Environment

WNPR's Environmental Reporting Initiative is made possible by United Technologies Corporation.

A blighted tornado-damaged building on Main Street in Springfield, Massachusetts will soon come under the wrecker’s ball. 

Springfield city officials will formally announce Monday the demolition of a former auto parts store, that was the scene of a recent natural gas leak that forced a temporary closure of several streets and precautionary evacuations.  The city seized the building for non-payment of taxes, but could not find an interested buyer for redevelopment.  Mayor Domenic Sarno is pursuing a blight reduction strategy.

Evan Schuurman / Save The Children

Two Connecticut-based agencies are responding to Cyclone Pam. The monster storm is believed to have left widespread destruction and killed an unknown number of residents on the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu. 

Backers of a renewable energy bill making its way through the Vermont Legislature say a draft ruling from regulators in Connecticut effectively endorses the Vermont legislation.

Karl-Ludwig Poggemann / Creative Commons

Go for a drive through Sweden and you’ll find some of the safest roads in the world. But that hasn’t stopped the small country from rolling out a plan to make its roads even safer. The goal of Sweden's Vision Zero Initiative is to eliminate the number of national road deaths and injuries.

Meanwhile, much of the United States is still trying to figure out what to do about a lot of its traffic and infrastructural issues. In Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy has proposed making changes like widening I-95. But some question whether that’s really the best way to improve traffic flow along the congested interstate.

This hour, we talk with the Vision Zero Initiative's project manager to find out how Sweden is improving its road systems, and find out what we can learn from its approach to traffic safety. We also hear the story of one man's proposal to build a skating lane in Edmonton, Alberta. Dread your work commute? Why not strap on your blades and skate there? 

John Mueller / Creative Commons

Amtrak says 299 passengers headed for Boston were stuck on a cold, dark train for more than three hours after it lost power in Connecticut. 

City of Middletown / Middletowneyenews.blogspot.com

Zoning may not be the sexiest topic when it comes to headlines, but it sure has been in the news a lot lately, and it tells us a lot about what matters in our cities and towns.

This hour, we hear about some recent zoning stories making waves in different parts of the state, and we hear from you -- what has zoning law done for you lately?

The near-record amount of snow that has fallen on Boston this winter is testing one of the city's great traditions: On orders from Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the Public Works Department began removing parking space savers from city streets on Monday.

In the past, the informal rule has been that whoever takes the time to dig out a parking space gets to keep it for 48 hours. But this year, the city has gotten about 100 inches of snow and those 48 hours have turned into weeks.

NASA Goddard Photo and Video / Flickr Creative Commons

High levels of carbon dioxide are putting creatures in Long Island Sound at risk. That's the finding of a new study examining the economic impact of climate change on our shoreline.

Board any city bus in Portugal's second-largest municipality, Porto, and you've got free Wi-Fi. More than 600 city buses and taxis have been fitted with wireless routers, creating what's touted as the biggest Wi-Fi-in-motion network in the world.

George Dante fell in love with taxidermy as a young child. His parents took him to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and he couldn't tear his eyes away from the dioramas in the Hall of African Mammals.

As Boston slowly returns to normal following more than 100 inches of snowfall this winter — most of it in the last month — trash collectors are struggling to keep up with the waste.

Snowstorm after snowstorm have piled on the complaints from city residents. In the average month, the city gets in the area of 900 complaints about trash pickup. This month the city has received 4,600.

The Federal Highway Administration has approved a study of an electronic toll system in Connecticut. The pilot program for so-called value-pricing bypasses a federal ban on federal highway tolls by offering an exemption that allows certain types of electronic tolls. 

While Paris worries about mystery drones, a Dutch town is confronting an aerial threat of its own: owl attacks.

DMahendra / Creative Commons

The head of a state-funded watchdog agency is wondering what proposed budget cuts could mean for the future of environmental oversight in Connecticut. In question is the future of the Council on Environmental Quality, which for more than 40 years, has monitored everything from air to wildlife conditions in the state.

It's a relatively small line item in the budget: about $180,000. That money funds two full-time paid positions at the CEQ. There's also a nine-member board that collects no salary.

The love between two ferns knows few bounds, it appears. A DNA analysis of a hybrid fern shows that its parents are two different species separated by nearly 60 million years of evolution.

"A 60 million year divergence is approximately equivalent to a human mating with a lemur," says Carl Rothfels, a fern researcher at the University of British Columbia, who headed the study. The hybrid is a record, he says.

The Arctic cold snap that has gripped much of the U.S. lately may be causing hardship for many, but it's also creating some spectacular ice formations at Niagara Falls. The spectacle is drawing huge crowds on both the Canadian and American side of the border.

The air temperature is so cold that the water and mist coming off the falls is frozen in place. Some of the formations look like massive boulders, others look like long shards of white glass.

The Connecticut Gological Survey

Following a series of small earthquakes in the eastern part of Connecticut, WNPR’s Patrick Skahill set out on a mission to find out what was causing so many to occur over such a short period of time. Turns out, to fully understand, you have to go back hundreds of millions of years to a time when our state was being rocked by a massive continental collision. 

BenFrantzDale / Creative Commons

Temperatures have plummeted in Connecticut, with the wind chill nearly 20 degrees below zero. But how is wind chill actually calculated? To answer that question, I learned about the number's colorful -- and changing -- history.

It was the 1940s. Two scientists were in the Antarctic; it was windy -- and they decided to try an experiment.

Hazel Motes / Creative Commons

State environmental officials are setting out their legislative priorities for 2015, and there's at least one unexpected issue that's being addressed: jet packs.

The legislative proposals are wide-ranging, covering everything from stricter labeling requirements on farm products made in Connecticut to a program requiring that tire companies assume more responsibility for disposing of their products after consumer use.

Then there are water jet packs. "It's basically a James Bond-style jet pack that uses the thrust of a personal watercraft to send the rider 20 or 30 feet in the air," said Rob Klee, head of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Olivia Drake / Wesleyan University

You may not think there are a lot of stellar wonders visible from Middletown, but astronomer and professor Wesleyan Univeresity Meredith Hughes disagrees.

"It's actually pretty amazing that in the middle of a city, we can see a ton of beautiful things in the night sky," Hughes said. Her observatory, located on a hill at Wesleyan, is now opening its telescope to the public every Wednesday night.

Office of Gov. Dannel Malloy

Governor Dannel Malloy wants to provide new incentives for solar power in the state. His office is crafting new legislation that would let homeowners trade in renewable energy credits for the first time.

Chesapeake Bay Program / Creative Commons

A Connecticut environmental education group is introducing almost two dozen rescued baby turtles from Alaska. SoundWaters Coastal Education Center in Stamford took in 22 turtles rescued from global wildlife-trafficking.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Public Affairs Chief Gavin Shire, global wildlife-trafficking has been increasing. Shire said the smugglers are likely to be from both inside and outside the U.S., with a common trafficking route as far away as China. Turtle soup is considered a delicacy in China, where there is a lucrative market for turtles.

Space, you may have heard, can be a cold and lonely place. But the NASA/ESA Hubble telescope has identified a particularly well-adjusted corner of space — or at least that's what a recent image suggests, with the help of an effect called an Einstein Ring.

In the Hubble image of galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849, two bright galaxies resemble eyes, NASA says, "and the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing."

Patrick Skahill / WNPR

Imagine Connecticut: mountains as high and as sharp as the Himalayas, volcanic activity, and ancient earthquakes shaking the ground -- much more powerful than those we feel today. To understand how this happened, we need to dial the clock back just a little bit... about 300 million years.

That's when the supercontinent of Pangea was taking shape, and an ancient landmass housing modern-day Africa and South America had slammed into Connecticut's coast. 

Before anyone tries to cool the Earth with technologies that could counteract global warming, there needs to be a lot more research into the benefits and risks. That's the conclusion announced Tuesday by a scientific panel convened by the prestigious National Research Council to assess "climate geoengineering" — deliberate attempts to alter the global climate.

Geoengineering has been seen as the potential last-ditch option to stave off the worst effects of climate change, given that agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been slow in coming.

Boston has had more than 72 inches of snow in the past 30 days, breaking a record set in 1978, the National Weather Service says. The city has repeatedly been among the hardest-hit by several winter storms — and it could get another 4 to 6 inches later this week.

The Vermont Health Department says for the first time it has found the radioactive isotope Strontium-90 in ground water at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon.

In a huge vacant for sale lot in the Seaport District — on which someday there will be an office building — presently sits the city’s biggest pile of snow.

It’s Boston’s largest snow farm. The snow is dumped here from all over the city. Fifteen- to 20-foot-high piles, almost as far as the eye can see, have been moved onto this lot.

Gov. Charlie Baker says metro Boston's aging MBTA subway lines will be operating on an "abbreviated" schedule and not normal workday times. Commuter trains will attempt to maintain a weekday schedule, but delays are likely.

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