Environment

Krulwich Wonders...
12:29 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

A Little Bird Either Learns Its Name Or Dies

Robert Krulwich NPR

I've been wondering lately, do animals invent names? As in names for themselves? Names for each other? I've always thought that what we do when we call ourselves "Ralph" or "Laura" is unique, something exclusively human. But it turns out that's wrong. Other animals have name-like calls that they use much like we do. I've posted about this before (regarding horses, dolphins and little parakeets) ...

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Around the Nation
6:10 am
Wed May 28, 2014

No Matter How You Spell It, Fracking Stirs Controversy

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 12:27 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK. The word fracking was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this month. It is defined as the injection of fluid into shale beds at high pressure in order to free up petroleum resources. Despite getting this official definition, both the spelling and meaning of fracking remain controversial. Marie Cusick, from member station WITF, reports.

MARIE CUSICK, BYLINE: This is a fracking site in northeastern Pennsylvania. It's one of the most productive parts of Marcellus Shale natural gas formation.

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Around the Nation
3:33 am
Wed May 28, 2014

Industrial Hemp Could Take Root, If Legal Seeds Weren't So Scarce

The hemp seedlings in Ben Holmes' warehouse in Lafayette, Colo., will be ready for harvest in about 50 days. Holmes says that during the peak growing season, the little sprouts can shoot up several inches each day.
Luke Runyon KUNC/Harvest Public Media

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 12:57 pm

The most recent farm bill is allowing a handful of farmers across the country to put hemp, the nonpsychoactive cousin of marijuana, in the ground.

The bill allows small-scale experimentation with the plant. But despite the new law, many farmers say they're getting mixed messages from the federal government.

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Science
5:09 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Hybrid Trout Threaten Montana's Native Cutthroats

Clint Muhlfeld, an aquatic ecologist with the USGS, holds a native Westslope cutthroat trout in Glacier National Park.
Noah Clayton USGS

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 7:58 pm

Many parts of the U.S. have been getting warmer over the past several decades, and also experiencing persistent drought. Wildlife often can't adjust. Among the species that are struggling is one of the American West's most highly prized fish — the cutthroat trout.

In springtime, you can find young cutthroats in the tiny streams of Montana's Shields Basin. Bend over and look closely and you might see a 2-inch fish wriggling out from under a submerged rock — the spawn of native cutthroats.

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The Two-Way
4:06 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Peat Bog The Size Of England Discovered In Congo Republic

A massive peat bog the size England has been found in West Africa's Republic of Congo.

The previously undiscovered bog is thought to reach nearly 23 feet beneath the ground and contain billions of tons of peat –- ancient, partially decayed vegetation. It could cover an area 40,000 to 80,000 square miles, scientists believe in the Congo Republic, also referred to as Congo-Brazzaville.

The BBC says:

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The Salt
6:38 am
Sat May 24, 2014

If Local Farms Aren't Local Enough, Buy From The Rooftop

At the Mini-Farmery in North Carolina, greens grow on the walls and customers can pick their own produce.
Amy Edwards New Image Studio

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 3:07 pm

Local produce just tastes better, right? That perception is part of what's driving the rush of new farming ventures to supply cities with food grown nearby.

Some urban farmers are even experimenting with growing food a few blocks away from or even inside the grocery store. Call it über-local food.

Most of these new ventures are lead by idealistic entrepreneurs who want to part of the new food system. It's not yet clear whether they'll fit in for the long haul.

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The Salt
4:46 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

California's Drought Isn't Making Food Cost More. Here's Why

Farmworkers pull weeds from a field of lettuce near Gonzales, Calif. Salinas Valley farms like this one rely on wells, which haven't been affected much by the drought.
George Rose Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 4:48 pm

The entire state of California is in a severe drought. Farmers and farmworkers are hurting.

You might expect this to cause food shortages and higher prices across the country. After all, California grows 95 percent of America's broccoli, 81 percent of its carrots and 99 percent of the country's artichokes, almonds and walnuts, among other foods.

Yet there's been no sign of a big price shock. What gives?

Here are three explanations.

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Energy
7:07 am
Fri May 23, 2014

Political Rhetoric Bogs Down Future Of Keystone XL Pipeline

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 7:52 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. Last month the Obama administration put off a decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The project has been enormously controversial. It would carry crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. This morning we examine what's at stake for the oil industry and for energy production. Here's NPR's Jim Zarroli.

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Environment
5:05 am
Thu May 22, 2014

Scientists Discover Carbon Cycle Is Out Of Whack

Originally published on Thu May 22, 2014 9:39 am

Scientists who track carbon say the way it cycles from the atmosphere back to earth and into plants and animals has apparently changed. It could be the whole planetary carbon treadmill is speeding up.

All Tech Considered
5:34 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Storm Shelter App Helps Pinpoint People Amid Tornado's Rubble

After a tornado leveled Moore, Okla., last year, firefighter Shonn Neidel (left) developed an app that helps first responders locate storm shelters under the wreckage.
Courtesy of Shonn Neidel

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 2:24 pm

After a devastating tornado rolled through Moore, Okla., last May, firefighters were scrambling to pull people out of storm shelters. Actually finding those shelters, though, was difficult. Landmarks had been swept away, and the town's emergency dispatcher was overwhelmed with calls.

"Yes, we're at 604 South Classen. There's people down," one caller said. "We're stuck under rubble. ... Please hurry."

Shonn Neidel was one of the firefighters rushing to rescue people that day, and he quickly saw a problem.

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Krulwich Wonders...
7:03 am
Wed May 21, 2014

So What If It's Ugly? It Just Keeps On Going ...

Courtesy of Rachel Sussman

Far, far, far away is a great place to be — if you want to stay marvelous. There is a plant, called Welwitschia mirabilis (mirabilis being Latin for marvelous), found only one place on Earth. You can get there, as artist/photographer Rachel Sussman did, by driving through the vast emptiness of the Namibian desert, the Namib Naukluft, in Africa.

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Environment
3:21 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Why Those Tiny Microbeads In Soap May Pose Problem For Great Lakes

Researcher Sherri Mason looks for microbeads in a water sample from Lake Michigan. Legislation to phase out products containing the beads is pending in New York and Illinois.
Cheryl Corley

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 3:19 pm

From the shoreline at North Avenue Beach in Chicago, the blue water of Lake Michigan stretches as far as the eye can see. But beneath that pristine image, there's a barely visible threat, says Jennifer Caddick of the Alliance for the Great Lakes: microbeads.

These tiny bits of plastic, small scrubbing components used in hundreds of personal care products like skin exfoliants and soap, can slip through most water treatment systems when they wash down the drain.

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Environment
3:20 am
Wed May 21, 2014

For N.J. Mayor, The Time To Adapt To Rising Sea Levels Is Now

Hoboken, N.J., residents walk through flood water in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Mayor Dawn Zimmer is advocating for better planning and increased funding for flood-prone urban areas.
Charles Sykes AP

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 12:41 pm

Last week, scientists warned that a massive chunk of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet will eventually drift into the sea and melt, raising sea levels at least 10 feet higher than previous predictions.

Even before the announcement, scientists at the nonprofit research organization Climate Central predicted that surging seas could put the homes of nearly 5 million Americans underwater by the end of this century.

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The Salt
3:19 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Double Trouble For Coffee: Drought And Disease Send Prices Up

A fully formed coffee berry, left, is shown next to a damaged coffee berry due to drought, at a coffee farm in Santo Antonio do Jardim, Brazil on Feb. 6.
Paulo Whitaker Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 9:29 am

If you're drinking a cup of coffee right now, treasure it. The global supply of coffee beans may soon shrink because of problems in coffee-growing areas of Brazil and Central America.

With supply threatened and demand strong, prices are taking flight. Wholesale coffee prices are up more than 60 percent since January — from $1.25 per pound of bulk Coffea arabica beans to $1.85 this week.

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The Two-Way
3:14 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Global Temperatures Tied Record High Last Month

Worldwide temperatures were once again above normal last month, tying the record for the hottest April set back in 2010.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday said the average global temperature for land and sea was 56.7 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 1.39 degrees warmer than the 20th century average.

"The last below-average April was April 1976, and the last average or below-average temperature for any month was February 1985," according to NOAA.

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Environment
5:00 pm
Sun May 18, 2014

Fighting Bugs With Bugs: Hatching A Solution For Troubled Trees

The invasive Asian citrus psyllid can carry citrus greening disease, which kills trees within a few years of infection.
Mike Lewis Center for Invasive Species Research, UC Riverside

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 3:11 pm

We all know about the drought in California, but farmers there have more to worry about than a lack of water.

There's also the looming threat of Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), an invasive pest that flies from tree to tree, feeding on tender leaves. By itself, the psyllid is not particularly harmful, but it can carry citrus greening disease, which kills trees within a few years of infection. There is no cure.

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Krulwich Wonders...
5:27 am
Sun May 18, 2014

Intriguing Lime-Green Blobs Appear In The Andes Mountains. Are They Alive?

Courtesy of Terrace Lodge

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 10:09 am

Oops.

Someone dropped lime sherbet on the desert — and it's melting. Who's going to clean this up?

Nobody. Because this — believe it or not — is a plant. It may look like a glob of goo, but it's not at all gooey. It's solid to the touch — so solid that a man can lie on top of it and not sink in, not even a little.

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History
1:06 pm
Sat May 17, 2014

150 Years Old, Arlington Cemetery Is Running Out Of Room

A flag-covered casket is taken to the burial site at the Arlington National Cemetery in March 2014. The cemetery has been filling up, despite expansions.
Alex Brandon AP

Originally published on Sat May 17, 2014 2:02 pm

A century and a half ago in May 1864, the federal government had a problem. As the Civil War produced causalities at a rapid and brutal pace, the cemeteries in the Washington, D.C., area were filling up.

After scouting possible options for a new cemetery, preference was made for the vast estate of George Washington Custis Lee, the son of Robert E. Lee. The land was on high ground, better to protect against flooding that might resurface the buried, and it had a picturesque view of the capital.

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Around the Nation
4:01 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

What's To Blame For California's Early Fire Season?

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 8:00 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

These fires herald what promises to be an especially busy and dangerous fire season in California. The entire state is in a condition of extreme drought. Couple that with high temperatures and strong Santa Ana winds and you wind up with what we're seeing now: spinning columns of fierce flame called firenados(ph). I'm joined now by California's secretary for natural resources, John Laird. Welcome to the program, Mr. Laird.

JOHN LAIRD: It's a pleasure to be with you.

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The Salt
5:28 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Organic Produce Is A Tough Sell In The Gaza Strip

Rami al-Naffar is the clerk at a small organic produce shop in Gaza City.
Emily Harris/NPR

Outside a small organic produce shop in Gaza City, a large sidewalk placard reads "Good Earth" in Arabic in big red letters, followed by "Organic produce, free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides." The same message is on the shop's awning.

But "people don't notice the signs, they come in and ask, 'Why these [high] prices?,' " says Rami al-Naffar, the clerk here.

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The Two-Way
4:52 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Tropical Storms Hitting Peak Strength Nearer Poles, Study Says

A NOAA image taken by the Japan Meteorological Agency in September shows Typhoon Usagi. A new study says that such tropical cyclones are reaching peak intensity farther away from the equator.
NOAA/JMA AP

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 5:29 pm

Tropical storms are migrating out of the tropics, reaching their peak intensity in higher latitudes, where larger populations are concentrated, a new NOAA-led study published in the journal Nature says.

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Environment
4:25 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Out There On The Ice: An Intimate View Of The Melting Antarctic Sheet

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 1:00 pm

Two groups of scientists have reported that the melting of the giant West Antarctica Ice Sheet appears to be unstoppable. Oceans could rise several feet in the coming centuries because of its melting. Glaciologist Sridhar Anandakrishnan has devoted his scientific life to those Antarctic glaciers, studying them for nearly three decades, and he comments on the recent news.

The Salt
5:10 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Gardeners' Gems: Designer Crops That Will Wow The Neighbors

The nearly translucent Glass Gem Corn looks more like a work of art than a vegetable.
Greg Schoen Native Seeds

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 2:40 pm

To the home gardener who says "been there, done that" to the heirloom green bean, the French breakfast radish or the Brandywine tomato, take heart.

Nurseries and seed companies are competing to bring you the most colorful and flavorful designer edibles they can come up with. They travel the world looking for the next in-vogue plant for the home horticulturist. Every few years they introduce these new chic varieties in their catalogs and websites.

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The Two-Way
9:37 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Book News: Each Page Of 'A Drinkable Book' Kills Bacteria In Drinking Water

Each page of the new "Drinkable Book" from the organization WaterisLife can be used to treat water for bacteria.
WaterisLife

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 10:25 am

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

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The Two-Way
5:19 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Melting Of Antarctic Ice Sheet Might Be Unstoppable

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 6:31 pm

Scientists have long worried about climate change-induced melting of the huge West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Now they say that not only is the disintegration of the ice already underway, but that it's likely unstoppable.

That means that in the coming centuries, global sea levels will rise by anywhere from 4 to 12 feet. As NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports, that's a larger increase than the United Nations expert panel noted last year. But it would occur over a longer time frame — centuries instead of decades.

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Environment
4:02 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

'Past The Point Of No Return:' An Antarctic Ice Sheet's Slow Collapse

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 10:04 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Antarctica is covered with the biggest mass of ice on earth. The part of the ice sheath that's over West Antarctica is thought to be especially vulnerable to climate change. Scientists now say a slow collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is both underway and irreversible. And as NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports, this could eventually raise sea levels more than 10 feet.

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: For decades, scientists have worried about the West Antarctic ice sheet.

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Environment
4:11 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Ahead Of Wildfire Season, Scientists Study What Fuels Fires

A lab technician lighting a fire in a wind tunnel at a fire lab in Riverside, Calif.
Sean Nealon University of California, Riverside

Originally published on Sat May 10, 2014 7:00 pm

As fire managers in the drought-stricken Southwest gear up for another long and expensive wildfire season, federal fire scientists are trying to better understand the physics behind what makes blazes spread.

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Science
3:34 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Former Commando Turns Conservationist To Save Elephants Of Dzanga Bai

Kalron and his team have set up video cameras that transmit real-time images of the bai via satellite.
Courtesy of Maisha Consulting

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 3:26 pm

In the spring of 2013, poachers looking for elephant ivory took advantage of the chaos of a civil war raging in the Central African Republic, and massacred 26 rare forest elephants at a special place called the "Dzanga bai."

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Krulwich Wonders...
2:17 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

A Question Of Biggitude: What's The Largest Creature On Earth?

J. Zapell USDA

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 10:59 am

What's the biggest living thing on Earth? I can think of two. I'm not sure which is biggest, but neither of them is a blue whale. These are weirder. Much, much weirder.

One is a tree. The other eats trees.

This is the tree.

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The Salt
6:13 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Less Nutritious Grains May Be In Our Future

Wheat fields like this one could yield wheat with less zinc and iron in the future if they are exposed to higher levels of CO2, according to the journal Nature.
Zaharov Evgeniy iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 9:26 am

In the future, Earth's atmosphere is likely to include a whole lot more carbon dioxide. And many have been puzzling over what that may mean for the future of food crops. Now, scientists are reporting that some of the world's most important crops contain fewer crucial nutrients when they grow in such an environment.

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