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Forecast: colder-than-normal, snowy winter

Friday, November 30, 2012

Iowans can expect more extreme weather like the 2012 drought thanks to changes in the climate caused by greenhouse gases. That's according to a statewide group of scientists who believe that Iowans should act now to reduce economic costs due to climate change.

"In a warmer climate, wet years get wetter and dry years get dryer. And dry years get hotter - that is precisely what happened in Iowa this year, " said Chris Anderson, Research Assistant Professor, Climate Science Program at Iowa State University.

"Iowa Climate Statement: The Drought of 2012" was released by 138 science faculty and research experts from 27 Iowa colleges and universities. This statement focuses on the prospects for future Iowa extreme weather events like the 2012 drought and the extreme flooding that preceded it.

"Iowans are living with climate change now and it is already costing us money," Dave Courard-Hauri, Chair, 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.

"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 scientists noted that over the past 50 years, rainfalls have become more intense in Iowa, possibly due to higher surface evaporation in warmer temperatures, and concluded that evidence points to more frequent drought periods beginning as soon as the 2020s.

While they had no answers to the climate change, the scientists warned that Iowa should work now to lead innovation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improve resilience in agriculture and communities, and move towards greater energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy.

And what about winter for Iowa? Current forecasts from the National Weather Service show that this winter could yield lower than average temperatures, and greater than average snowfall. If this occurs, it will be Iowa's fifth straight winter of high-snowfall, and its fourth straight winter of below-average temperatures.

However, don't start stocking up on snow shovels just yet. The winter forecasts released each fall are often off the mark. For example, for the past five winters the predictions called for warmer than usual winters, while four of the five actually fell well below 30-year averages.

The area could get its next taste of winter later this week. Unseasonable warm temperatures may reach 65 degrees Wednesday (historically, about the average time the lake freezes over), and hold at around 58 Thanksgiving Day, then are expected to fall to a high of 35 and a low of 20 on a blustery Black Friday. There's a good chance for a snow shower arriving in Storm Lake around Tuesday of next week, with lows forecast as cold as 14 by the end of the week.

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