa State University; Greg Carmichael, co-director, Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, University of Iowa; Neil Bernstein, chair, Department of Natural and Applied Sciences, Mount Mercy University; and David Courard-Hauri, chair, Environmental Science and Policy Program, Drake University.
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Edited by Braden Becker