Environment

Animals
4:11 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

To Save Threatened Owl, Another Species Is Shot

A northern spotted owl in a Redwood forest.
Michael Nichols Getty Images/National Geographic Creative

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 12:19 pm

In desperation to save the rare northern spotted owl, biologists are doing something that goes against their core — shooting another owl that's rapidly taking over spotted owl territory across the northwest.

"If we don't do it, what we're essentially doing, in my view, is dooming the spotted owl to extinction," says Lowell Diller, senior biologist for Green Diamond, a timber company.

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Science
3:27 am
Thu January 16, 2014

An Old Tree Doesn't Get Taller, But Bulks Up Like A Bodybuilder

The world's biggest trees, such as this large Scots pine in Spain's Sierra de Baza range, are also the world's fastest-growing trees, according to an analysis of 403 tree species spanning six continents.
Asier Herrero Nature

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 9:12 am

Like other animals and many living things, we humans grow when we're young and then stop growing once we mature. But trees, it turns out, are an exception to this general rule. In fact, scientists have discovered that trees grow faster the older they get.

Once trees reach a certain height, they do stop getting taller. So many foresters figured that tree growth — and girth — also slowed with age.

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The Two-Way
8:58 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Pregnant Women Warned Against Drinking Water In W.Va. Area

The Freedom Industries facility sits on the banks of the Elk River last Friday, in Charleston, W.Va., site of a chemical spill that has led to a ban on using tap water in the area. The CDC says pregnant women in affected areas should drink only bottled water.
Tom Hindman Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging pregnant women who live in the areas of West Virginia where a toxic chemical leaked into the water supply last week to drink bottled water, even in places where the no-use ban has been lifted. The move comes "out of an abundance of caution," the CDC and the state's Bureau of Public Health say.

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Around the Nation
6:35 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Feds Arrive In W.Va. To Probe Chemical Leak

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 7:32 am

A team of federal investigators from the Chemical Safety Board is in West Virginia to look into that massive chemical leak into the Elk River that contaminated the water in nine counties. Local authorities say the water quality is improving but they're not ready yet for a large-scale lifting of water bans. The leak originated from a storage tank owned by Freedom Industries.

Around the Nation
8:53 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

The Big Impact Of A Little-Known Chemical In W.Va. Spill

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 10:06 am

The chemical that was found last week to be contaminating the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of West Virginians is used to clean coal. But very little is known about how toxic it is to people or to the environment when it spills.

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Science
12:07 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

We Have A Science Tumblr, And Its Name Is 'Skunk Bear'

Haoxiang Luo Vanderbilt University

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 1:47 pm

This week, we're launching Skunk Bear, our new science tumblr.

What will I find on this tumblr?

Cool things! Cool science things!! Stuff we make or discover on the Internet that makes us laugh, or think, or turn to each other and say, "Hey, look at this cool thing!"

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The Salt
11:09 am
Mon January 13, 2014

California's Pot Farms Could Leave Salmon Runs Truly Smoked

This dead juvenile coho salmon was found in a tributary of California's South Fork Eel River. About 20 large-scale marijuana farms are located upstream from the watershed pictured. All of them divert water from the stream.
Courtesy Scott Bauer

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 5:08 pm

For many users and advocates of marijuana, the boom in the West Coast growing industry may be all good and groovy. But in California, critics say the recent explosion of the marijuana industry along the state's North Coast — a region called the "emerald triangle" — could put a permanent buzz kill on struggling salmon populations.

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Environment
6:44 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

The Upside Of The Bitter Cold: It Kills Bugs That Kill Trees

Tom Tiddens, supervisor of plant health care at the Chicago Botanic Garden, displays bark with beetle larvae.
David Schaper NPR

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 7:19 pm

While many of us may prefer to never again see temperatures drop below zero like they did earlier this week across the country, the deep freeze is putting warm smiles on the faces of many entomologists.

That's because it may have been cold enough in some areas to freeze and kill some damaging invasive species of insects, including the tree-killing emerald ash borer.

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The Salt
12:34 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

A Green-Movement Website Shakes Up The Debate Over GMOs

After Grist's six-month-long series on genetically modified foods, some loyal readers accused the site of changing directions in the debate.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 12:52 pm

A 26-part series on genetically modified food was not Nathanael Johnson's idea. And he didn't realize it would take six months, either.

Last year, Johnson was hired as the new food writer for Grist, a website for environmental news and opinion. Grist's editor, Scott Rosenberg, was waiting with an assignment: Dig into the controversy over GMOs.

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Science
3:00 am
Fri January 10, 2014

When Big Carnivores Go Down, Even Vegetarians Take The Hit

Ask not for whom the wolf stalks ...
Holly Kuchera iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 12:45 pm

Big, fierce animals — lions and tigers and bears, for example — are relatively scarce in nature. That's normal, because if you have too many, they'll eat themselves out of prey.

But top predators are now so rare that many are in danger of disappearing. That's creating ripple effects throughout the natural world that scientists are still trying to figure out.

What they're exploring is ecology — the interplay of animals and plants in nature. It's not rocket science. It's harder.

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Environment
5:52 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Natural Gas Boom Cuts Into Pennsylvania's State Forests

An oversized truck load slowly moves equipment along an icy mountain road in Pennsylvania's Tiadaghton State Forest.
Marie Cusick WITF

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 7:36 pm

On the side of a mountain road in Pennsylvania's Tiadaghton State Forest, I'm trying to avoid a steady stream of heavy truck traffic. Acres of freshly cut tree stumps stretch out in front of me.

Kevin Heatley lives in the area and has come to these woods for years to hike. He's an ecologist by trade and he's concerned about what he's seeing.

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Around the Nation
5:14 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

It's Not Magic On The Mountain, It's A Rain-Making Machine

A ground-based cloud-seeding tower at Alpine Meadows ski area near California's Lake Tahoe. It spits out silver iodide particles that are the right size and shape to help precipitation form.
Lauren Sommer KQED

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 7:36 pm

The snowpack in the Mountain West this year is at just a small fraction of its normal level. In fact, 2013 was the driest year ever recorded in many parts of California, and there's little relief in sight. But water managers are trying to squeeze every last raindrop out of Mother Nature with a technology developed in the state more than 50 years ago: cloud seeding.

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The Two-Way
11:01 am
Thu January 9, 2014

While U.S. Shivers, Australia And Brazil Sizzle

At the Australian Bat Clinic in Queensland, 15 baby flying foxes (bats) were lined up and ready to be fed Thursday. They were brought there to get out of the extreme heat, which has killed hundreds of thousands of bats.
Trish Wimberley AP

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 12:18 pm

Temperatures across much of the U.S. are, as forecast, finally starting to get back to something close to normal after several days of dangerously cold air.

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Krulwich Wonders...
7:08 am
Thu January 9, 2014

A Rain Forest Begins With Rain, Right? Is This A Trick Question?

MinuteEarth YouTube

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 1:50 pm

Think of a rain forest — rich with trees, covered by clouds, wet all the time.

Then ask yourself, how did this rain forest get started?

I ask, because the answer is so going to surprise you. It's not what you think.

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Environment
4:47 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Interior Secretary Wants To Create Jobs For Conservationists

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 10:21 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work in National Parks and forests in the Civilian Conservation Corps. President Obama's Secretary of the Interior wants to bring back that spirit, to create jobs and a new generation of conservationists.

But as NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports, it's not the easiest thing to do in tight budget times.

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The Salt
11:51 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Whales, Dolphins Are Collateral Damage In Our Taste For Seafood

A sperm whale entangled in a drift net. A report says commercial fisheries around the world kill or injure 650,000 mammals a year.
Alberto Romero Marine Photobank

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 10:29 pm

Hundreds of thousands of marine mammals are injured or killed every year by fishermen around the world. And because most seafood in the U.S. is imported, that means our fish isn't as dolphin-friendly as you might expect.

Under pressure from conservation groups, federal regulators are preparing to tighten import standards to better protect marine mammals.

There was a time, more than 40 years ago, when U.S. fishermen killed millions of dolphins while fishing for tuna. After a public backlash, fishermen figured out how to minimize that so-called bycatch.

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The Two-Way
12:22 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

What Is The Polar Vortex And Why Is It Doing This To Us?

Ice has built up along Lake Michigan in Chicago as temperatures have plunged in recent days. A dip in the polar vortex is to blame.
Scott Olson Getty Images
  • On 'Morning Edition': science writer Andrew Freedman talks with NPR's David Greene about the polar vortex

We've mentioned the polar vortex several times in recent days.

We've said, for instance, that it's "a low pressure system that's usually whirling around the North Pole but has weakened and come south."

But we're still getting asked this question:

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Around the Nation
5:14 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Great Lakes Solution To Asian Carp Issue Would Be Costly

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 6:56 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Imagine being on a quiet fishing trip and suddenly coming face-to-face with creatures who are huge and can leap out of the water. And, by the way, they reproduce in big numbers. They are Asian carp. They have already invaded parts of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Now there are fears Asian carp could take over the Great Lakes. Researchers believe they know how to slow this invasion but it could be costly and it could take decades.

Here's NPR's David Schaper.

(SOUNDBITE OF A MOTOR BOAT)

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The Two-Way
4:36 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Foul Weather In Britain Linked To U.S. 'Polar Vortex'

High tide storm waves batter the Cumbrian coast, completely inundating the harbor wall at Whitehaven on Monday.
Ashley Cooper Barcroft Media/Landov

Britain's southwest coast is getting slammed by a winter storm, with high winds driving waves as high as 27 feet ashore in an unusual event that meteorologists say is likely linked to the bone-chilling "polar vortex" gripping much of the U.S.

The U.K. Met Office is warning of continued "exceptionally high waves."

It said the waves were triggered by a large, deep depression in the Atlantic which was "whipping waves up" out at sea.

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Environment
4:27 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Arctic Methane Bubbles Not As Foreboding As Once Feared

European scientists were alarmed in 2008 when they discovered streams of methane bubbles erupting from the seafloor in Norway's high Arctic. This gas, which contributes to global warming, was apparently coming from methane ice on the seafloor. A follow-up study finds that methane bubble plumes at this location have probably been forming for a few thousand years, so they are not the result of human-induced climate change. But continued warming of ocean water can trigger more methane releases in the Arctic, with potentially serious consequences to the climate.

Around the Nation
4:27 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Forest Service May Try To Recoup Rim Fire Costs With Logging

The U.S. Forest Service has proposed a large salvage logging operation in the area affected by last year's historic Rim Fire, which burned 410-square miles of California's Sierra Nevada. The proposal is meeting stiff opposition from environmental groups who say the land is better left untouched.

Around the Nation
10:12 am
Sun January 5, 2014

No Relief Forecast After One Of California's Driest Years Ever

Downtown Los Angeles peeps through the distance and dry brush. Many cities in California closed out 2013 as the driest year since record-keeping began more than a century ago.
Nick Ut AP

Originally published on Sun January 5, 2014 11:13 am

It's a near-perfect morning on Venice Beach in Southern California, temperatures in the 60s, with a breeze. You can hear the waves of the Pacific crash against the sand. Only a layer of clouds mars the scene.

Scott and Sue Nolan, visiting from Houston, play kickball in the sand with their son. They are grateful to be in this mild, if not perfectly sunny weather, but Sue Nolan has noticed something's not right.

"One of the thoughts, when we were driving through town was, how are they sustaining all this with what you see so dry everywhere?" she says.

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Science
5:53 am
Sat January 4, 2014

Tree-Incarnation: Christmas Trees Return To Nature (A Poem)

Alexandra Jones-Twaddell and Malley Chertkov add a Christmas tree to the growing line in Island Beach State Park in February 2013. Similar dune restoration projects — using trees as a foundation to trap sand — will be carried out this year all along the Atlantic Coast.
Adam Cole NPR

Originally published on Sat January 4, 2014 2:38 pm

There are lots of creative Christmas tree recycling programs around the country, and in keeping with the holiday spirit, here are a few of them — set to verse.

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Around the Nation
6:18 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

A Sharp Rise In Earthquakes Puts Oklahomans On Edge

Chad Devereaux cleans up bricks that fell from his in-laws' home in Sparks, Okla., in November 2011, after two earthquakes hit the area in less than 24 hours.
Sue Ogrocki AP

Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 7:29 am

For the past three decades, Oklahoma averaged about 50 earthquakes a year. But that number has skyrocketed in the past few years. In 2013 — the state's most seismically active year ever — there were almost 3,000.

The quakes are small, and they're concentrated in the central part of the state, where the Erwins live.

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The Salt
5:22 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Why The Cod On Cape Cod Now Comes From Iceland

With local cod so scarce, Chef Toby Hill of Lyric Restaurant in Yarmouth Port, Mass., tries out a dogfish salad — served here with garlic aioli on toast — instead. Dogfish is still plentiful in New England waters, but wholesale fisheries say there's not much demand for it in the U.S.
Christine Hochkeppel Courtesy of Cape Cod Times

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 2:53 pm

Good luck finding local cod in Cape Cod, Mass.

The fish once sustained New England's fishing industry, but in recent years, regulators have imposed severe catch limits on cod, and the fish remain scarce.

"I've never seen cod fishing this bad," says Greg Walinsky, who has been fishing on Cape Cod for more than 30 years. "It looks to me like it's over. And I can't catch any codfish."

It's so bad, many fishermen say, that for the first time, they cannot catch enough cod to even reach shrinking government quotas.

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The Salt
5:22 am
Thu January 2, 2014

How Mass-Produced Meat Turned Phosphorus Into Pollution

A dead carp floats in water near the shore at Big Creek State Park on Sept. 10 in Polk City, Iowa. Like many agricultural states, Iowa is working with the EPA to enforce clean-water regulations amid degradation from manure spills and farm-field runoff.
Charlie Neibergall AP

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 10:27 am

It's a quandary of food production: The same drive for efficiency that lowers the cost of eating also can damage our soil and water.

Take the case of one simple, essential chemical element: phosphorus.

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Planet Money
5:22 am
Thu January 2, 2014

A Bet, Five Metals And The Future Of The Planet

James Cridland Flickr

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 11:24 am

This famous bet — between a biologist and an economist — was over population growth. It started three decades ago, but it helped set the tone for environmental debates that are still happening today.

The biologist at the heart of this bet was Paul Ehrlich at Stanford. He wrote a best-selling book in 1968 called The Population Bomb. It was so popular he appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

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Environment
4:02 pm
Wed January 1, 2014

Archeologists Race Against Time In Warming Arctic Coasts

Archeologists who study the people who lived in the Arctic thousands of years ago are in a race against time. Coastal settlements are being washed away by erosion, storm surges and other climate changes related to global warming. Clues to the past that were frozen intact in permafrost for thousands of years are melting and being destroyed by the elements. Archeologists are looking to climate scientists to predict where the erosion will be the fastest so they can pinpoint their research on the places that will disappear the soonest.

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Media
3:04 am
Wed January 1, 2014

In Troubled Magazine World, 'La Hulotte' Is One Rare Bird

Pierre Deom has been writing and illustrating La Hulotte since 1972. He released his 100th issue (lower right) in November.
Francois Nascimbeni AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:42 am

The journalism world may be in crisis, but one magazine in France has been steadily gaining subscribers for 40 years. It's a nature journal called La Hulotte, and twice a year it focuses on an animal or plant indigenous to the French countryside. The magazine published its 100th issue in November. It has more than 150,000 subscribers in many countries and is doing terrific financially.

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The Salt
3:04 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Malawian Farmers Say Adapt To Climate Change Or Die

Villages in the Lower Shire valley of Malawi, like this one named Jasi, rely heavily on subsistence farming and steady rainfall, and are struggling to produce steady harvests.
Jennifer Ludden/NPR

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:42 am

Rain is so important in Malawi's agriculture-based economy that there are names for different kinds of it, from the brief bursts of early fall to heavier downpours called mvula yodzalira, literally "planting rain." For generations, rainfall patterns here in the southeast part of Africa have been predictable, reliable. But not now.

In the village of Jasi, in the hot, flat valley of Malawi's Lower Shire, farmer Pensulo Melo says 2010 was a disaster.

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