Environment

Asia
5:10 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Air Quality Worries Dampen Chinese New Year Fireworks

Fireworks explode in a Shanghai street on Thursday, the eve of the Lunar New Year. Setting off firecrackers is meant to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. But many Chinese say they won't buy firecrackers this year, owing to growing worries about air quality.
Peter Parks AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 1:56 pm

People in China rang in the Year of the Horse overnight with the traditional barrage of fireworks, but Lunar New Year's celebrations in some cities were quieter than usual. After severe pollution choked much of eastern China last year, many people swore off the ancient tradition so they could protect their lungs and the environment.

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Around the Nation
3:01 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Weeks Later, More Questions Than Answers In W.Va. Chemical Spill

Workers inspect an area near storage tanks where a chemical leaked into the Elk River at Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, W.Va., on Jan. 13. It is still unclear exactly how much of the chemicals leaked into the area's water supply.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 1:28 pm

State officials in West Virginia say that in most areas, they can no longer detect any of the industrial chemical MCHM that spilled into the water supply recently. They say the water is safe for people to drink and use — including most pregnant women. But other public health specialists say they don't trust these assurances.

"I think there's no way to know what the safe levels of the chemicals are at this point," says Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the state's largest public health department. He's in charge of protecting 250,000 people whose water was affected by the spill.

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Environment
7:00 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Changing Climate In Argentina Is Killing Penguin Chicks

A penguin nestling sounds off at the Punta Tombo reserve. Young birds that haven't yet traded a down coat for juvenile plumage "aren't waterproof — at all," says biologist Dee Boersma.
Maxi Jonas Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 8:00 pm

There's a patch of seashore along the coast of Argentina where hundreds of thousands of penguins make their home. It's called Punta Tombo. Dee Boersma, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington, has been going there for 30 years, and she's discovered that a changing climate is killing those penguins.

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Around the Nation
5:27 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

SpaceX Could Give Struggling Texas City A Boost

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft atop rocket Falcon 9 lifts off from Cape Canaveral in Florida in May 2012. The launch made SpaceX the first commercial company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station.
Roberto Gonzalez Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 8:00 pm

The space company SpaceX has identified a remote spot on the southern tip of Texas as its finalist for construction of the world's newest commercial orbital launch site.

The 50-acre site really is at the end of the road. Texas Highway 4 abruptly ends at the warm waves of the Gulf surrounded by cactus, Spanish dagger and sand dunes.

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The Two-Way
1:35 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

This Photo Of Lake Michigan Will Make You Shiver

Lake Michigan, now partially frozen, as snow and clouds blow over.
NOAA

A photo posted by our friends at Michigan's Interlochen Public Radio is so cool we just had to know more about it and about what's going on with the Great Lakes during this extra-frigid winter.

As you'll see, the satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows clouds and snow blowing across the now partially ice-covered Lake Michigan.

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The Great Plains Oil Rush
3:27 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Much Of North Dakota's Natural Gas Is Going Up In Flames

Gas flaring near Highway 85 southwest of Williston. Analysts estimate that almost 30 percent of the gas being produced in the state is burned off.
Jeff Brady/NPR

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 11:44 am

A remarkable transformation is underway in western North Dakota, where an oil boom is changing the state's fortunes and leaving once-sleepy towns bursting at the seams. In a series of stories, NPR is exploring the economic, social and environmental demands of this modern-day gold rush.

North Dakota's oil boom isn't just about oil; a lot of natural gas comes out of the ground at the same time. But there's a problem with that: The state doesn't have the pipelines needed to transport all of that gas to market. There's also no place to store it.

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Around the Nation
1:36 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

How Industrial Chemical Regulation Failed West Virginia

Jonathan Steele, owner of Bluegrass Kitchen, fills a jug with bottled water from a tank he installed in the back of his Charleston restaurant.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 7:55 pm

On Jan. 9, people in and around Charleston, W.Va., began showing up at hospitals: They had nausea, eye infections and some were vomiting. It was later discovered that around 10,000 gallons of toxic chemicals had leaked into the Elk River, just upstream from a water treatment plant that serves 300,000 people. Citizens were told not to drink or bathe in the water, and while some people are now using water from their taps, many still don't trust it or the information coming from public officials.

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Author Interviews
2:17 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Entrepreneurs Looking For 'Windfall' Cash In On Climate Change

A boat skims through the melting ice in the Ilulissat fjord in August 2008, on the western coast of Greenland.
Steen Ulrik Johannessen AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 2:48 pm

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The Salt
12:07 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Soil, Weedkillers And GMOs: When Numbers Don't Tell The Whole Story

Farm statistics: usually illuminating ... occasionally misleading.
Seth Perlman AP

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 4:12 pm

I love numbers. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I think a good bar graph can be worth a thousand pictures.

But three times in the past few days, I've come across statistics in reputable-looking publications that made me stop and say, "Huh?"

I did some investigating so you don't have to. And indeed, the numbers don't quite tell the story that they purport to tell.

So here goes: My skeptical inquiry into statistics on herbicide use, soil erosion, and the production of fruits and nuts.

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Typhoon Haiyan Devastates The Philippines
6:20 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

'Nothing Is Fixed': Recovery Is Slow In Typhoon-Hit Philippine City

Young survivors of Typhoon Haiyan brave December rain as they ask for gifts from residents in the streets of Tacloban, the Philippines. Months after the storm, cleanup is still ongoing and many of the more than 6,000 dead have yet to be identified.
Ted Aljibe AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 1:35 pm

Typhoon Haiyan clocked in at 147 mph when it struck the Philippines late last year. It was one of the strongest storms ever recorded at landfall.

More than 6,000 people died, and nearly 2,000 more are still missing. Millions were displaced when their homes were destroyed or washed away. And authorities are still struggling with the simplest tasks, such as clearing away debris, rebuilding houses and counting the dead.

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Economy
5:21 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

Taking Stock Of The Northern Plains Oil Boom

Originally published on Sun January 26, 2014 6:20 pm

Beginning next week, NPR News will be taking an in-depth look at the unprecedented oil drilling boom happening on the Northern Plains, where the state of North Dakota has fast become one of the nation's most productive drilling regions. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks with NPR reporter Kirk Siegler, back from a recent reporting trip in North Dakota for the series.

Science
5:04 pm
Sat January 25, 2014

Antarctic Discovery: A Massive Valley Under The Ice

Ross' campsite on the West Antarctic ice sheet. For weeks, researchers eat, sleep and analyze data in these tents.
Neil Ross Newcastle University

Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 8:58 am

Not long ago, researchers found something amazing under the ice of West Antarctica: a valley deeper than the Grand Canyon, measuring about 2 miles deep, 15 miles across and nearly 200 miles long.

Neil Ross, lead author of the paper on the discovery, wasn't looking for the valley — he found it by accident.

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History
10:04 am
Sat January 25, 2014

Once, Cold Weather Came And Stayed — For Years

Originally published on Sat January 25, 2014 12:14 pm

It's been a bitterly cold winter in much of the country, but hey, it could be worse: You could have been alive in the 6th century. Starting in 536 A.D., scholars wrote of a cold snap that lasted not days, but years. Journalist Colin Barra speaks with NPR's Jacki Lyden about scientists' quest to determine what caused the epic cold spell.

The Two-Way
5:58 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

New Study Shakes Up Science On Midwest Quake Zone

Map showing seismic activity in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Originally published on Sat January 25, 2014 7:44 am

One of the biggest earthquakes in U.S. history didn't occur in California. Or Alaska. It happened in the country's midsection some 200 years ago in an area where today seven states straddle the Mississippi River Valley.

And seismologists from the United States Geological Survey believe they've uncovered evidence that the New Madrid Seismic Zone, as the area that spawned the 1811-12 quakes is known, is still alive and kicking.

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Science
5:22 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Not Gone, Just Sleeping: Earthquakes May Reawaken In Midwest

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 7:29 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Environment
11:02 am
Fri January 24, 2014

WIR 01-24-2014

Jeremy Eggers, NASA Wallops Chief of Public Affairs.

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Around the Nation
5:12 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Drinking Water Not Tested For Tens Of Thousands Of Chemicals

Al Jones of the West Virginia Department of General Services tests water as he flushes faucets and opens a rest room at the State Capitol in Charleston, W. Va., on Jan. 13, four days after a chemical spill into the Elk River. It wasn't until Jan. 21 that state officials were told by Freedom Industries that a second contaminant had also entered the river.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 8:48 pm

The fact that a second contaminant in West Virginia's drinking water eluded detection for nearly two weeks — despite intense testing of the water — reveals an important truth about how companies test drinking water: In most cases, they only find the contaminants they're looking for.

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Around the Nation
5:27 am
Thu January 23, 2014

Texas Landowners Keep Watchful Eye On Keystone KL Pipeline

Originally published on Thu January 23, 2014 8:20 am

Oil is now running through the southern part of the keystone XL pipeline. Supporters and opponents will be watching carefully to see what that could mean for the northern section of the project, that still awaits approval from the Obama administration.

The Two-Way
9:04 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Keystone Pipeline's Southern Section Begins Delivering Oil To Gulf Coast

A 2012 photo shows sections of pipe on a neighboring property to Julia Trigg Crawford family farm in Sumner Texas, in the path of the Keystone pipeline. TransCanada said today that it is delivering oil through the Gulf Coast portion of its proposed Keystone XL pipeline, from a hub in Cushing, Okla., to Houston-area refineries.
Tony Gutierrez AP

A large section of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline went into official operation Wednesday, in a move that supporters say will help ease the flow of oil to refineries in the Gulf Coast region. The Obama administration has yet to rule on the project's northern portion.

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Around the Nation
6:42 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Calif. Air Quality Affected By Lack Of Rain

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 8:12 am

California's drought is having a big impact on air quality. Winter storms usually clean out pollution, but without any rain the air is staying stagnant and could present a health risk.

Science
3:44 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Ancient And Vulnerable: 25 Percent Of Sharks And Rays Risk Extinction

Each year, 6 to 8 percent of the global population of sharks and rays gets caught, scientists say. The fish can't reproduce fast enough to keep pace
Mike Johnston Flickr

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 9:23 am

There are more than a thousand species of sharks and rays in the world, and nearly a quarter of them are threatened with extinction, according to a new study. That means these ancient types of fish are among the most endangered animals in the world.

This word comes from a Swiss-based group called the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which maintains the so-called Red List of species threatened with extinction.

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The Salt
3:51 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Whole Foods Bans Produce Grown With Sludge. But Who Wins?

A woman shops in the produce section at Whole Foods in New York City. The company recently announced it would prohibit produce farmed using biosolids in its stores.
Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 6:55 pm

If you've ever shopped at Whole Foods, you've probably noticed that some of the foods it sells claim all kinds of health and environmental virtues. From its lengthy list of unacceptable ingredients for food to its strict rules for how seafood is caught and meat is raised, the company sets a pretty high bar for what is permitted on its coveted shelves.

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Business
7:49 am
Tue January 21, 2014

More Cities Bring Buried Streams Back To Life

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 8:07 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Many cities across this country have paved over their streams, often to make way for urban development. The streams go underground. Now cities are realizing that uncovering those streams can have environmental and economic benefits.

Ann Thompson of member station WVXU reports so-called daylighting could be coming to a stream near you.

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Around the Nation
5:19 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Drought Emergency Declared In California Gov. Brown

Originally published on Mon January 20, 2014 8:04 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne. Governor Jerry Brown has formally declared a drought emergency in California, saying the state is facing possibly the worst drought it has ever seen since record keeping began more than a hundred years ago.

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The Two-Way
8:29 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

California's Governor Declares Drought State Of Emergency

Gov. Jerry Brown holds a chart showing California's average precipitation as he declares a drought state of emergency for the state Friday. Brown asked residents to voluntarily reduce water usage by 20 percent.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Saying that his state must take steps to plan for prolonged water shortages, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency over an extended drought Friday. California faces "water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history," according to the governor's office.

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The Two-Way
5:15 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Chemical Company In West Virginia Water Crisis Files For Bankruptcy

Freedom Industries, which has been blamed for a chemical spill that left thousands of people without water, has filed for bankruptcy. The company's facility on Barlow St. is seen here on the banks of the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia.
Tom Hindman Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 7:40 pm

Freedom Industries, the West Virginia company that's been blamed for a chemical spill that left around 300,000 people without water for days, has filed for bankruptcy. The chemical used in cleaning coal leaked into the Elk River and into the public water system.

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Environment
7:25 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

About 6,000 Natural Gas Leaks Found In D.C.'s Aging Pipes

A close-up schematic of leaks near the U.S. Capitol shows high leak densities east of the building, but few leaks over the National Mall, where very few natural gas pipelines exist.
Robert B. Jackson/Environmental Science and Technology

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 1:18 pm

The nation's capital is a pretty old city by American standards. It dates back to the late 18th century. Despite frequent face-lifts, parts of it are wearing out — for example, its underground gas pipelines. New research shows that Washington, D.C., suffers from thousands of leaks of natural gas.

"We drove 1,500 road miles in Washington, D.C., and found about 6,000 leaks," says Robert Jackson, an ecologist and environmental scientist at Duke University. "That's roughly four leaks every mile."

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Animals
4:11 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

To Save Threatened Owl, Another Species Is Shot

A northern spotted owl in a Redwood forest.
Michael Nichols Getty Images/National Geographic Creative

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 12:19 pm

In desperation to save the rare northern spotted owl, biologists are doing something that goes against their core — shooting another owl that's rapidly taking over spotted owl territory across the northwest.

"If we don't do it, what we're essentially doing, in my view, is dooming the spotted owl to extinction," says Lowell Diller, senior biologist for Green Diamond, a timber company.

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Science
3:27 am
Thu January 16, 2014

An Old Tree Doesn't Get Taller, But Bulks Up Like A Bodybuilder

The world's biggest trees, such as this large Scots pine in Spain's Sierra de Baza range, are also the world's fastest-growing trees, according to an analysis of 403 tree species spanning six continents.
Asier Herrero Nature

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 9:12 am

Like other animals and many living things, we humans grow when we're young and then stop growing once we mature. But trees, it turns out, are an exception to this general rule. In fact, scientists have discovered that trees grow faster the older they get.

Once trees reach a certain height, they do stop getting taller. So many foresters figured that tree growth — and girth — also slowed with age.

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The Two-Way
8:58 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Pregnant Women Warned Against Drinking Water In W.Va. Area

The Freedom Industries facility sits on the banks of the Elk River last Friday, in Charleston, W.Va., site of a chemical spill that has led to a ban on using tap water in the area. The CDC says pregnant women in affected areas should drink only bottled water.
Tom Hindman Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging pregnant women who live in the areas of West Virginia where a toxic chemical leaked into the water supply last week to drink bottled water, even in places where the no-use ban has been lifted. The move comes "out of an abundance of caution," the CDC and the state's Bureau of Public Health say.

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