Environment

U.S.
4:33 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

Big Apple Debates Storm Prep As Hurricane Season Begins

Originally published on Wed July 3, 2013 10:26 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For New York, last year's hurricane was a painful reminder that the city is surrounded by water. It has more than 500 miles of coastline, from the beaches of Staten Island and the Rockaways, to the banks of the Hudson and East Rivers and beyond. There is little dispute among scientists that rising sea levels will increase the threat of flooding. And now, as hurricane season begins again, there's a spirited debate about how the region should prepare for that threat.

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Environment
1:37 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

The Wallops and Assateague Islands Report #13

Credit NASA/Wallops

Guest: Keith Koehler, NASA Public Relations Specialist

More information on NASA's Sounding Rockets program HERE

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Environment
1:31 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

The Wallops and Assateague Islands Report #12

Environment
5:23 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Already Hampered By Floods, Midwest Preps For More Rain

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 6:22 pm

Both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers are flooding again. The floods have closed the river to barge traffic near St. Louis and are threatening some small towns north of there following a levee breach. On top of that, more rain is in the forecast.

NPR Story
1:46 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

A Seasonal Smell Of Smoke: Life In Wildfire Country

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 4:04 pm

In Southern California, a massive wildfire, called the Powerhouse fire, has consumed 50 miles of land northwest of Los Angeles. California residents face wildfire season every year. Grist staff writer Susie Cagle talks about what it's like to live in wildfire country.

Environment
6:39 am
Sat June 1, 2013

New Maps Aim To Raise Awareness Of Storm Surge Danger

Streets flooded in the Staten Island borough of New York after Superstorm Sandy hit in October. The storm caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses.
John Minchillo AP

Originally published on Sat June 1, 2013 12:39 pm

Hurricane season begins Saturday, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting an active season, with perhaps seven to 11 hurricanes.

With memories of last year's destruction from Hurricane Sandy still fresh, meteorologists are working on ways to improve how they forecast storms and communicate warnings to the public.

When Sandy was making its way northward in the Atlantic and began to turn toward the East Coast, the National Hurricane Center tried to emphasize the danger that storm surge posed for residents, especially those near New York City.

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Research News
1:18 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

Gizmo Uses Lung Cells To Sniff Out Health Hazards In Urban Air

Adam Cole NPR

Originally published on Fri May 31, 2013 9:23 pm

Cities like Houston are dotted with air-sniffing monitors that measure levels of benzene and other potentially unhealthy air pollutants. But those monitors can't answer the question we care about most: Is the air safe?

That's because there's no simple relationship between toxic air pollutants and health risks. Researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill are trying to get a leg up on that problem. They are building an instrument that uses human lung cells to measure health hazards in the air more directly.

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Science
12:24 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

The SciFri Book Club Takes a Hike

The book club regulars gather to chat about the best-sellingA Walk in the Woods, writer Bill Bryson's 1998 account of a hiking trip along the Appalachian Trail. Plus, journalist Deborah Blum joins the club to talk about the best science books to stash in your beach bag (or backpack).

Science
12:09 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

Researchers Revive A Plant Frozen In Time

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. It sounds like something from the movies, but it's true: Researchers unearth an organism frozen inside a glacier, take it back to the lab and discover it's still alive. In this case it's a plant called a bryophyte, a moss that survives being frozen in a glacier in the dark for some 400 years. Wow.

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Environment
5:16 am
Fri May 31, 2013

Houston's Petrochemical Industry, Source Of Jobs And Smog

Originally published on Fri May 31, 2013 9:12 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Houston, Texas provides a dramatic example that it's possible to make great strides in reducing air pollution. Our story yesterday talked about how that came about, but Houston still does not quite meet the federal smog standard. So, the question for the nation's fourth largest city is what's next. NPR's Richard Harris explores that question as part of our series Poisoned Places.

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Parallels
3:19 am
Fri May 31, 2013

Battling Deforestation In Indonesia, One Firm At A Time

This photo shows a heavily logged concession affiliated with Asia Pulp and Paper, or APP, one of the world's largest papermakers, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, in 2010.
Romeo Gacad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 31, 2013 8:57 pm

On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, a backhoe stacks freshly cut trees to be made into pulp and paper. Asia Pulp and Paper, or APP, is Indonesia's largest papermaker, and the company and its suppliers operate vast plantations of acacia trees here that have transformed the local landscape.

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Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities
4:33 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Baton Rouge's Corroded, Overpolluting Neighbor: Exxon Mobil

An evening view of the Exxon Mobil oil refinery complex in Baton Rouge, La.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Fri June 21, 2013 9:50 am

If you stand in front of Almena and Sidney Poray's house in Baton Rouge, La., and look straight down the street, past the other houses and the shade trees, you see more than a dozen plumes of exhaust in various hues of gray and white.

"That's something you see every day, the same thing if not more," says Almena Poray. "Sometimes it's a darker gray; sometimes it's a black smoke coming out."

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The Salt
3:05 am
Thu May 30, 2013

GMO Wheat Found In Oregon Field. How Did It Get There?

Genetically modified wheat has been discovered growing in a field in Oregon. GMO wheat is not approved for sale in the U.S. Above, a wheat field in Arkansas.
Danny Johnston AP

Originally published on Mon June 3, 2013 2:03 pm

A farmer in Oregon has found some genetically engineered wheat growing on his land. It's an unwelcome surprise, because this type of wheat has never been approved for commercial planting.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it's investigating, trying to find out how this wheat got there. The USDA says there's no risk to public health, but wheat exporters are worried about how their customers in Asia and Europe will react.

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Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities
3:01 am
Thu May 30, 2013

Breathing Easier: How Houston Is Working To Clean Up Its Air

The Houston Ship Channel is home to a wide range of heavy industry, including chemical processing plants and petrochemical refineries.
Richard Harris NPR

Originally published on Fri May 31, 2013 12:18 pm

The Houston area produces about a quarter of the nation's gasoline, and about a third of the plastics that are in our cars, cupboards and just about everywhere else. So it is no surprise that this heavily industrial area has a problem with air pollution. But in the past decade, Houston's air has improved dramatically.

How that happened is a tale of good science, new technology and a Texas law that prompted companies along the Houston Ship Channel to disclose their emissions.

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The Salt
3:40 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Cooking With Cicadas: No Weirder Than Eating Cheese?

Cicada: It's what's for dinner?
Sean Bush AP

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 7:18 pm

You knew this one was coming.

Earlier this month, we told you about a U.N. report that makes the case for insects to improve global food security: They're cheap, plentiful and environmentally sustainable. Now, the coming of the 17-year cicadas provides East Coast Americans, for whom bug eating is considered novel at best, with an opportunity to try local insect cuisine.

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Environment
2:04 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Colorado Crisis: America's Great River Dwindles in Drought

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 4:15 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan.

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Research News
5:30 am
Wed May 29, 2013

Scientists Discover Rip Van Winkle Of The Plant World

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 10:47 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We're going to hear now about what could be thought of as the Rip Van Winkle of the plant world. Scientists have found examples of a kind of plant known as bryophytes. And after spending 400 years buried by a glacier, when the ice receded the plants started growing again.

NPR's Joe Palca has more.

JOE PALCA, BYLINE: Bryophytes don't get much respect. They're not the gaudy seed plants people plant in their gardens or give as gifts. Jonathan Shaw runs the bryology lab at Duke University.

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Energy
2:54 am
Wed May 29, 2013

Natural Gas Export Plan Unites Oregon Landowners Against It

Rancher Bill Gow doesn't want the proposed Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline to travel across his Douglas County, Ore., ranch. While he has refused to negotiate with the pipeline company, ultimately a court may force him and other landowners to allow the project on their land.
Jeff Brady NPR

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 10:47 am

A radical shift in the world energy picture is raising environmental concerns in the United States.

Until recently, the U.S. had been expected to import more natural gas. But now, because of controversial technologies like "fracking," drillers are producing a lot more domestic natural gas; so much that prices are down, along with industry profits. And drillers are looking overseas for new customers.

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Environment
6:13 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Gulf Coast States Get Creative With BP Oil Spill Money

Tourists watch as workers clean oil from the sand along a strip of oil that washed up on the beach in Gulf Shores, Ala., in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the Louisiana coast.
Dave Martin AP

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 11:29 am

Gulf Coast states are lining up to spend $1 billion from BP on coastal restoration. The money is part of BP's legal responsibility to restore the Gulf of Mexico's natural resources in the aftermath of the worst oil disaster in U.S. history.

But the nature of some of the state projects, including boat ramps and a beachfront hotel, is raising questions about just what counts as coastal restoration.

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The Two-Way
5:25 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Wal-Mart To Pay $81 Million For Hazardous Waste Dumping

A photo from earlier this month taken in front of a Wal-Mart store in La Habra, Calif.
Jae C. Hong Associated Press

Wal-Mart Stores has agreed to pay $81 million in penalties as part of a guilty plea on criminal charges of improperly disposing of hazardous waste in California and Missouri.

Prosecutors said the violations occurred between 2003 and 2005 and included employees negligently dumping pollutants from stores into sanitation drains.

The Associated Press reports that the plea agreements announced Tuesday "end a nearly decade-old investigation involving more than 20 prosecutors and 32 environmental groups."

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Around the Nation
2:09 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

The Business And Science Of Storm Shelters

Transcript

JOHN DONVAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm John Donvan in Washington. Neal Conan is away. A small hole in the ground, that's all it looked like the other day in the photo of the Christian Science Monitor, published in its coverage of a tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, a small hole in the ground surrounded on all sides by the wreckage of totally flattened homes, right up to the very edge of that hole in the ground, which oddly is rectangular in shape in the photo and has a door attached to it, flung open.

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The Two-Way
5:17 pm
Mon May 27, 2013

Beneath A Glacier's White, Researchers See Green

The small patch in the middle of the image is Aulacomnium turgidum, a type of bryophyte plant. Researchers in the Canadian Arctic say they are surprised the bryophytes were still green, even after being covered by ice.
Courtesy of Caroline La Farge

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 8:52 am

In the news business, an evergreen is a story that doesn't have to run on a particular day, but can stay fresh for a long time.

This is an evergreen story about an evergreen. In particular, a group of plants called bryophytes. Turns out they may be evergreen quite a bit longer than most people thought.

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The Salt
8:03 am
Mon May 27, 2013

A Hungarian Cherry Tree's Long Trek To Michigan

Amy Iezzoni of Michigan State University brought Balaton cherries to America.
Dan Charles NPR

Once upon a time, there was a small Hungarian village that was very proud of its sour cherries. The village was called รšjfehรฉrtรณ. As in many Hungarian villages, tall cherry trees lined the streets and provided welcome shade in the summertime.

When communism came to Hungary after World War II, the government introduced big collective farms, and Hungarian scientists had to decide which cherries the farms should grow.

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Animals
1:01 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

'Crazy Ants' Spreading In The Southeastern US

In parts of the southeastern US, aggressive fire ants have been driven out by an even more recent arrival, the tawny crazy ant. Edward LeBrun, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, describes the newcomers and how one invasive species can out-invade another.

The Two-Way
12:25 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Amphibians' Population Decline Marked In New U.S. Study

Populations of frogs and other amphibians are declining at an average rate of 3.7 percent each year, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 1:37 pm

Populations of frogs, salamanders and other amphibians are declining at an average rate of 3.7 percent each year, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study released this week. Researchers say the study is the first to calculate how quickly amphibians are disappearing in the United States.

"If the rate observed is representative and remains unchanged, these species would disappear from half of the habitats they currently occupy in about 20 years," according to the USGS.

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NPR Story
11:53 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Reinventing Farming For A Changing Climate

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 2:58 pm

Transcript

FLORA LICHTMAN, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Flora Lichtman. You've likely heard of the legendary explorers Lewis and Clark, but maybe not of the U.S. Army explorer Stephen Harriman Long, an engineer who led a scientific expedition through the Great Plains 15 years after Lewis and Clark.

His expedition traveled through Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. And what did his crew make of "America's Breadbasket"? A place wholly unfit for cultivation or agriculture, they said. On a map, the explorers labeled the Great Plains as the Great American Desert.

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NPR Story
11:53 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Tracking Killer Tornadoes

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 2:58 pm

Transcript

FLORA LICHTMAN, HOST:

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Parallels
4:11 am
Fri May 24, 2013

China's Air Pollution: Is The Government Willing To Act?

Skyscrapers are obscured by heavy haze in Beijing on Jan. 13. Air pollution remains a serious โ€” sometimes overwhelming โ€” problem, but researchers say environmental technology is available to solve it.
Ng Han Guan AP

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 11:55 am

Denise Mauzerall arrived in Beijing this year at a time that was both horrifying and illuminating. The capital was facing some of its worst pollution in recent memory, and Mauzerall, a Princeton environmental engineering professor, was passing through on her way to a university forum on the future of cities.

"I took the fast train from Beijing to Shanghai, and looking out the window for large sections of that trip, you couldn't see more than 20 feet," Mauzerall recalled.

To Mauzerall, the lesson was surprising and inescapable.

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The Salt
6:05 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Inside A Tart Cherry Revival: 'Somebody Needs To Do This!'

At Michigan State University's Clarksville Research Station, researchers apply pollen by hand to tart cherry blossoms, in order to breed new varieties.
Dan Charles NPR

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 11:29 am

Some fruits, like apples, you can find anywhere. But others have gotten a little bit lost in today's global food business.

Take tart cherries, also known as sour cherries. Unlike sweet cherries, America's tart cherries are too fragile to ship very far, so most people never get to taste a fresh one.

They're typically frozen, then baked into that iconic American dessert, the cherry pie โ€” and cherry pies aren't as popular as they used to be.

Yet the humble sour cherry is experiencing an unlikely renaissance โ€” and the best may be yet to come.

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The Two-Way
6:05 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Descending Into The Mariana Trench: James Cameron's Odyssey

James Cameron traveled to the bottom of the Mariana Trench last year โ€” a depth of nearly seven miles.
Courtesy of Mark Thiessen/National Geographic

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 8:44 am

At nearly seven miles below the water's surface, the Mariana Trench is the deepest spot in Earth's oceans. And the site north of Guam is where director and explorer James Cameron recently fulfilled a longtime goal of reaching the bottom in a manned craft.

For the dive, Cameron designed a 24-foot submersible vehicle, the Deepsea Challenger โ€” "this kind of long, green torpedo that moves vertically through the water," as he tells All Things Considered's Melissa Block. Cameron was able to watch his descent, he says, through a window that was about 9-1/2 inches thick.

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