Environment & Weather
Greenhouse Gas Report to Assist Producers Facing Climate Challenges PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 12:41
For the First Time, USDA Climate Hubs Get New Tools to Gauge Progress in Building Drought-Resistant Healthy Soil

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2014 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released a report that, for the first time, provides uniform scientific methods for quantifying the changes in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and carbon storage from various land management and conservation activities. The report, titled Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture and Forestry: Methods for Entity-Scale Inventory, will help USDA evaluate current and future greenhouse gas conservation programs, as well as develop new tools and update existing ones to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners participate in emerging carbon markets.

"America's farm, ranch and forest managers are stewards of the land, and have long recognized the significance of managing soil health, plant productivity and animal nutrition. Conservation practices and other management changes can reduce GHG emissions and increase carbon storage while improving soil health, productivity, and resilience to drought and other extreme weather," said Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie. "In partnership with USDA and the Obama Administration, State and regional GHG offset programs and voluntary GHG markets can help make these practices less costly to implement and increase the producer's bottom line."

Today's report outlines science-based methods for quantifying changes in GHG emissions and carbon storage at the local farm, ranch or forest operation. Reducing GHG emissions and increasing carbon storage builds healthy, carbon-rich soils and more resilient production of food, fiber and fuel. USDA recently established Regional Climate Change Hubs to assist landowners with management challenges that arise from weather variability and climate change. The methods report and the tools provided in it will aid the Hubs in giving landowners information on management options to improve agriculture production, soil health, and resource conservation.

The report is the work of 38 experts in GHG estimation in the cropland, grazing land, livestock and forest management sectors across academia, USDA and the federal government. The report was reviewed by an additional 29 scientists, other Federal experts, and the public. While developing the report, reviewers considered scientific rigor, transparency, completeness, accuracy, and cost effectiveness, as well as consistency and comparability with other Federal GHG inventory efforts. The report can be downloaded at www.usda.gov/oce/climate_change/estimation.htm.

Current USDA carbon tools, such as USDA's COMET-Farm, are being updated to incorporate the new methods. Using COMET-Farm, a land manager who is considering a shift to no-till production system, for example, can evaluate the soil carbon benefits of that system and consider revenue opportunities provided by entering into a voluntary agreement with a carbon market. The methods in the report are comprehensive, addressing a wide variety of cropland, grazing land, livestock and forest management practices.

For more information on USDA's Climate Change activities, please visit www.usda.gov and click on "Climate Solutions."


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).


Governor Branstad requests Presidential Disaster Declaration from President Obama PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Tuesday, 29 July 2014 14:38

(DES MOINES) – Governor Terry E. Branstad today signed a letter to be delivered to President Obama requesting a Presidential Disaster Declaration for 22 Iowa counties where significant damage was sustained from severe weather that produced damaging winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, hail, and thunderstorms beginning June 26 through July 7, 2014.

The counties included in the request are: Audubon, Black Hawk, Butler, Cedar, Des Moines, Grundy, Hamilton, Hardin, Ida, Iowa, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Keokuk, Lee, Linn, Mahaska, Muscatine, Poweshiek, Tama and Washington.

The Governor requested funding under the Public Assistance Program, which is used to rebuild damaged infrastructure that may include roads, bridges, culverts and other public facilities, or to cover costs of emergency work during, and debris removal after, the storms. A joint federal, state and local preliminary damage assessment of the 22 counties found the severe weather caused an estimated $13 million worth of damage that could be eligible under the Public Assistance Program.

The Governor also requested funding to conduct hazard mitigation activities for the entire state.


New Study Confirms Water Vapor as Global Warming Amplifier PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Diana Udel   
Tuesday, 29 July 2014 08:44

Scientists suggest that water vapor will intensify future climate change projections

MIAMI – A new study from scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and colleagues confirms rising levels of water vapor in the upper troposphere – a key amplifier of global warming – will intensify climate change impacts over the next decades. The new study is the first to show that increased water vapor concentrations in the atmosphere are a direct result of human activities.

“The study is the first to confirm that human activities have increased water vapor in the upper troposphere,” said Brian Soden, professor of atmospheric sciences at the UM Rosenstiel School and co-author of the study.

To investigate the potential causes of a 30-year moistening trend in the upper troposphere, a region 3-7 miles above Earth’s surface, Soden, UM Rosenstiel School researcher Eui-Seok Chung and colleagues measured water vapor in the upper troposphere collected by NOAA satellites and compared them to climate model predictions of water circulation between the ocean and atmosphere to determine whether observed changes in atmospheric water vapor could be explained by natural or man-made causes. Using the set of climate model experiments, the researchers showed that rising water vapor in the upper troposphere cannot be explained by natural forces, such as volcanoes and changes in solar activity, but can be explained by increased greenhouse gases, such as CO2.

Greenhouse gases raise temperatures by trapping the Earth’s radiant heat inside the atmosphere. This warming also increases the accumulation of atmospheric water vapor, the most abundant greenhouse gas. The atmospheric moistening traps additional radiant heat and further increases temperatures.

Climate models predict that as the climate warms from the burning of fossil fuels, the concentrations of water vapor will also increase in response to that warming. This moistening of the atmosphere, in turn, absorbs more heat and further raises the Earth's temperature.

The paper, titled “Upper Tropospheric Moistening in response to Anthropogenic Warming,” was published in the July 28th, 2014 Early Addition on-line of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The paper’s authors include Chung, Soden, B.J. Sohn of Seoul National University, and Lei Shi of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Ashville, North Carolina.

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About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School

The University of Miami is one of the largest private research institutions in the southeastern United States. The University’s mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, visit: www.rsmas.miami.edu.

President Obama approves Branstad’s request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Friday, 25 July 2014 09:39

26 Iowa counties receive Presidential designation

(DES MOINES) - Governor Terry E. Branstad received word today that President Barack Obama approved his request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration for 26 counties impacted by severe weather in June.

The counties included in the declaration are: Allamakee, Buchanan, Buena Vista, Butler, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Fayette, Franklin, Hancock, Humboldt, Ida, Kossuth, Lyon, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Pocahontas, Sac, Sioux, Winnebago, Winneshiek, Woodbury, and Wright.


As the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department continues to assess damage in other counties affected by severe weather, Branstad noted that additional requests for a Presidential Disaster Declaration may be sent at a later date.

The governor sent the request for a declaration on July 14, 2014, in response to significant damage that was caused by severe storms, damaging winds, tornadoes, heavy rain, hail and flooding that occurred June 14-23, 2014. This is Iowa’s second Presidential Disaster Declaration in 2014.

The declaration by the President will provide federal funding to the declared counties under the Public Assistance Program. A Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance puts into motion long-term federal recovery programs, some of which are matched by state programs, and designed to help public entities and select non-profits. Public Assistance funds may be used for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities and may include debris removal, emergency protective measures, repair of damaged public property, loans needed by communities for essential government functions and grants for public schools.

The Governor also received notification that the Presidential Disaster Declaration includes funding to conduct hazard mitigation activities for the entire state. With this funding, Iowa will be able to minimize the impact of future disasters by taking steps now to strengthen existing infrastructure.

This Presidential Disaster Declaration is the 20th Major Presidential Disaster Declaration Iowa has received since March 2007.


Western Land Commissioners Concerned about the Clean Water Act PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Jim Suydam   
Thursday, 24 July 2014 07:41

Bismarck, ND--Land commissioners from 23 western states gathered in Bismarck, North Dakota during July to discuss and debate policy issues affecting land management actions on over 440 million acres of state land and water throughout the western United States.  The issue attracting the most attention was the federal Clean Water Act (“CWA”), and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) proposed rule change affecting Waters of the United States (“WOTUS”).

According to the EPA, the proposed rule merely clarifies the existing jurisdictional reach of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”) over WOTUS, having little impact to existing regulations or the economy. Western land commissioners see it differently. In a resolution approved by the Association at its business meeting, the commissioners note that despite assurances to the contrary from the EPA, the proposed rule appears to greatly expand the jurisdiction of the Corp over WOTUS.

A major concern among the commissioners is that the EPA is moving forward on adoption of the proposed rule without making available a draft economic report, which the EPA claims supports the proposed rule. According to WSLCA President, John Thurston, “the draft economic report has not been released to the public, nor has it been subject to a mandatory peer review by the Science Advisory Board.” While EPA has extended the public review and comment period until October 20, 2014, there will not be adequate time to complete a thoughtful, in-depth peer review and analysis to facilitate the development of meaningful comments.

On the surface it would appear that changes to the CWA, administered by the Corps, would mostly affect states having large amounts of surface waters and wetlands. However, the economies of states like Arizona could be devastated if the new rule is adopted as currently proposed. “Developers, ranchers, and private landowners in the State of Arizona could see a tremendous increase in the need to obtain expensive and time consuming Section 404 permits from the Corps,” said Vanessa Hickman, Arizona State Land Commissioner. “It is equally disconcerting that under the proposed rule there is no grandfathering type of protection for those people who, in the last five years, have received a jurisdictional decision from the Corps, and are operating accordingly,” Hickman said. As a result, a great deal of anxiety is being created in the development and financing industries over whether or not those with prior jurisdictional decisions would have to reapply for new decisions, and possibly new Section 404 permits. It is unclear what affect this would have on the work flow of existing projects.

The public review and comment period is open until October 20, 2014. Those interested in getting more information on this important action may do so at the following website: www.wslca.org.


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