Environment

Science
5:11 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

Another 'Grand Canyon' Discovered Beneath Greenland's Ice

A little chilly for camping: Ice-penetrating radar revealed a mega-canyon below the Greenland ice sheet, extending for more than 460 miles.
Courtesy of J. Bamber/University of Bristol

Originally published on Sat August 31, 2013 12:37 am

A major feature of the Earth has escaped notice — until now.

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The Two-Way
10:18 am
Thu August 29, 2013

Have Your Picture Taken With Hong Kong's (Smog-Free) Skyline

Tourists from mainland China take photos in front of a large outdoor banner showing what Hong Kong looks like on a clean air day, in Hong Kong on Aug. 21.
Alex Hofford EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu August 29, 2013 1:26 pm

It's not news that Hong Kong, which brags one of the world's most stunning skylines, has been gradually losing it behind a curtain of smog.

But the Chinese territory's latest solution is new: To placate camera-clicking tourists unable to get those iconic shots of the skyscraper-studded waterfront, Hong Kong has set up a panoramic backdrop with clear, blue skies.

The Chinese website Netease published a series of pictures of tourists posing in front of the backdrop.

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Environment
3:35 am
Thu August 29, 2013

A Cooler Pacific May Be Behind Recent Pause In Global Warming

Originally published on Thu August 29, 2013 11:47 am

A study in the journal Nature could help explain why the Earth's average temperature hasn't increased during the past 15 years — despite a long-term trend of global warming.

The Earth's average temperature has risen by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. But the temperature rise has not been moving in lock step with the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide — mainly from burning fossil fuels — traps heat in the air.

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The Salt
10:20 am
Wed August 28, 2013

To Grow Sweeter Produce, California Farmers Turn Off The Water

At Happy Boy Farms near Santa Cruz, Calif., Early Girl tomatoes are grown using dry-farming methods. The tomatoes have become increasingly popular with chefs and wholesalers.
Courtesy Jen Lynne/Happy Boy Farms

Originally published on Sat August 31, 2013 12:57 pm

A week without water can easily kill the average person.

But a garden that goes unwatered for months may produce sweeter, more flavorful fruits than anything available in most mainstream supermarkets — even in the scorching heat of a California summer. Commercial growers call it "dry farming," and throughout the state, this unconventional technique seems to be catching on among small producers of tomatoes, apples, grapes, melons and potatoes.

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Environment
10:39 am
Tue August 27, 2013

The Wallops and Assateague Islands Report # 19

Artist's depiction of the LADEE spacecraft in orbit at the Moon
Credit NASA Ames

Keith Koehler, NASA Public Affairs Specialist, calls in again this week to update us on the September 6th Wallops rocket launch and to give us some insight into the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE.

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The Two-Way
7:48 am
Tue August 27, 2013

STUNNING VIDEO: Pilots' View Of California's Rim Fire

A view of California's Rim Fire from the cockpit of a California Air National Guard tanker plane.
YouTube.com

Originally published on Tue August 27, 2013 2:05 pm

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The Salt
3:03 am
Tue August 27, 2013

Turning Off The Spigot In Western Kansas Farmland

An irrigation pivot waters a corn field in Nebraska. Many farmers in Nebraska and Kansas rely on irrigation to water their corn fields. But the underground aquifer they draw from will run dry.
Nati Harnik AP

Originally published on Tue August 27, 2013 2:49 pm

Across the High Plains, many farmers depend on underground stores of water, and they worry about wells going dry. A new scientific study of western Kansas lays out a predicted timeline for those fears to become reality. But it also shows an alternative path for farming in Kansas: The moment of reckoning can be delayed, and the impact softened, if farmers start conserving water now.

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Europe
3:01 am
Tue August 27, 2013

Beachgoers In Spain Face Invasion Of Jellyfish

Marine biologist Stefano Piraino thinks overfishing is one of the reasons jellyfish populations are growing. He said if you take fish out of the oceans, it leaves more food for jellyfish. The jellyfish here are known as Pelagia noctiluca, the mauve stinger.
Courtesy of Stefano Piraino MED-JELLYRISK

Originally published on Tue August 27, 2013 2:01 pm

Blue turquoise waves lap at white sand on the Spanish island of Formentera in the Mediterranean Sea. Sweaty tourists from all over Europe cram the beach. But on this particular afternoon, no one dares take a cool dip in the water.

The reason? It's what Spaniards call "medusas" — named after the monster from Greek mythology, with a woman's face and venomous snakes for hair. In English, they're called jellyfish.

Gabrielle Amand's son was a recent victim of one. He's wrapped in a towel, sitting under an umbrella on the shore.

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Environment
8:03 am
Sat August 24, 2013

On A Rocky Maine Island, Puffins Making A Tenuous Comeback

Originally published on Sat August 24, 2013 11:39 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. East Coast seabirds have had a tough year. They've been battered by storms and disruptions in the food chain. Among them, the sturdy little Atlantic puffin. Now, here in the United States, their numbers dwindle to just a single nesting pair by 1901. Since then, thanks to the Audubon Society's Project Puffin, they've made a comeback. But as WBUR's Fred Bever reports, the puffins are now facing some new threats.

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Environment
7:55 am
Sat August 24, 2013

Can The World Engineer A Cooler Climate?

Originally published on Sat August 24, 2013 11:39 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Draft report from the intergovernmental panel on climate change was leaked to the media this week. The scientists will report to the U.N. that it is nearly certain that human activity has caused most of the earth's climate change over the last 50 years. Now, this leak is certain to rekindle debates about how best to contend with events like increasing temperatures and rising sea levels, and it might make some people take a new look at what's called geoengineering.

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Environment
5:49 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

The 'Consensus' View: Kevin Trenberth's Take On Climate Change

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 9:12 pm

Next month, a scientific committee sponsored by the United Nations will put out its latest assessment of climate change. The report is expected to underscore yet again that climate change is a serious problem and human beings are largely responsible.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) represents a consensus view of hundreds of scientists from around the world. The effort shared the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

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Technology
1:40 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

A Robot Lab to Survey the Sea Floor

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 4:26 pm

Imagine a robotic lab that can sample ocean organisms on its own and perform DNA analysis of what it finds. William Ussler, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, describes how a prototypical robotic explorer is helping study the life around undersea thermal vents.

Your Health
1:40 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Study Correlates Copper Intake and Alzheimer's in Mice

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 4:26 pm

Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers write of a possible link between copper in drinking water and Alzheimer's disease in mice. Lead author Rashid Deane discusses the potential mechanism.

The Two-Way
1:14 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Calif. Wildfire Nearly Doubles In Size, Burns Into Yosemite Park

A Colorado-based firefighter monitors a backfire while battling the Rim Fire in Groveland, Calif., on Thursday. The Rim Fire continues to burn out of control and has grown to more than 105,000 acres, officials said Friday.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Sat August 24, 2013 12:52 am

Updated at 12:35 a.m. Saturday: Emergency For San Francisco

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for San Francisco because of the wildfire's threat to public utilities there.

The fire is 150 miles from the city, but Brown said the fire jeopardizes San Francisco's power lines and stations in the fire area. The city has already had to shut down two of its three hydroelectric power stations, the AP reports.

Further damage could have an impact on San Francisco's power supply.

Our Post From Late Friday:

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The Two-Way
11:38 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Hurricane Season A Bust? Don't Be So Sure

A satellite image provided by NASA shows Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 30. Forecasters underestimated the intensity of the Atlantic hurricane season last year.
NASA Getty Images

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 1:55 pm

Back in May, several independent forecast groups predicted an especially active Atlantic hurricane season this year. But with August drawing to a close, we've yet to see a single one.

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Asia
4:21 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Regulators Monitor 'Serious Leaks' At Japanese Nuclear Plant

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 7:25 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant is back in the news more than two years after an earthquake and tsunami triggered a series of meltdowns. New leaks found this week prompted regulators to consider raising the alert level there in Japan. NPR's science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel joined us to explain. Geoff, good morning.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Why raise the alert level?

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Environment
5:26 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

'Uncertain' Science: Judith Curry's Take On Climate Change

Judith Curry with her dogs, Rosie (left) and Bruno, in the mountains near Lake Tahoe. The climatologist focuses on the uncertainties of climate change far more than on the consensus of climate scientists.
Richard Harris NPR

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 5:10 pm

While the Obama administration presses forward with plans to deal with climate change, Congress remains steadfast against taking action. It's not easy to find a scientist who will agree with that point of view. But Republicans have found an ally in a climate scientist by the name of Judith Curry.

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All Tech Considered
3:25 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

Weekly Innovation: Hey, You're Taking Too Long In The Shower

The Uji shower head will be available for sale in early 2014. Its light turns from green to red as the shower progresses.
Courtesy of Brett Andler

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 8:16 am

This week's innovation pick is a shower head that reminds you you're taking too long. The Uji shower head gradually turns from green to red as users linger in the shower.

"It encourages [people] to take shorter and more energy efficient showers," said one of the co-inventors, Brett Andler. "By letting people become aware of how long they're in the shower, we've actually been able to cut shower time by 12 percent."

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Environment
2:57 am
Tue August 20, 2013

How Extreme Australian Rains Made Global Sea Levels Drop

Heavy rains in Australia in 2010 and 2011 flooded farmland and homes, like these in the Queensland state town of St. George, seen here on Feb. 7. 2011.
Sally Nicol Rigney AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 9:19 am

Global sea level has been rising as a result of global warming, but in 2010 and 2011, sea level actually fell by about a quarter of an inch.

Scientists now say they know why: It has to do with extreme weather in Australia.

The sea level drop coincided with some of the worst flooding in that continent's history. Dozens of people died and torrents washed away houses and cars, forcing thousands from their homes.

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The Salt
3:43 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Incredibly Shrinking Avocados: Why This Year's Fruit Are So Tiny

We found lots of avocados being sold six or 10 to a $1 bag in the San Francisco area. Some weighed less than 3 ounces.
Alastair Bland for NPR

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 12:40 pm

What's thick-skinned and leathery, about the size of an egg, essential for guacamole and sold eight for a dollar?

No, not limes. Hass avocados. This year, anyway. These pear-sized fruits usually weigh half a pound or more. In the summer of 2013, though, hundreds of thousands of trees in Southern California are sagging with the tiniest Hass avocados in local memory — some just the size of a golf ball.

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Environment
7:55 am
Sat August 17, 2013

Dolphin Deaths Alarm Scientists

Originally published on Sun August 18, 2013 7:35 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Dolphins are washing ashore in alarming numbers in the Mid-Atlantic states this summer. More than 160 deaths of dolphins have been reported since early July and that's the worst fate in 26 years. Response teams from New York to Virginia are trying to determine just what's killing all these dolphins. Charlie Potter is working with one of those teams at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center.

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The Picture Show
3:52 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

A Serengeti Safari From The Safety Of Your Desk

Cubs of the Simba East pride: too young to kill but old enough to crave meat. Adult females, and sometimes males, do the hunting. Zebras and wildebeests rank high as chosen prey in the rainy season.
Michael Nichols National Geographic

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Environment
11:56 am
Fri August 16, 2013

For a Greener Yard, Lose the Lawn

Across the Southwest, cities are banning water-thirsty front lawns. Cado Daily of the University of Arizona's Water Wise Program views that as an opportunity to plant a "rainscape" — a yard with drought-friendly native plants that she says can look as lush as a lawn, and lure wildlife back, too.

Politics
11:24 am
Fri August 16, 2013

What's Making Headlines Outside Of Washington?

Congress has gone home for its annual August recess, so Tell Me More takes a look at headlines in places across the country. Guest host Celeste Headlee talks with Mike Leary from the San Antonio Express-News and Dana Coffield of The Denver Post.

Around the Nation
5:58 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Drought Forces Restrictions On Colorado River Water Releases

Relentless drought will force the government to cut back on water releases between Glen Canyon and Lake Mead. It's the first time that's happened since dams were built on the Colorado River. Reduction starts next year, and the announcement gives the 40 million water users in the Southwest time to plan.

Environment
5:43 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

EPA To Crack Down On Accuracy Of MPG Claims By Car Makers

For auto companies, that Environmental Protection Agency-approved MPG sticker on a new car is a high stakes and expensive process. These days it can be damaging to a company's image if customers can't achieve that great fuel economy in their own commutes.

Joe's Big Idea
5:24 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Scientists Reach Milestone In Quest For Smart Windows

Smart windows change how much sunlight they let through on a hot day. Such windows could reduce the demand for energy by reducing the need for air conditioning. This quest has been going on for years but it's got years to go before the project becomes a reality.

The Picture Show
9:18 am
Wed August 14, 2013

Capturing The Complexities Of The Colorado River

A major tributary of the Colorado River, the Dolores River Basin, is seen south of Grand Junction, Colo. Ken Neubecker, executive director of the Western Rivers Institute, talks about the connection of water and energy. "Water takes a lot of energy, a huge amount of energy; people don't realize it. We tend to take water for granted."
Heather Rousseau

As a photographer, how do you visualize something that can't always be seen? Like, how do you show the complex relationships between water, energy and modern society?

It's not easy, but that was my task as I worked on a photo essay for a capstone class at Ohio University last fall about life along the upper Colorado River.

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The Two-Way
12:36 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Federal Court Says U.S. Must Complete Yucca Mountain Review

Originally published on Tue August 13, 2013 12:50 pm

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Obama administration is breaking the law by delaying its review of a plan to store nuclear waste in Nevada. The court ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must complete its licensing process — that is, approve or reject — the Energy Department's plan for the waste site in Nevada.

NPR's Geoff Brumfiel filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's original job was to issue or deny a license to build a nuclear waste dump inside Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

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The Salt
10:49 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Why Urban Beekeeping Can Be Bad For Bees

Beehive designer Johannes Paul (right) and Natural England's ecologist Peter Massini, with a brood frame colonized with bees from the "beehaus" beehive on the roof of his house in London in 2009.
Sang Tan AP

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 5:27 pm

Two British scientists are dumping cold water on campaigns to promote urban beekeeping. They say that trying to "help the bees" by setting out more hives is naive and misguided if the bees can't find enough flowers nearby to feed on. You'll just end up with sick and starving bees.

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