Environment

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

New satellite images of St. Elijah's Monastery, located in the ISIS-held city of Mosul, no longer show a neatly chiseled, square parcel of land, complete with walls and buildings built into a hill.

All that can be seen of the Christian monastery, parts of which are 1,400 years old, is a dusty field of rubble. It was apparently razed by ISIS in its quest to destroy religious or historical artifacts deemed heretical.

The astronomer whose work helped kick Pluto out of the pantheon of planets says he has good reason to believe there's an undiscovered planet bigger than Earth lurking in the distant reaches of our solar system.

A rare sight will greet early risers starting Wednesday morning. About 45 minutes before sunrise, five planets – Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter – will all be visible in the sky.

The best time to get planetary sightseeing in will be at the end of the week. By then, the five aforementioned planets will form an arch-shaped line in the sky that will be fairly easy to follow. The moon will pop up in the intergalactic line-up shortly thereafter.

To understand why General Electric would abandon its sprawling Fairfield, Connecticut, campus, for Boston’s waterfront, consider what one small, 30-person firm is looking for as it seeks out office space in the same neighborhood: showers.

“Because a lot of people are biking to work,” explained real estate broker Greg Hoffmeister. “They want to have that, or go running at lunch. So having a shower is pretty important.”

Wikimedia Commons

Atlantic salmon are back, and they're spawning in Connecticut. It's the first time in centuries this creature has returned naturally to the state. But climate change and dwindling conservation money still present a lot of issues for this migratory fish.

Water contamination in Flint, Mich, — where the city switched water sources, causing pipe corrosion and ultimately filling the city's water supply with high levels of lead — has prompted President Obama to declare a state of emergency.

The move, which was requested by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, means FEMA is authorized to provide equipment and resources to the people affected. Federal funding will help cover the cost of providing water, water filters and other items.

Jake Gagne / Creative Commons

Congestion tolling, a higher sales tax, and increasing the state gas tax to the 1990s rate of 39 cents per gallon are among the ideas being recommended to help fund Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy's proposed $100 billion transportation overhaul.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has some big changes planned for Penn Station in New York City. Among them: he wants to connect it to Metro-North, with a plan to build four new stations in The Bronx.

Citing concerns over pricing and pollution, the Obama administration on Friday unveiled a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands. The change won't affect existing leases, which generated nearly $1.3 billion for the government last year.

The Department of the Interior says it wants to make sure the money it's charging for coal leases takes into account both market prices and what's often called the "social costs" of coal — its impact on climate change and public health.

The agency says federal lands account for roughly 40 percent of all U.S. coal production.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

The Federal Railroad Administration is looking at ways to overhaul the Northeast Corridor -- the busiest commuter rail system in the country that runs through parts of Connecticut. 

MJI Photos / Creative Commons

In winter it's hard for gardeners to get their fix of greenery. You can visit greenhouses such as at Yale's Marsh Botanic Garden, but it's nice to have your own house plants to create a warm, clean environment.

A mind-boggling stellar explosion is baffling astronomers, who say this cosmic beast is so immensely powerful that no one's sure exactly what made it go boom.

The recently discovered inferno is about 200 times more powerful than a typical exploding star, or supernova, and 570 billion times brighter than our sun. It was first spotted in June by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae, nicknamed the "Assassin" project, so it's called ASASSN-15lh.

peasap / Creative Commons

Republican lawmakers are proposing a constitutional amendment that would make it harder for the state to give away open space. The measure comes at a time when officials say Connecticut won't meet its goals for land conservation. 

Vincent Scarano / Connecticut College

Picture a curbside lined with garbage. You may imagine old mattresses or discarded TVs, but there's one bit of trash your mind may block out: cigarette butts. An anthropology professor at Connecticut College has become obsessed with these often-overlooked artifacts of modern life, examining what they can tell us about our culture -- and the basics of archeology. 

Christine Olson / Creative Commons

An oceanographer who helped solve the mystery of last summer’s explosion on a crowded Rhode Island beach said there’s a very low risk of the same type of explosion occurring again.

MGM has announced major demolition work will begin next week as it prepares the site in downtown Springfield where a $950 million resort casino is planned.

Almost a year after the former Zanetti school building served as the backdrop for the MGM Springfield groundbreaking, it will be demolished beginning Tuesday, according to a press release from MGM. 

The much anticipated major construction work follows state environmental and city zoning approvals. 

MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis said the casino remains on track to open in the fall of 2018.

Britain's most iconic steam engine roared back to life Friday, after more than a decade of renovation work.

The Flying Scotsman — the first train to reach 100 miles per hour, back in 1934 — was pulled out of service in 1963. Now it's coming back, Reuters reports:

"The venerable engine, which has toured both the United States and Australia since it was retired from service, made a series of short test runs on Friday, ahead of a programme of heritage journeys this year on Britain's main lines.

Christine Olson / Creative Commons

The cable that caused an explosion at a crowded Rhode Island beach last summer, injuring a woman, may have counterparts lying under beaches, harbors and waterways at dozens of sites nationwide.

At the end of every year, U.S. meteorologists look back at what the nation's weather was like, and what they saw in 2015 was weird. The year was hot and beset with all manner of extreme weather events that did a lot of expensive damage.

December, in fact, was a fitting end.

NatureNerd / Creative Commons

It's the new year, and time for all good gardeners to spend a little time perusing seed and plant catalogs for new varieties. 

FuelCell Energy

Pfizer will install a fuel cell power plant at its Groton research and development facility. The aim is both to move to a greener form of energy, and to have the potential for off-grid reliability.

For now, they're known by working names, like ununseptium and ununtrium — two of the four new chemical elements whose discovery has been officially verified. The elements with atomic numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118 will get permanent names soon, according to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

A hotel in downtown Dubai erupted in flames on Thursday evening, just two hours before the city was due to celebrate New Year's Eve with a massive fireworks display.

At midnight local time, the celebration proceeded as planned — resulting in a jarring double display of light and smoke, as firefighters continued to battle the blaze at one skyscraper while fireworks were sent off from the nearby Burj Khalifa.

Sonny Abesamis flickr.com/photos/enerva / Creative Commons

With the holidays behind us, gardeners are often looking for ways to keep their hands in the dirt. One old-fashioned growing technique is making a comeback and is worth trying, especially with kids.

New Bedford Whaling Museum

A new project is using log books from historic whaling vessels to get a broader look at climate change in the Arctic. The project, called Old Weather: Whaling, is getting help from citizen scientists.

City of New Haven

New Haven’s downtown streets are soon changing direction. Some streets that have been one-way for decades are now going to be two-way streets.

Mr.TinDC / Creative Commons

A $19 million line item in the new federal budget that's dedicated to much-needed improvements and modernization along the Northeast Rail Corridor is being hailed as a "foot in the door" for possibly more federal funding.

pedrik / Creative Commons

A conservation goal set more than a decade ago points to an ambitious target: preserving 21 percent of Connecticut's land as open space by 2023. Funding has now lagged, the state said, and it won't reach that goal. 

Bikes Abandoned at UConn Find New Homes in Hartford

Dec 24, 2015
BiCi Co. / Facebook

Dozens of bicycles found abandoned at the University of Connecticut or impounded by the school are finding new homes in Hartford.

Patrizia / Creative Commons

“I'm dreaming of a white Christmas..." Yes, dreaming seems like the best we'll be able to do this Christmas.

A white Christmas in Connecticut normally has about a 50/50 chance of occurring, with less chance along the shore and more a likely chance in the Northwest hills. But this winter the chance is nil, and it won't even be cold! 

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