Environment

The Two-Way
12:17 pm
Sat August 25, 2012

Storm Forces Republicans To Cancel Monday Convention Events

Tropical Storm Isaac's projected path on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012
National Hurricane Center

Originally published on Sat August 25, 2012 8:55 pm

Tropical Storm Isaac has been difficult to track, but its potential to affect Florida has caused the Republican National Convention to change its plans. Events for Monday have been canceled, though the committee will convene briefly. As Alan Greenblatt reported for It's All Politics, this is now the second-consecutive Republican National Convention to be delayed by a storm.

Update at 8:55 p.m. ET. Nomination Delayed:

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Megafires: The New Normal In The Southwest
2:54 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

Is It Too Late To Defuse The Danger Of Megafires?

Timmons and Springer work in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, which were burned during last year's Wallow Fire. The largest fire in Arizona history, Wallow barreled through a half-million acres of forest.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 7:47 pm

Fourth in a five-part series

Forests in the Southwest have become a fuel stockpile. A century of U.S. Forest Service policy of quashing all fires has allowed forests to become overgrown, and now a warming climate is making the problem worse.

Scientists are trying to defuse these green time bombs. Is it too late?

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Environment
1:48 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

'Carbon Nation' Tackles Climate Change, By Ignoring It

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY, I'm Ira Flatow. How much do you personally worry about global warming? The people at the Gallup Poll have been asking that question every year since 1989, and according to their latest polling figures, there's been a bit of an uptick in the numbers: 55 percent said they worry about climate change - that's up about four points from last year.

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NPR Story
1:32 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

Tree Rings Tell Tales Of Ancient Fires And Climate

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 1:41 pm

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY; I'm Ira Flatow. Last week, I was in southern Idaho, and it was snowing in August, or at least it looked like it. Actually, it was raining ash, closing down airports, forcing people to remain inside, many miles away from the forest fire flames.

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Megafires: The New Normal In The Southwest
12:42 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

A Century Of Forest Philosophy In One Image

David Gilkey NPR

This panorama, taken about 10 miles west of Flagstaff, Ariz., shows a nearly 360-degree view of forest land. The trees on the left side of the road have been thinned by foresters; the stand on the right has been left untouched.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Megafires: The New Normal In The Southwest
3:18 am
Fri August 24, 2012

In Southwest, Worst-Case Fire Scenario Plays Out

Craig Allen, left, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and Jorge Castro, a visiting professor of ecology from Spain, survey a plateau ravaged during last year's Las Conchas fire in New Mexico. The megafire burned over 150,000 acres of forest.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 7:48 pm

Third of a five-part series

As the Earth's average temperature creeps upward, climate scientists have predicted record heat waves and droughts. That's what we've seen this summer in the U.S.

The question has become, are we now seeing the real damage climate change can do?

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Megafires: The New Normal In The Southwest
2:51 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

Why Forest-Killing Megafires Are The New Normal

Jorge Castro, a visiting professor of ecology from Spain, sips water in the shade of a burnt tree in New Mexico's Bandelier Wilderness area, adjacent to the Bandelier National Monument. This site was devastated by last year's Las Conchas fire.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Sun August 26, 2012 9:46 am

Second of a five-part series

Fire scientists are calling it "the new normal": a time of fires so big and hot that no one can remember anything like it.

One of the scientists who coined that term is Craig Allen. I drive with him to New Mexico's Bandelier National Monument, where he works for the U.S. Geological Survey. We take a dirt road up into the Jemez Mountains, into a landscape of black poles as far as you can see.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:59 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

Ivan Dies At 50: A Gorilla Life, Remembered

Ivan chews on his finger at Zoo Atlanta in 1996.
John Bazemore AP

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 2:11 pm

I've written before in this space about how an animal obituary may help mark a life of significance. Here is my obituary for Ivan the gorilla.

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The Picture Show
5:38 am
Thu August 23, 2012

Our Changing Forests: An 88-Year Time Lapse

1909. Facing nearly due west from ridge northeast of Como Lake. Light selection cut in open ponderosa pine. Ground cover is comprised of perennial grasses and forbs, including basalmroot. A few low-growing bitterbrush plants can be seen in the vicinity of horses and in distance on left. A group of willows can be seen behind horsemen at left center.
Photo 87357 U.S. Forest Service

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 12:35 pm

Intense forest fires have been raging across the western United States this summer. So far this year, nearly 43,000 wildfires have torched almost 7 million acres of land.

As NPR Science correspondent Christopher Joyce and photographer David Gilkey report from Arizona and New Mexico this week, the forests of the American Southwest have become so overgrown that they're essentially tinderboxes just waiting for a spark.

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Joe's Big Idea
3:23 am
Thu August 23, 2012

Telescope Innovator Shines His Genius On New Fields

Roger Angel, an astronomer at the University of Arizona, stands in front of his new project: a solar tracker. Angel wants to use the device to harness Arizona's abundant sunlight and turn it into usable energy.
Jason Millstein for NPR

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 12:23 pm

You may not be familiar with the name Roger Angel, but if there were ever a scientist with a creative streak a mile wide, it would be he.

Angel is an astronomer. He's famous for developing an entirely new way of making really large, incredibly precise telescope mirrors. But his creativity doesn't stop there. He's now turned his attention to solar power, hoping to use the tricks he learned from capturing distant light from stars to do a more cost-efficient job of capturing light from the Sun.

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Around the Nation
3:19 am
Thu August 23, 2012

Hurricane Andrew's Legacy: 'Like A Bomb' In Florida

Florida National Guardsmen keep people in line at a food distribution center in Florida City, Fla., on Aug. 27, 1992. Many residents of the Dade County farming community lost their homes to Hurricane Andrew.
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 11:46 am

Twenty years ago, one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. changed the face of South Florida.

Hurricane Andrew wiped out communities south of Miami, killing 15 people when it struck in 1992. Dozens more died from injuries stemming from the storm and its aftermath.

Adjusted for inflation, the 1992 storm was, after Katrina, the second costliest storm in U.S. history. It also changed how we forecast and respond to hurricanes.

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Megafires: The New Normal In The Southwest
3:17 am
Thu August 23, 2012

How The Smokey Bear Effect Led To Raging Wildfires

Adams (left) talks with Swetnam in their laboratory, nestled under the football stadium.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 7:50 pm

First of a five-part series

The history of fire in the American Southwest is buried in a catacomb of rooms under the bleachers of the football stadium at the University of Arizona.

Here rules professor Thomas Swetnam, tree ring expert. You want to read a tree ring? You go to Tom. He's a big, burly guy with a beard and a true love for trees.

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The Salt
5:24 pm
Wed August 22, 2012

Food Waste Is Overwhelming. Here Are Five Things People Are Doing About It

Rotten jackfruit and tomatoes are sorted at a dump in New Delhi. India loses an estimated 40 percent of its produce harvest for lack of infrastructure. And Americans waste about 40 percent of our food.
Mustafa Quraishi AP

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 5:39 pm

The food world is buzzing today about the latest news on just how often we waste perfectly good food. And we admit, the statistics are pretty depressing.

About 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. The average American consumer wastes 10 times as much food as someone in Southeast Asia — up 50 percent from Americans in the 1970s. Yet, 1 in 6 Americans doesn't have enough to eat, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And food waste costs us about $165 billion a year and sucks up 25 percent of our freshwater supply.

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Environment
4:30 pm
Wed August 22, 2012

Humans' Role In Antarctic Ice Melt Is Unclear

The Larsen B ice shelf, a large floating ice mass on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, shattered and separated from the continent 10 years ago. A NASA satellite captured the event in this image from Feb. 23, 2002. The 650 foot-thick, 1,250-square-mile ice shelf had existed since the last ice age.
AP

Originally published on Wed August 22, 2012 7:59 pm

Ten years ago, a piece of ice the size of Rhode Island disintegrated and melted in the waters off Antarctica. Two other massive ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula had suffered similar fates a few years before. The events became poster children for the effects of global warming. But a new study finds that the story isn't quite so simple.

There's no question that unusually warm air triggered the final demise of these huge chunks of ice. But a lingering question is whether these events can be attributed to human-induced global warming.

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NPR Story
2:16 pm
Wed August 22, 2012

Drought Forces Ranchers Into Difficult Decisions

Originally published on Wed August 22, 2012 2:29 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Parts of the country have suffered from record heat and drought for several years in a row now, and this summer, it's been just brutal. In past programs, we talked with farmers about their crops. Today, we focus on difficult choices facing ranchers and dairy farmers.

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The Salt
10:18 am
Wed August 22, 2012

Meet A Man On A Mission To Save Rare And Unusual Figs

One of Bassem Samaan's Pan e Vino fig trees, propagated from the yard of an Italian restaurant in Bethlehem, Pa.
courtesy Bassem Samaan

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 11:02 am

In the backyard of an unassuming suburban home in Bethlehem, Pa., is a global cornucopia of botanical heritage. Almost 300 varieties of fig grow here, most of them with roots in Europe, Asia or Africa, and each one collected and propagated by Bassem Samaan, a 34-year-old Lebanese native with an unusually green thumb and an obsession with figs.

Samaan is one of a handful of eccentric gardeners around the world whose goal is to save and preserve rare or unusual fruit varieties — trees that may never have commercial value and which may barely cling to existence.

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Environment
5:23 am
Wed August 22, 2012

Ruling Is A Set-Back To Obama's Clean Air Plan

Originally published on Wed August 22, 2012 6:48 am

A federal court has rejected a rule that would have regulated air pollution that blows from one state to the next. The ruling puts a damper on the Obama administration's efforts to reduce asthma, heart disease and other ailments related to air pollution. States and utilities asserted that the rules overstepped the EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act.

NPR Cities: Urban Life In The 21st Century
5:13 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

Boston Plans For 'Near-Term Risk' Of Rising Tides

Some scientists predict that by 2050, climate change and an accompanying rise in sea level will lead to frequent flooding in Boston.
jeffgun Flickr

Originally published on Wed August 22, 2012 6:13 pm

While many cities around the country grapple with drought and excessive heat this year, city planners in Boston have something else on their minds: the prospect of rising water.

In this coastal metropolis, scientists and computer models predict that climate change could eventually lead to dramatic increases in sea level around the city. Coupled with a storm surge at high tide, parts of the city could easily end up under water.

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Around the Nation
4:29 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

Saltwater Invades Mississippi River

Water gets churned up at the end of a dredging pipeline connected to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge on the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tenn., on Monday. The river has seen water levels from Illinois to Louisiana plummet because of drought conditions in the past three months. When there's less flow coming downstream, saltwater from the Gulf wedges its way in.
Adrian Sainz AP

Originally published on Tue August 21, 2012 8:25 pm

All the dry weather means there's less water flowing through the once mighty river into the Gulf of Mexico, and low outflow means saltwater from the Gulf is creeping in.

Some Louisiana cities have already begun purchasing drinking water. Now New Orleans is at risk.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:05 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

The City As Engine: Energy, Entropy And The Triumph Of Disorder

Adam Frank stands atop of the Wilder Building in Rochester, N.Y.
Carlet Cleare WXXI

Originally published on Tue August 21, 2012 7:36 pm

Cities may be the defining element of human civilization.

The path from hunter-gatherers in the Paleolithic era 25,000 years ago to the high-tech, high-wonder jumble we inhabit today runs straight through cities. In traveling that path, our construction of cities has always been a dance with physics. In some cases, that physics was explicitly understood; in others, its manifestation was only recognized in hindsight.

As our cities have become more complex the physics embodying their behavior and organization has also become more nuanced, subtle and profound.

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The Salt
3:24 am
Tue August 21, 2012

How A Biofuel Dream Called Jatropha Came Crashing Down

A man harvests fruits of the Jatropha tree in Taabo, Ivory Coast. Jatropha, which is grown in many parts of the world, has fallen from favor as a diesel fuel substitute.
Kambou Sia AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 10:37 am

From Congress to The Colbert Report, people are talking about the Midwestern drought and debating whether it makes sense to convert the country's shrinking corn supplies into ethanol to power our cars.

It's the latest installment of the long-running food vs. fuel battle.

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Environment
4:20 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Wood Energy Not 'Green' Enough, Says Mass.

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 6:02 pm

Wind and solar get lots of attention, but another kind of renewable power actually creates more energy in our country --wood. The state of Massachusetts on Friday decided that these plants aren't green enough to get some special breaks.

The Salt
8:48 am
Mon August 20, 2012

How Much Does A Hamburger Cost? That Depends

Crunching the numbers to show the environmental cost of a hamburger isn't easy, and we should know.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 10:38 am

A few decades ago, a hamburger was just a yummy sandwich.

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Science
1:34 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Solar Toilet Disinfects Waste, Makes Hydrogen Fuel

Transcript

FLORA LICHTMAN, HOST:

You might take that sound for granted. I know I do. That's because most of us hear it all the time, at least in this country. Toilets are everywhere here in the U.S. But a lot of people around the world don't hear that sound every day, because two-and-a-half billion people, with the B, don't have a safe, sanitary place to go to the bathroom, according to the World Health Organization.

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NPR Story
1:16 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Aging City Pipes In Need Of A Plumber's Touch

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 1:30 pm

Transcript

FLORA LICHTMAN, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Flora Lichtman. We're in the midst of the worst drought in over 50 years. Water tables are dropping faster than they can be replenished, and at the same time an op-ed in the New York Times today says that the United States is estimated to lose about one in six gallons, one in six gallons of clean water every day due to leaky pipes in the ground.

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Environment
3:21 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

When This Oil Spills, It's 'A Whole New Monster'

An oil sheen appears along the shore of the Kalamazoo. More than 800,000 gallons of oil entered Talmadge Creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River, a Lake Michigan tributary. Heavy rains caused the river to overtop existing dams and carried oil 30 miles downstream.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Thu August 16, 2012 6:19 pm

Sometime in the next few months, David Daniel probably will have to stand by and watch as bulldozers knock down his thick forest and dig up the streams he loves.

His East Texas property is one of more than 1,000 in the path of a new pipeline, the southern stretch of what is known as the Keystone XL system.

For years, Daniel has tried to avoid this fate — or at least figure out what risks will come with it. But it has been difficult for him to get straight answers about the tar sands oil the pipeline will carry, and what happens when it spills.

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Participation Nation
7:03 am
Thu August 16, 2012

Focusing On Fish In Knoxville, Tenn.

A sicklefin redhorse being propagated for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Courtesy of Conservation Fisheries

Originally published on Thu August 16, 2012 7:36 am

I work for a company called Conservation Fisheries. It's a 20-year-old nonprofit based in Knoxville that focuses on the conservation of rare freshwater fish, such as chubs, darters, madtoms and minnows.

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NPR Cities: Urban Life In The 21st Century
5:29 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Scorching Phoenix Plans For An Even Hotter Future

A Metro Light Rail train rolls by the Devine Legacy apartment building along Central Avenue in Phoenix. The energy-efficient complex includes 65 "urban style" apartments.
Courtesy of Mica Thomas Mulloy

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 6:37 pm

It's been a record hot summer in many cities across the nation. Phoenix is no exception. This Sonoran Desert metropolis already records more days over 100 degrees than any other major U.S. city. Now, climate models predict Phoenix will soon get even hotter.

A hotter future may mean a more volatile environment — and along with it, natural disasters, greater pressure on infrastructure, and an increased physical toll on city residents.

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Europe
2:49 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Germans Confront The Costs Of A Nuclear-Free Future

A worker on a newly constructed transmission tower near Buetzow, Germany, earlier this month. The German government plans to shut down nuclear power plants and is seeking to replace that production with power from renewable energy sources, especially wind turbines and solar parks. New power transmission lines will be needed.
Sean Gallup Getty Images

Originally published on Thu August 16, 2012 1:07 pm

After Japan's Fukushima disaster last year, Germany announced a groundbreaking energy plan: It would phase out all of its domestic nuclear power in a decade and make a transition to safer, carbon neutral energy.

The goal is to have solar, wind and other renewables account for nearly 40 percent of the energy for Europe's largest economy in a decade, and 80 percent by 2050.

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Author Interviews
12:55 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Climate 'Weirdness' Throws Ecosystems 'Out Of Kilter'

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the past year through June 2012 has been the hottest year in the continental U.S. since modern record-keeping started in 1895. Above, New Yorkers flocked to Coney Island to try to beat the heat in early August.
Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Tue August 14, 2012 1:47 pm

Science journalist Michael Lemonick doesn't want to be a doomsday prophet, but he does want to be realistic about the threat of climate change. "Since I started writing about climate change all the way back in 1987, we've known what the cause is, we've known what the likely outcome is, and we've had time to act — and essentially we haven't acted," he tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies.

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