Environment

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

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.

If you were seeking a seething mass of microbes, it'd be hard to think of a better place to look than the New York City subway system.

Scientists who descended into that subterranean maze in search of its microbial tenants wanted to find out how the 5.5 million people who use the system each weekday influence the microbes, and vice versa.

But the 18-month-long project, which sampled DNA from 466 stations, was no walk in Central Park.

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? 

Eggstrordinary Eggs!

Feb 5, 2015
Shawn Zamechek / Creative Commons

Just about all of us eat eggs and when we say that, we mean chicken eggs. But, there are all kinds of other eggs you can eat. I cook occasionally with duck eggs and I've tasted goose and quail.

Today on the show, we talk to a farmer who ranches exotic eggs, including emu, and a chef who cooks with them.

Moving from crisis to crisis — for too long that's been America's strategy for dealing with the challenges of an aging transit infrastructure, from roads to bridges to ports. The result is a system that's crumbling and in desperate need of attention, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The massive study both looks at the current state of the country's transportation systems and forecasts the challenges that lie ahead.

NTSB

A federal report stemming from the investigation into the May 2013 derailment of a Metro-North Railroad train that injured scores of passengers in Bridgeport said that bolts on brand-new M-8 cars are too weak.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommends that Metro-North replace thousands of bolts on the fleet of more than 400 new Kawasaki rail cars on the New Haven line and New Canaan branch.

The NTSB said the bolts were not to blame for the derailment, but that their failure made the two-train collision worse, because a piece of one car sliced into the passenger compartment of another.

ramseybuckeye / Flickr Creative Commons

The state is proposing changes to how towns and cities deal with storm water that runs into rivers and streams. The rules would change requirements for some towns around things like street sweeping and catch basin cleanups.

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, which, according to tradition, portends another six weeks of winter.

Update at 8:13 p.m. ET. Lots Of Snow:

As it continues to move up the Northeast Coast, a potent snowstorm is already a record breaker. Take these two highlights, for example:

-- NBC Chicago reports that Feb. 1, 2015, is now the snowiest first day of February in history. And with 19.3 inches of snow recorded, this is the fifth-largest snow event in city history.

Invasive Pest Harms Hemlocks In The Catskills

Jan 30, 2015

A new study has found hemlock trees in the Catskill region have been declining in health amid an invasive pest infestation.

Cindy Cornett Seigle/Flickr

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has dire predictions for many of the coastline communities in Connecticut and Long Island.

A report released on Wednesday, "North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study: Resilient Adaptation to Increasing Risk," took two years and covered 31,000 miles of coastline along ten states. It says climate change is putting the region at risk of more flooding and more superstorms like Sandy in 2012.

Joeseph Vietri, with the ACE, said western Long Island and western Connecticut are particularly vulnerable, which is a problem because they're such heavily populated areas. "Not all of them have the ability and the wherewithal to pick up and just move," he said. "So there are entire cities, towns, and villages that are under direct threat."

NASA/NOAA

With meteorologists predicting the latest storm would bring 15 to 30 inches of snow across Connecticut, cities and towns prepared for the worst. But the latest storm brought a mixed bag.

Eastern Connecticut was clobbered, while western parts of the state were not hit nearly as hard as expected.

Speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live, Mayor Mark Boughton said the forecasters who predicted two feet of snow in Danbury got it wrong, and that means that people may not believe him when the next storm heads our way.

A day after a monstrous winter storm spun its way across the Northeast, life is slowly getting back to normal.

Some residents of Massachusetts are digging out of almost 3 feet of snow. The AP reports that a travel ban has been lifted and Boston's highways are filling up with traffic.

Still, the AP adds:

Residents across the state are digging out of the blizzard that dumped more than two feet on parts of the state. Gov. Gina Raimondo lifted the state’s travel ban last night. She thanked Rhode Islanders for staying off the roads. There was a fire in Providence and a handful of accidents, but no major injuries from the storm.

Tucker Ives / WNPR

Blizzard warnings eased early Tuesday for parts of Connecticut, but central and eastern parts of the state saw continuing snowfall and strong winds through midday. By noon, most counties were downgraded to a winter storm warning as a powerful nor'easter made its way across the state.

A statewide travel ban lifted in Connecticut at 2:00 pm. Local roads were opened in Litchfield and Fairfield Counties early Tuesday morning, but Governor Dannel Malloy asked residents to wait before getting on the roads if possible. State bus service will resume Wednesday, and state employees return to work in the morning.

Sharon Mollerus / Creative Commons

If you’ve been watching the news the last few days, you’d know our region was bracing for what could be an “historic” storm. But can anything really be historic when we’ve seen so many similar events over the past few years?

First the good news: Forecasts of a historic winter storm for the country's most populous city have failed to materialize.

Forecasters had called for up to 30 inches of snow in New York City, but as a new day dawned, meteorologists had downgraded the system to a winter storm from a blizzard and tempered their forecasts, saying when it was all done, the city would have about 12 inches of snow on the ground.

Pages