September 3, 2014

Study: Nebraska winters will still be snowy despite climate change

Snowplow3A national report on climate change finds even with global warming, we’ll still have plenty of snow in the winters ahead in Nebraska and across much of the country’s northern half.

Climatologist Harry Hillaker says climate change is very gradual and snow blowers and shovels will remain necessities. Hillaker says the report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology didn’t exactly go out on a limb in predicting continued snowy winters for the Midwest.

“When you think about it, that’s not really much of a surprise, I guess the basic mechanism on how we get snow is not going to be changing in a warmer world,” Hillaker says. “The number of opportunities may be decreasing but the storms could be just as intense but probably not as frequent as what we’ve been seeing in years past.”

The Old Farmers’ Almanac forecasts the winter ahead will be colder than usual, then next summer will be hotter. The publication predicts winter temperatures, precipitation and snowfall will all be below normal, with the coldest period running from early December into the first half of January. Hillaker says it’s an extreme challenge to accurately predict the weather several months in advance.

“Certainly, not very easily and there’s lots of outfits out there like the Farmer’s Almanac and some private forecasters that attempt to do that sort of thing,” Hillaker says. “I don’t know if anyone’s attempted any kind of study of how accurate those prognostications are, but certainly it’s very, very difficult and we’ve got a long ways to go in those longer-range outlooks.”

While scientific advancements are making forecasts more on-target, Hillaker says no one can really predict now, at summer’s end, what the weather will be this winter.

“Certainly, the day-by-day forecasts, out a week or two, have gotten far, far better than they used to be just in the last 20 or 30 years, tremendous improvements,” Hillaker says. “On that longer range, say from 30 days on out, there’s some skill there, but still a lot of guess work.”

The MIT study predicts that some regions will see less snowfall, but the snowfall extremes may actually intensify.

Tickets for Young-Nelson anti-Keystone XL concert selling fast

It appears Neil Young and Willie Nelson can attract quite a crowd to rural Nebraska.

Bold Nebraska reports it has sold more than 6,500 tickets for the benefit concert that will help fund the anti-Keystone XL pipeline campaign.

The group also says it will sell only 500 more tickets to cap the crowd a 7,000.

Young and Nelson will be the featured artists at the “Harvest the Hope” concert scheduled for Saturday, September 27th at the farm of Art and Helen Tanderup, near Neligh.

Rock performer Lukas Nelson and Frank Waln, promoted as a hip-hop artist from the Rosebud Sioux tribe will also perform.

Bold Nebraska is working with other environmental groups to convince President Barack Obama to deny TransCanada a presidential permit to build the pipeline from western Canada to Nebraska.

EPA claims it seeks clarity, not power grab in Clean Water Act proposal (AUDIO)

A top administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency claims proposed changes to the Clean Water Act won’t harm agriculture, but understands that message is a difficult one to make in farm country.

Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Water with the EPA, Ken Kopocis, denies proposed changes to the Clean Water Act aim at extending the EPA’s reach onto the farm.

“We believe that the proposed rule would cover fewer waters than what the current rule covers. So, we do not believe that we’re expanding jurisdiction,” Kopocis tells Nebraska Radio Network in a telephone interview from this Washington, D.C. office.

Yet, Nebraska farm groups don’t believe such assurances and staunchly oppose the proposal.

Sen. Mike Johanns, the former Secretary of Agriculture, has flatly stated the EPA lacks credibility with him.

Johanns, during a recent news conference hosted by the Nebraska Farm Bureau, rejected suggestions by the EPA that its proposed change won’t make a difference in enforcement of the act.

“Quite honestly, they don’t have a lot of credibility with me. I don’t trust them. I think they have given me reason over the past six years not to trust them,” Johanns replied. “And we have to get them to write the rule in a way that says that they’re not expanding their jurisdiction.”

We quoted Johanns and asked Kopocis if the EPA has a trust issue in Nebraska.

“I don’t know whether there’s a trust issue. I won’t speak on behalf of that,” Kopocis stated. “I do know that we have not had the best relations with the agricultural community and both this office and the administrator (Gina McCarthy) in particular are very interested in trying to address that.”

Kopocis says the proposal to change the Clean Water Act seeks to provide greater clarity and predictability to enforcement of the act. He insists the EPA has moved to relieve confusion in wake of a 2006 Supreme Court ruling on the act.

Kopocis says the EPA has heard the complaints from farm country and is reaching out to address those concerns.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Hazardous chemical drop-offs start Friday in NE Nebraska

Residents in southeast Nebraska can clean out all the old chemicals from their garages and under their sinks. This weekend marks the first of several hazardous waste collection events in the region.

Bobbie Meints is with Tecumseh-based Five Rivers Resources Conservation and Development, which is hosting the events. She says they’ll be taking a variety of products.

Items that will be accepted include paint, pesticides, anti-freeze, herbicides, cleaning chemicals, fluorescent light bulbs, and yard and garden chemicals.

Items that won’t be accepted include tires, electronics, appliances, PCBs, science lab materials, explosives, wood preservatives and radioactive material. Commercial-size quantities also will not be accepted. Items should be brought in disposable containers, up to five gallons or 50 pounds.

Three collection events will be held on Friday in Syracuse, Pawnee City and Auburn. Collections will be held Saturday in Nebraska City and in Eagle, with more scheduled in September and October.

“This is a good thing for residents, because if they miss one, say in Auburn, they can drive to Humboldt or Falls City,” Meints says. “We don’t have any county restrictions so you can cross borders and come to a different city if there’s a date that works better for you.”

A three-year grant from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality is paying for the collection events. There is no charge to bring items in, but Meints says they are requesting a $5 donation per household to cover expenses.

Collections are also planned September 12th and 13th in Weeping Water, Tecumseh, Fairbury, and Crete; September 26th in Plattsmouth; and October 10th in Humboldt and Falls City.

By Matthew Leaf, KTNC, Falls City


New restrictions on flying UAVs over public land

Unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs are being banned within the boundaries of the Missouri National Recreational River on the Nebraska-South Dakota border. The ban follows suit with federal policy on the remote-controlled aircraft.

Rick Clark is the superintendent of the area and says the decision protects the purposes of national parks.

Clark says, “Our purpose and intent is to avoid any conflict with visitor use within national parks, including the Missouri National Recreational River where people are going for solitude, recreation.”

Clark says the ban includes any aircraft that are remotely operated, such as drones or model airplanes. The ban will be in effect until more research is done.

“In the future, that’s not known at this time,” Clark says, “but until a more thorough evaluation can be conducted and completed, the ban will be in effect across the board and effecting all categories of unmanned aircraft.”

Clark says a full copy of the ban can be found on the recreational area’s website and at the park headquarters in Yankton.

The Missouri National Recreational River covers a 59-mile section of the Missouri River between Gavins Point Dam and Ponca State Park and a 39-mile section between Fort Randall Dam and Niobrara, Nebraska.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton