While many of us may prefer to never again see temperatures drop below zero like they did earlier this week across the country, the deep freeze is putting warm smiles on the faces of many entomologists.
That's because it may have been cold enough in some areas to freeze and kill some damaging invasive species of insects, including the tree-killing emerald ash borer.
Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 12:52 pm
A 26-part series on genetically modified food was not Nathanael Johnson's idea. And he didn't realize it would take six months, either.
Last year, Johnson was hired as the new food writer for Grist, a website for environmental news and opinion. Grist's editor, Scott Rosenberg, was waiting with an assignment: Dig into the controversy over GMOs.
At the Australian Bat Clinic in Queensland, 15 baby flying foxes (bats) were lined up and ready to be fed Thursday. They were brought there to get out of the extreme heat, which has killed hundreds of thousands of bats.
During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work in National Parks and forests in the Civilian Conservation Corps. President Obama's Secretary of the Interior wants to bring back that spirit, to create jobs and a new generation of conservationists.
But as NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports, it's not the easiest thing to do in tight budget times.
A sperm whale entangled in a drift net. A report says commercial fisheries around the world kill or injure 650,000 mammals a year.
Credit Alberto Romero / Marine Photobank
A gill net about 300 feet long was found abandoned on a reef near Oahu, Hawaii. Many marine mammals end up caught in fishing gear like these large mesh nets that fishermen set on the seafloor or leave to float in the ocean.
Hundreds of thousands of marine mammals are injured or killed every year by fishermen around the world. And because most seafood in the U.S. is imported, that means our fish isn't as dolphin-friendly as you might expect.
Under pressure from conservation groups, federal regulators are preparing to tighten import standards to better protect marine mammals.
There was a time, more than 40 years ago, when U.S. fishermen killed millions of dolphins while fishing for tuna. After a public backlash, fishermen figured out how to minimize that so-called bycatch.
Imagine being on a quiet fishing trip and suddenly coming face-to-face with creatures who are huge and can leap out of the water. And, by the way, they reproduce in big numbers. They are Asian carp. They have already invaded parts of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Now there are fears Asian carp could take over the Great Lakes. Researchers believe they know how to slow this invasion but it could be costly and it could take decades.
Britain's southwest coast is getting slammed by a winter storm, with high winds driving waves as high as 27 feet ashore in an unusual event that meteorologists say is likely linked to the bone-chilling "polar vortex" gripping much of the U.S.
European scientists were alarmed in 2008 when they discovered streams of methane bubbles erupting from the seafloor in Norway's high Arctic. This gas, which contributes to global warming, was apparently coming from methane ice on the seafloor. A follow-up study finds that methane bubble plumes at this location have probably been forming for a few thousand years, so they are not the result of human-induced climate change. But continued warming of ocean water can trigger more methane releases in the Arctic, with potentially serious consequences to the climate.
The U.S. Forest Service has proposed a large salvage logging operation in the area affected by last year's historic Rim Fire, which burned 410-square miles of California's Sierra Nevada. The proposal is meeting stiff opposition from environmental groups who say the land is better left untouched.
It's a near-perfect morning on Venice Beach in Southern California, temperatures in the 60s, with a breeze. You can hear the waves of the Pacific crash against the sand. Only a layer of clouds mars the scene.
Scott and Sue Nolan, visiting from Houston, play kickball in the sand with their son. They are grateful to be in this mild, if not perfectly sunny weather, but Sue Nolan has noticed something's not right.
"One of the thoughts, when we were driving through town was, how are they sustaining all this with what you see so dry everywhere?" she says.
Alexandra Jones-Twaddell and Malley Chertkov add a Christmas tree to the growing line in Island Beach State Park in February 2013. Similar dune restoration projects — using trees as a foundation to trap sand — will be carried out this year all along the Atlantic Coast.
Credit Adam Cole / NPR
Near Jefferson, La., volunteers place recycled Christmas trees inside man-made wooden cribs in the shallow water of a local marsh in January 2011. The trees absorb wave action and protect fragile marshland from erosion.
Credit Jefferson Parish Department of Environmental Affairs / AP
For the past three decades, Oklahoma averaged about 50 earthquakes a year. But that number has skyrocketed in the past few years. In 2013 — the state's most seismically active year ever — there were almost 3,000.
The quakes are small, and they're concentrated in the central part of the state, where the Erwins live.
This famous bet — between a biologist and an economist — was over population growth. It started three decades ago, but it helped set the tone for environmental debates that are still happening today.
The biologist at the heart of this bet was Paul Ehrlich at Stanford. He wrote a best-selling book in 1968 called The Population Bomb. It was so popular he appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
With local cod so scarce, Chef Toby Hill of Lyric Restaurant in Yarmouth Port, Mass., tries out a dogfish salad — served here with garlic aioli on toast — instead. Dogfish is still plentiful in New England waters, but wholesale fisheries say there's not much demand for it in the U.S.
Credit Christine Hochkeppel / Courtesy of Cape Cod Times
A dead carp floats in water near the shore at Big Creek State Park on Sept. 10 in Polk City, Iowa. Like many agricultural states, Iowa is working with the EPA to enforce clean-water regulations amid degradation from manure spills and farm-field runoff.
Archeologists who study the people who lived in the Arctic thousands of years ago are in a race against time. Coastal settlements are being washed away by erosion, storm surges and other climate changes related to global warming. Clues to the past that were frozen intact in permafrost for thousands of years are melting and being destroyed by the elements. Archeologists are looking to climate scientists to predict where the erosion will be the fastest so they can pinpoint their research on the places that will disappear the soonest.
The journalism world may be in crisis, but one magazine in France has been steadily gaining subscribers for 40 years. It's a nature journal called La Hulotte, and twice a year it focuses on an animal or plant indigenous to the French countryside. The magazine published its 100th issue in November. It has more than 150,000 subscribers in many countries and is doing terrific financially.
Villages in the Lower Shire valley of Malawi, like this one named Jasi, rely heavily on subsistence farming and steady rainfall, and are struggling to produce steady harvests.
Credit Jennifer Ludden/NPR
Saiton Ngalou lays hay over his corn field to help retain moisture and keep his harvest healthy. He also staggers beans along the rows of maize, to cut down on soil erosion from heavy downpours.
Credit Jennifer Ludden/NPR
Jasi's farmers now track rainfall with a water gauge installed by Eagles Relief and Development. Last year, when it hit 26.7 millimeters on Dec. 18, they put up signs at the local church and school informing people that they could plant millet, since the soil was moist enough for it to germinate. The trigger for planting corn was 35.6 millimeters.
Credit Jennifer Ludden/NPR
Victor Mughogho (left) is the executive director of Eagles Relief and Development, a nonprofit organization that's helping farmers adapt to climate change. He talks with villagers in Jasi, where his group has also donated goats so that people can sell the offspring if their harvest falls short.
Rain is so important in Malawi's agriculture-based economy that there are names for different kinds of it, from the brief bursts of early fall to heavier downpours called mvula yodzalira, literally "planting rain." For generations, rainfall patterns here in the southeast part of Africa have been predictable, reliable. But not now.
In the village of Jasi, in the hot, flat valley of Malawi's Lower Shire, farmer Pensulo Melo says 2010 was a disaster.
Millions of American property owners get flood insurance from the federal government, and a lot of them get a hefty discount. But over the past decade, the government has paid out huge amounts of money after floods, and the flood insurance program is deeply in the red.
Congress tried to fix that in 2012 by passing a law to raise insurance premiums. Now that move has created such uproar among property owners that Congress is trying to make the law it passed disappear.
The world's climate is warmer on average than it was a hundred years ago. Plants in some places are emerging earlier in the spring and insects that like warm weather are on the move. But scientists are finding out that the culprit isn't just warmth. As NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, it's also the absence of cold snaps.
CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: The idea that a warmer planet could mean avocados in Scotland or bananas in Montana may sound silly. But in fact, tropical plants are moving north. For instance, mangroves in Maryland.
Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 8:25 pm
Conservators working to preserve artifacts from the early days of Antarctic exploration have uncovered century-old black-and-white negatives taken during Ernest Shackleton's 1914-1917 expedition but never printed.
The Endangered Species Act, which turns 40 on Saturday, helped bring back iconic species such as the wolf, grizzly bear and bald eagle, after hunting, trapping and pesticides almost wiped those animals out.
But a very different kind of threat — global warming — is pushing some species like the polar bear to the brink of extinction.
One government biologist discovered the best way he could help save polar bears was to quit his job.
Thirty-four wildland firefighters died in the line of duty this year. Some of those fatalities were isolated incidents, but one event captured the nation's attention, sparking a larger conversation about the new dangers firefighters face.
That event unfolded in central Arizona the afternoon of June 30, a Sunday.
"I'm here with Granite Mountain Hot Shots. Our escape route has been cut off," says a crew boss on recently released radio traffic from the Yarnell Hill Fire. "We are preparing a deployment site, and I'll give you a call when we are under the shelters.