Environment

Krulwich Wonders...
8:27 am
Wed September 5, 2012

What's With Frosty? Why Isn't He Showing Up On Time?

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 8:57 am

Check out this graph of America's "Growing Season" — it measures the number of continuous days and nights when it never gets below 32 degrees. You could call this our "frost-free" time of year. In many places, the frost-free season begins in the spring and ends somewhere in October.

As you can see, over the 20th century, it's been staying frost-free longer...and longer...and longer...

Read more
Environment
3:19 am
Tue September 4, 2012

As Temps Rise, Cities Combat 'Heat Island' Effect

An art installation of a melting fan sits on display in a subway station Thursday, June 9, 2011, in Atlanta.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 5:10 pm

More than 20,000 high-temperature records have been broken so far this year in the United States. And the heat is especially bad in cities, which are heating up about twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

High temperatures increase the risk of everything from asthma to allergies, and can even be deadly. But a researcher in Atlanta also sees this urban heat wave as an opportunity to do something about our warming planet.

Read more
Around the Nation
4:34 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

Despite Drought, Some Corn Farmers Reap Bounty

Grimes Sweetcorn worker Paulette Vandyke waits to sell fresh corn in Grimes, Iowa. The drought has pushed the price of corn per bushel up nearly 40 percent in the past two months.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 8:18 pm

For every farmer who is hurting this year during the drought, others are benefiting. Many fields in the South, Northwest and Upper Midwest are producing bountiful corn crops. And because the drought has pushed prices to record highs, farmers who have corn to sell expect a terrific payday.

"The corn has actually really, really taken off all the way through season. It's grown fast. It's been accelerated. The corn looks really good now," says John Scott, whose family farm in Sargeant, Minn., is just bursting with corn.

Read more
Around the Nation
3:15 am
Thu August 30, 2012

In Drought, Should Corn Be Food Or Fuel?

Drought has taken a toll on corn this year, and as a result, a growing number of ethanol plants have closed.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 5:56 am

Standing outside the Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-Op in Little Falls, Minn., there's not a lot going on. The pungent smell of fermentation that typically hangs in the air here is absent. And trucks piled high with corn are nowhere to be seen.

They're idled in part because of high corn prices. And it's unclear when that will change.

"Most of the industry is just breaking even in terms of profitability or actually running at slightly negative margins," says Geoff Cooper, vice president of research and analysis at the Renewable Fuels Association.

Read more
Shots - Health Blog
6:24 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Mysterious New 'Heartland Virus' Discovered In Missouri

Two men from northwestern Missouri became ill after tick bites infected them with a previously unknown virus.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 9:42 am

Two Missouri farmers have been infected with a brand-new tick-borne virus that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling the Heartland virus.

The men recovered but suffered serious illness that required hospital care and weeks of convalescence. Symptoms included fever, severe fatigue, headache and nausea. Their platelet counts plummeted, but even though platelets are necessary for blood clotting, the men didn't suffer abnormal bleeding.

Read more
Around the Nation
4:57 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Seals' Comeback Spells Trouble to Mass. Coast

Seals swim among the docked boats at Chatham's fish pier, waiting for a free meal.
Curt Nickisch for NPR

Originally published on Wed August 29, 2012 8:25 pm

Before the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed 40 years ago, early New Englanders had nearly hunted seals to death. They wanted them for their furs and to keep them from eating cod. Massachusetts even paid bounties on seals: $5 per nose.

The act has helped gray seals and harbor seals recolonize New England waters, but fishermen off the coast of Cape Cod say they have become a nuisance.

There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Read more
Around the Nation
3:42 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Isaac's Size, Speed Help It Pack A Heavyweight Punch

People walk in the storm surge from Hurricane Isaac along Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. Isaac was later downgraded to a tropical storm as it continued to grind its way through the Gulf Coast, dropping torrential rain and generating dangerous storm surges.
Gerald Herbert AP

Originally published on Fri October 26, 2012 12:28 pm

Isaac might not be in the same league as Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, but the latest storm to batter Louisiana's Gulf Coast is punching above its weight class in more ways than one, scientists say.

Read more
Shots - Health Blog
3:00 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

With West Nile On The Rise, We Answer Your Questions

A Beechcraft airplane sprays insecticide over Dallas early Monday morning to curb the spread of West Nile virus.
LM Otero AP

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 9:45 am

This year is on track to be the worst ever for West Nile virus in the United States. Here are the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • 1,590 reported cases, nearly 500 more than a week ago for a rise of 44 percent.
  • 889 cases, or 56 percent, involve severe neurological disease.
  • 66 deaths, compared to 41 last week.
Read more
Business
6:43 am
Wed August 29, 2012

White House Unveils New Fuel-Efficiency Standards

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 4:04 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Obama's administration has adopted new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. They're expected to nearly double fuel efficiency and slash greenhouse gas emissions.

NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports the new requirements are a rare example of industry agreeing to tough environmental regulations.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN, BYLINE: The new standards were the result of many months of negotiation between the Obama administration, the state of California, the auto industry and environmental groups.

Read more
Energy
3:14 am
Tue August 28, 2012

Methane Making An Appearance In Pa. Water Supplies

Ted and Gale Franklin live in Leroy Township, Pa., where people have been dealing with flammable gas puddles and tainted well water.
Becky Lettenberger NPR

Originally published on Tue August 28, 2012 3:03 pm

Mike and Nancy Leighton's problems began on May 19, just as Mike was settling in to watch the Preakness Stakes. A neighbor in Leroy Township, Pa., called Mike and told him to check the water well located just outside his front door.

"I said, 'I'll be down in 15 minutes.' I wanted to see the race," Leighton said. But as the horses were racing, Leighton's well was overflowing. Typically, there's between 80 to 100 feet of head space between the top of the well and its water supply. But when Leighton went outside, the water was bubbling over the top.

Read more
Megafires: The New Normal In The Southwest
5:20 am
Sun August 26, 2012

'Torture Lab' Kills Trees To Learn How To Save Them

Powers walks along plastic gutters designed to keep rain away from tree roots to simulate drought. Scientists here are studying the effects of sustained drought conditions on the tree species of the Southwest.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Sun August 26, 2012 6:03 pm

Last of a five-part series

The droughts that have parched big regions of the country are killing forests.

In the arid Southwest, the body count is especially high. Besides trying to keep wildfires from burning up these desiccated forests, there's not much anyone can do. In fact, scientists are only now figuring out how drought affects trees.

Read more
Participation Nation
5:27 pm
Sat August 25, 2012

Replanting Trees In New Orleans, La.

City Park in New Orleans.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 11:18 am

More than 100,000 trees — including many beautiful live oaks and magnolias — were lost when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.

In response, Hike For KaTREEna — a nonprofit group dedicated to reforesting the Crescent City — was created.

Since 2006, more than 10,000 volunteers have helped to plant 13,400 trees — including oaks, cypress, red maples, crepe myrtles, magnolias, redbuds, Savannah hollies and citrus trees such as navel orange, satsuma, lemon, lime and grapefruit.

Read more
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:

Read more
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?

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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?

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more

Pages