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.

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."

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.

If you had a sudden urge to put a horn on your head, not use your knees and chew on some leaves, you may be catching the spirit of World Rhino Day. It's being celebrated all over the world with art shows, auctions, walk-a-thons and lectures with the theme of "Five Rhino Species Forever."

Residents of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, are engaging in a community-wide flushing of toilets today.

Is it a symbolic washing away of waste? A sign of protest? A commode "flash mob?"

None of the above.

President Obama named a new national monument on Friday: Chimney Rock in southwestern Colorado. With two sandstone spires soaring from a mesa, not only is Chimney Rock a spectacular place; it also provides a fascinating glimpse into the ancient people who lived in that region more than 1,000 years ago.

The Ugly Truth About Food Waste In America

Sep 21, 2012



Up next, an entirely different kind of food problem. Recycling paper and plastic, as you know, is an effective way to save money and energy. So why not recycle all the uneaten food that goes to waste? And there is an awful lot of it. Forty percent of the food in the U.S. today goes uneaten, which means Americans are throwing out the equivalent of 165 billion - with a B - billion dollars worth of food each year. But that's not all. Food waste, as it decays in landfills, also produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.

Printing Solar Panels In The Backyard

Sep 21, 2012



Up next, Flora Lichtman is here with our Video Pick of the Week. Hi, Flora.


FLATOW: What's in store for us this week?

LICHTMAN: I pretty much geeked out this week.

FLATOW: You geeked...


The Pacific Island of Guam is experiencing a population explosion — of spiders.

There are more spiders there now than anyone can remember. To get a sense of how weird the situation is, I started out in Maryland. On my front porch, overlooking the Severn River.

At 6:30 in the morning on a cool fall day, I find two spider webs in a matter of five minutes. But if I were on the island of Guam, I might find 70 or 80 spider webs in five minutes.

Anthropologists believe early humans evolved in Africa and then moved out from there in successive waves. However, what drove their migrations has been a matter of conjecture.

One new explanation is climate change.

Anthropologist Anders Erikkson of Cambridge University in England says the first few hardy humans who left Africa might've gone earlier but couldn't. Northeastern Africa — the only route to Asia and beyond — was literally a no man's land.

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but what do you do when there are no apples? It's a question western Michigan's apple growers are dealing with this season after strange weather earlier in the year decimated the state's apple cultivation.

Michigan is the third-largest apple producer in the U.S. after New York and Washington, but the state's apples will soon be in short supply. Now in the middle of harvest season, growers are picking only 10 percent to 15 percent of their normal crop.

Wind Power Plentiful, Study Says

Sep 14, 2012



This is SCIENCE FRIDAY, I'm Ira Flatow. How much of the world's energy needs could be met by wind power alone? Energy analysts are always quick to point out that the wind doesn't blow all the time, but it turns out that if you look worldwide, and you look up at the sky and not just at ground level, there's a lot of wind available, and that wind carries a lot of energy.

Field Trip To A Fungi Foray

Sep 14, 2012

What happens at the Northeast Mycological Federation Foray? "Mushrooms only," according to attendee Gary Lincoff, an instructor at the New York Botanical Garden and author of The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. Science Friday stopped by the conference for mushroom talk, mushroom crafts, mushroom eats and a mushroom hunt.

When crossing from Uganda into Congo at the shabby border town of Bunagana, I encountered a broadly smiling man in a black leather jacket named Hamid Kashaisha.

He asked if I wanted to see the gorillas. I replied that it's guerrillas — with guns, that is — that I wanted to see: the M23 rebels who, for the past two months, had occupied a piece of real estate in eastern Congo larger than Delaware.

That was no deterrence to the pitchman.



It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Here's some troubling news. Ice covering the Arctic Ocean has melted more dramatically this year than ever before. This year's loss of ice has exceeded the previous record by an area the size of Texas. NPR's Richard Harris reports.

Arctic sea ice has melted dramatically this summer, smashing the previous record. The Arctic has warmed dramatically compared with the rest of the planet, and scientists say that's what's driving this loss of ice.

To be sure, ice on the Arctic Ocean always melts in the summer. Historically, about half of it is gone by mid-September. But this year, three-fourths of the ice has melted away, setting a dramatic new benchmark.



Here are some descriptions of a foul smell that has stunk its way across a huge stretch of Southern California.

PAT STEVENS: Rotting fish, sewage, you know.

JOYCE THATCHER: It smells exactly like somebody's septic system overflowed.

SEAN NEALON: Like an old banana under the seat for, like, a week, and it just turns all black and gooey and, like, something's rotting.

Some grapes like it hot.

Arctic Sea Ice Melt Sets Record

Sep 11, 2012



Every summer, some of the ice that covers the Arctic Ocean melts. Come mid-September, it begins to refreeze. Scientists began to monitor this cycle in the late 1970s, and this year, they saw less ice than ever before - a lot less ice. NPR science correspondent Richard Harris joins us here in Studio 3A. Richard, nice to have you on the program.

RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: Always a pleasure, Neal.

CONAN: And how big is this change?

The current poster child for global warming is a polar bear, sitting on a melting iceberg. Some health officials argue the symbol should, instead, be a child.

That's because emerging science shows that people respond more favorably to warnings about climate change when it's portrayed as a health issue rather than as an environmental problem.





When the European Central Bank holds its monthly meeting today, investors around the world will be watching nervously to see what the bank's head, Mario Draghi, says about interest rates. Draghi was recently quoted as saying he would do whatever it takes to keep Europe's debt crisis from growing out of control, and that could go beyond just cutting borrowing rates.

As NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, any European Central Bank plan to use its resources to prop up Europe's weaker economies will face strong opposition from the Germans.

Scientists have found that the aquatic birds are good indicators of toxins in the environment. That's why researchers have taken to the waters of western Maine for what's believed to be the longest-running loon monitoring study in North America.

For any religion, keeping up traditions in the modern world can be a challenge. The Parsi community in India, however, faces a unique obstacle.

Parsis, who came to India from Persia (Iran) a thousand years ago with their Zoroastrian faith, have gone to great lengths to maintain their unique funeral rituals. But they've had to make a few adjustments to keep up with the times and to not upset the neighbors.

Parsi funerals begin in a way familiar to many faiths: prayers are chanted and mourners pay last respects.

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...

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.

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.

In Drought, Should Corn Be Food Or Fuel?

Aug 30, 2012

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.

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.

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