Environment

It's raining viruses, but don't panic

Mar 9, 2018

Billions of viruses get swept up into the atmosphere by dust clouds and water droplets, travel for thousands of miles and then eventually settle back to Earth, according to new research.

This may sound a bit frightening, but almost all of these sky-borne viruses are harmless to humans, says Curtis Suttle, a virologist at the University of British Columbia who co-authored a study based on data collected in Spain. The viruses circulating high up in the atmosphere are infecting almost exclusively other microbes, primarily bacteria.

The U.S. is on track to become the world's biggest oil producer, pumping out more crude than at its peak nearly a half century ago. For decades, few expected such a comeback, and it's all the more remarkable because the price of a barrel of oil is nowhere near what it was during the last, recent boom.

"This is an incredible statement, but we're probably making more money at fifty dollars a barrel than a hundred," says Kirk Edwards, president of Latigo Petroleum in Midland, the de facto oil capitol of West Texas.

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Jacob Katz is on the hunt — not for geese or ducks. On a farm about 40 minutes north of Sacramento, he wades through a rice paddy with an aquarium net in hand. But he's not fishing.

"We're going bug hunting," Katz says.

The senior scientist for California Trout, a conservation group with a focus on protecting wild fish, is at River Garden Farms. Founded in 1913, they typically grow things like corn, wheat and around 5,000 acres of rice — the kind local sushi restaurants use.

The Trump administration has lifted a ban on importing sport-hunted trophies of elephants from certain African countries, just over three months after President Trump appeared to pause a first attempt to do so amid public uproar. In a memo dated March 1, the U.S.

Robert Taylor isn't sure why he's alive.

"My mother succumbed to bone cancer. My brother had lung cancer," he ticks them off on his fingers. "My sister, I think it was cervical cancer. My nephew lung cancer." A favorite cousin. That cousin's son. Both neighbors on one side, one neighbor on the other. "And here I am. I don't understand how it decides who to take."

Like the human gut, the belly of every bovine contains a microbial engine — engines, really — since cows have four-part stomachs. Those unicellular inhabitants do most of the digestive acrobatics of processing a cow's gnarly, fibrous diet of grains, hay, and grass. They're also responsible for some of the cattle industry's greenhouse gas contributions, since, as it turns out, cows don't make methane. Microbes make methane.

Here's how contentious the wind industry has become in Oklahoma: When a state representative discovered a GPS tracker on his pickup truck late last year, he immediately suspected the industry, in an allegation straight out of a political thriller.

"I pissed off a huge corporation," Rep. Mark McBride told a police officer, according to audio from a police body camera obtained by StateImpact Oklahoma. "You know anything about wind farms?"

McBride explained he may have been targeted because he was writing legislation to increase taxes on the wind industry.

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This next story starts with an old can of film at a San Francisco flea market marked simply 1906 earthquake.

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Some of the worst flooding during this past weekend's East Coast storm happened during high tides.

Shoreline tides are getting progressively higher. A soon-to-be-published report obtained by NPR predicts a future where flooding will be a weekly event in some coastal parts of the country.

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