Environment

Health
1:03 pm
Fri October 19, 2012

When Infections "Spillover"

Originally published on Fri October 19, 2012 4:55 pm

In his new book Spillover writer David Quammen traces the evolution of Ebola, HIV and other diseases that moved from animals to humans. Quammen describes how scientists look for the reservoirs of the infectious agents, and what might be done to prevent the next pandemic.

NPR Story
12:12 pm
Fri October 19, 2012

Winter Weather Predictions

Originally published on Fri October 19, 2012 4:55 pm

Science Or Folklore? — The Old Farmer's Almanac predicts winter weather months in advance. Is that even scientifically possible? Meteorologist Jason Samenow, of The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, talks about the science and art of seasonal forecasting, and why even the pros at NOAA sometimes get it wrong.

Environment
2:02 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

Athena To Zeus: Weather Channel Names Winter Storms

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 2:32 pm

Transcript

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The Salt
11:53 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Top Five Myths Of Genetically Modified Seeds, Busted

Central Illinois corn and soybean farmer Gary Niemeyer readies his genetically modified seed corn for spring planting at his farm near Auburn, Ill.
Seth Perlman AP

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 5:49 pm

Having just stepped into the shouting match over patents on genetically engineered crops, there are a few small things that I, too, would like to get off my chest.

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Environment
5:04 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Scientists Solve Mystery Of Disappearing Salt Marshes

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 12:11 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's pay a visit now to one of the crucial parts of our country's ecosystem. Along U.S. coastlines, there are salt marshes that serve as nurseries for fish, crabs and other shellfish. They also protect coastal areas against flooding. Scientists warn that some salt marshes are disintegrating, and researchers have a pretty surprising theory about why that is. Here's NPR's Christopher Joyce.

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The Salt
4:00 pm
Wed October 17, 2012

Test Your Food IQ: Do We Need More Farms To Grow Fruits And Veggies For All?

Orchards like this one in Adams County, PA, and other U.S. farms face worldwide competition for their apples and apple products due to imports.
Brad C. Bower AP

Think you're part of the food-literati? True or false: 13 million more acres of farmland would be required to produce enough fruit and vegetables for the daily diets of all Americans to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition guidelines.

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Solve This
2:00 pm
Wed October 17, 2012

Climate Politics: It's Laugh Lines Vs. 'Not A Joke'

This Sept. 16 image released by NASA shows the amount of summer sea ice in the Arctic, at center in white, and the 1979 to 2000 average extent for the day shown, with the yellow line. Scientists say sea ice in the Arctic shrank to an all-time low of 1.32 million square miles on Sept. 16, smashing old records for the critical climate indicator.
NASA AP

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 12:11 pm

Scientists view climate change as one of the world's most pressing long-term problems. But the issue has barely surfaced in the U.S. presidential race. President Obama has taken steps to address climate change during his time in office. Republican challenger Mitt Romney would not make it a priority in his administration.

In fact, as Romney stood on the stage to accept his nomination at the Republican National Convention, he used global warming as a laugh line.

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The Two-Way
12:29 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

NOAA: Around World, September Tied Record For Warmest Temperatures

The redder the shading, the further above average were the temperatures in September.
NOAA's National Climatic Data Center

This chart offers another perspective on just how warm it was around the world last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.

The agency has been keeping records since 1880 and the "average combined global land and ocean surface temperature for September 2012 tied with 2005 as the warmest September on record."

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It's All Politics
4:09 pm
Sun October 14, 2012

On The Campaign Trail, Regulations Dominate The Environmental Debate

Smoke rises from the stacks of the La Cygne Generating Station coal-fired power plant in La Cygne, Kan. President Obama's regulation of the coal industry has come under fire from his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
Charlie Riedel AP

Originally published on Sun October 14, 2012 5:02 pm

In previous elections, candidates from both parties have campaigned on pledges to be environmental presidents. This time, neither candidate is talking much about cleaning up the air or protecting scenic lands.

Instead, the debate has focused on whether and how much environmental regulations hurt businesses, especially the energy industry.

Mostly it's been GOP candidate Mitt Romney criticizing President Obama for what he sees as overzealous environmental regulations that strangle the economic recovery.

Environmental Rules

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NPR Story
12:03 pm
Fri October 12, 2012

Tracking The Ozone Hole, As It Waxes And Wanes

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 1:45 pm

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. 21 years ago this week, way back in October of 1991 on the first-ever episode of SCIENCE FRIDAY, one of our show topics was the ozone hole, that bite out of the Earth's ozone layer caused by chemicals in our refrigerators, air conditioners, cans of hairspray. Our guest that day was the late Sherwood Rowland, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize for his work on the ozone hole.

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Science
3:28 am
Thu October 11, 2012

Software Calculates City-Specific Carbon Footprint

Bedrich Benes and Michel Abdul-Massih

Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 3:58 pm

One way to measure greenhouse gases is simply to capture them at the source: You put an instrument on a smokestack, for example. Cities, however, are full of cars, buses, factories and homes that all use fuel or electricity. No one really knows how much carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, comes from each.

Ecologist Kevin Gurney says he can find out.

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Environment
4:25 am
Mon October 8, 2012

Scientists Watch Antarctica, Arctic Sea-Ice Levels

Originally published on Mon October 8, 2012 4:35 am

The ice covering the Arctic Ocean was at a record low, in keeping with a sharp warming trend in the far north. At the same time, the amount of the ocean around Antarctica covered by sea ice hit a record high. It's winter in Antarctica when it's summer in the Arctic. But why in a warming world is wintertime ice growing?

Environment
6:10 am
Sun October 7, 2012

Restore California Delta! To What, Exactly?

Wetlands are returning naturally at Liberty Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California. The state plans to restore more than 100,000 acres of habitat in the area.
Lauren Sommer for NPR

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 1:24 pm

In California, state officials are planning a multibillion-dollar environmental restoration of the inland delta near San Francisco Bay. There's only one problem: No one knows what the landscape used to look like. Ninety-seven percent of the original wetlands are gone, so the state is turning to historians for help.

This detective story begins on a sunny day in a dry field of corn, about an hour east of San Francisco.

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NPR Story
12:11 pm
Fri October 5, 2012

Starfish Blamed For Great Barrier Reef Coral Loss

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 1:03 pm

Over the past 27 years, Australia's Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its live coral cover, and a type of starfish is partly to blame for the alarming decline. Mark Eakin, head of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch program, discusses how to save the world's largest coral reef system.

The Salt
1:25 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

The Cost Of Saving Lives With Local Peanuts In Haiti

Alex E. Proimos flickr

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 4:05 pm

How much extra would you pay for local food? It's a familiar question. We face it practically every time we shop for groceries, either at the store or at the farmers market. But what about food that can save the lives of severely malnourished children?

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Remembrances
4:23 pm
Tue October 2, 2012

'Paul Revere Of Ecology' Sounded Alarms On Pollution

Originally published on Tue October 2, 2012 6:14 pm

Scientist Barry Commoner, a pioneer in environmental activism, died Sunday. Melissa Block speaks with Michael Egan, environmental historian at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and author of the book, Barry Commoner and the Science of Survival: The Remaking of American Environmentalism.

Science
5:07 pm
Sun September 30, 2012

A Tiny Ocean World With A Mighty Important Future

Plankton make up 98 percent of the biomass of ocean life and provide half of the oxygen on the planet. Scientists are working to figure out how climate change may be affecting these important microorganisms.
M. Ormestad Tara Oceans

Originally published on Sun September 30, 2012 7:11 pm

As you take in your next breath of air, you can thank a form of microscopic marine life known as plankton.

They are so small as to be invisible, but taken together, actually dwarf massive creatures like whales. Plankton make up 98 percent of the biomass of ocean life.

"This invisible forest generates half of the oxygen generated on the planet," Chris Bowler, a marine biologist, tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

And, as climate change alters the temperature and acidity of our waters, this mysterious ocean world may be in jeopardy.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:06 pm
Sun September 30, 2012

On The Road: Reporting On Lead Poisoning In Nigeria

Four-wheel drive is no match for the mud on the road to a gold mine in northern Nigeria.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Thu November 1, 2012 4:20 pm

If you want to witness the health consequences of unsafe gold mining in northwestern Nigeria, the first thing you have to do is get to the mines

There's a crisis of severe lead poisoning near the mines that's killed hundreds of children and made thousands more sick.

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Science
7:31 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Scientist Cleared In Polar Bear Controversy

Polar bears in the Beaufort Sea in northern Alaska. Scientist Charles Monnett caused a stir with a 2006 report on polar bears that were drowning, apparently owing to a lack of ice.
Steve Amstrup Fish and Wildlife Service

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 7:56 pm

A long, controversial investigation of a polar bear scientist has ended with his government employer saying it does not look like he engaged in any scientific misconduct.

Charles Monnett is a wildlife researcher with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, part of the Department of the Interior. He and a colleague, Jeffrey Gleason, wrote an influential 2006 report describing apparently drowned polar bears floating in the Arctic, which they saw during a routine aerial survey of whales.

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The Picture Show
2:40 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Illuminating The Underworld In A Deep, Dark French Cave

Cavers cross Lake Cadoux in a small dingy inside the Gouffre Berger cave. A 4-meter-deep (approximately 13 feet) pool of water blocks the way forward through the Starless River.
Courtesy of Robbie Shone

Originally published on Mon October 1, 2012 11:11 am

Photographer Robbie Shone used a lot of flashbulbs while photographing the famous French cave Gouffre Berger. A lot of flashbulbs — more than 600 in four trips.

To get an idea of the challenge of photographing inside a pitch black space, imagine firing your flash at a subject in a dark room. The result might look something like this. The foreground is harshly lit, while the background stays dark.

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NPR Story
12:04 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

The Biology Of Birds Of Prey

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 3:30 pm

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

Up next, the biology of raptors, moving from giant animals to the birds, we're going to talk about here in Boise. Just outside of town is the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. And that park has one of the highest concentrations of nesting raptors in the world, more than 20 different birds of prey, including golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, screech owls.

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NPR Story
12:04 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Fires And Invasive Grass Threaten American West

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 2:02 pm

Cheatgrass, an invasive weed, is choking out native sagebrush in the Great Basin--and setting the stage for hotter, more catastrophic fires there. Jen Pierce, an expert on ancient fires, and Mike Pellant, of the Great Basin Restoration Initiative, talk about how fires are reshaping landscapes in the American West.

NPR Story
12:04 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Ice Age Co-Stars: Horses, Camels And Cheetahs

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 1:59 pm

Mammoths and saber-toothed cats may be the most famous beasts of the Ice Age. But they shared the prairie with horses and camels, too--both of which evolved in North America and crossed the ice bridge into Eurasia, before disappearing here. Matthew Kohn and Christopher Hill talk about the lesser-known fauna of the Ice Age.

Around the Nation
5:29 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Despite Record Drought, Farmers Expect Banner Year

With far less than half of their normal corn yield, the Ulrich brothers are relying in part on government-subsidized crop insurance to keep their farm afloat.
Frank Morris KCUR

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 12:39 pm

After one of the driest summers on record, recent rains have helped in some parts of the country. But overall, the drought has still intensified. The latest tracking classifies more than a fifth of the contiguous United States in "extreme or exceptional" drought, the worst ratings.

In some parts of the Lower Midwest, water-starved crops have collapsed, but the farmers have not. Farmers across the country are surviving, and many are even thriving. This year, despite the dismal season, farmers stand to make exceptionally good money, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Technology
5:01 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Biodegradable Electronics Could End Toxic Trash

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 5:50 pm

A future in which a discarded cell phone dissolves into a landfill, rather than living on for thousands of years as garbage, may not be that far off. Melissa Block talks with John A. Rogers, a 2009 MacArthur Fellow and professor of engineering at University of Illinois, about his research into "transient electronics."

Animals
5:06 am
Wed September 26, 2012

Tourists Banned From India's Tiger Reserves

A tiger is seen in June 2008 at Sariska Tiger Reserve in the western state of Rajasthan, India, after being shifted from Ranthambore National Park. In an attempt to help revive western India's tiger population, a female tiger was airlifted to join a male at the national reserve.
AP

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 2:27 pm

Can tigers and tourists coexist? The debate is rumbling through India, where the Supreme Court has temporarily banned tourism in core areas of the country's 41 tiger reserves. The unexpected and controversial ruling is aimed at protecting the last of India's 1,700 tigers.

Up until the late 1960s, big game hunters trod the forests of Rajasthan's Ranthambore National Park, part of a sprawling tiger reserve southwest of Delhi. Under the court's recent ban, spotting one of India's big cats — a tiger or the more elusive leopard — inside the park is forbidden.

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Latin America
4:23 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Bolivia's Cerro Rico: The Mountain That Eats Men

Cerro Rico, or Rich Mountain, rises like a monument in Potosi, Bolivia. It has produced silver, and hardship, for centuries. Now it may be in danger of collapse.
Carlos Villalon for NPR

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 7:39 pm

Near the mountain city of Potosi in the southern highlands of Bolivia, the cone-shaped peak of Cerro Rico stands as a 15,800-foot monument to the tragedies of Spanish conquest. For centuries, Indian slaves mined the mountain's silver in brutal conditions to bankroll the Spanish empire.

Today, the descendants of those slaves run the mines. But hundreds of years of mining have left the mountain porous and unstable, and experts say it is in danger of collapsing.

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Environment
5:51 pm
Mon September 24, 2012

As Arctic Ice Melts, So Does The Snow, And Quickly

Researchers say that springtime snow is melting in the Arctic even faster than Arctic ice. That means less sunlight is reflected off the surface. Bare land absorbs more solar energy, which can contribute to rising temperatures on Earth. Above, a musher races along the Iditarod in the Alaskan tundra in 2007.
Al Grillo AP

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 5:11 pm

Arctic sea ice is in sharp decline this year: Last week, scientists announced that it hit the lowest point ever measured, shattering the previous record.

But it turns out that's not the most dramatic change in the Arctic. A study by Canadian researchers finds that springtime snow is melting away even faster than Arctic ice. That also has profound implications for the Earth's climate.

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The Salt
11:20 am
Mon September 24, 2012

Getting A More Svelte Salmon To Your Dinner Plate

An Atlantic salmon leaps while swimming inside a farm pen near Eastport, Maine. Studies show farm-raised fish, like people, benefit from exercise.
Robert F. Bukaty AP

Originally published on Mon September 24, 2012 5:01 pm

When it comes to farm raised fish, it doesn't pay to let them be lazy. Fish like wild salmon, tuna and eel are built for the vigorous swimming required during migration.

These fish are "uniquely adapted to a physiology of high levels of exercise performance," says Tony Farrell, who studies fish physiology in the University of British Columbia Zoology department. "Therefore when we put them in constrained environments and remove predators, the consequences are they become a little more like couch potatoes."

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Around the Nation
4:18 pm
Sun September 23, 2012

Vt. Town Hires Livestock To Save Money, Go Green

Charlotte, Vt., has a new, old-school strategy to keep cemetery grass cut: Let animals do the work.
Kirk Carapezza Vermont Public Radio

Originally published on Sun September 23, 2012 5:51 pm

Cities and towns facing tight budgets have often neglected their cemeteries, an oversight that has left many of them in disrepair with broken fencing, crumbling gravestones, overgrown grass and persistent weeds.

But this summer, the Vermont town of Charlotte implemented a new strategy to both save money and keep grass in the town's graveyards under control, and it's a decidedly traditional way of doing it: Let goats and sheep do the work.

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