Environment

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

Robin Lubbock / WBUR

Five years ago, on June 1, 2011, an F3 tornado, with wind speeds between 150 and 200 miles per hour, swept through eight communities across western and central Massachusetts, from Westfield east to Southbridge.

One of the hardest hit was Monson, where the tornado cut nearly a half-mile swath of devastation through the center of town of about 8,500 residents.

Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner first imagined it in 1947: a massive tunnel, unprecedented in length, buried a mile and a half under Switzerland's symbolic Gotthard mountain range.

This Wednesday, June 1st,  marks the fifth anniversary of a devastating tornado striking western Massachusetts.

    As he has done in years past, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has called for a city-wide moment of reflection on the tornado anniversary.

" We want to commemorate it, not celebrate it.  I've asked the houses of worship to ring the bells at 4:38 p.m.," said Sarno.

Joanna Gilkeson / USFWS / Creative Commons

Every year, monarch butterflies make an amazing journey from Canada and New England all the way down to Mexico.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

There's a shell of an old Pontiac car dealership at a corner of West Hartford’s industrial district that to the public eye -- and perhaps the public’s ire -- is littered with trash and weeds, with four lanes of fast traffic rushing by.

Lennart Tange / Creative Commons

If you're allergic to it, you might be cursing pollen in between sneezes right now. But the process of pollination is essential to plant, animal, and human life. All sorts of insects and animals can be pollinators including bats, bees, moths, butterflies, birds, and even lemurs!

She sails by the memory of the stars.

Her bones are lashed together with 6 miles of rope. Her twin wooden masts are lowered and outstretched only by the power of muscled arms. And once fully extended, the red, V-shaped sails announce who she is.

She is the Hokule'a, Hawaii's famous voyaging canoe, built in the double-hulled style used by Polynesian navigators thousands of years ago to cross the Pacific.

Attention, New Englanders: You may see a seal pup on the beach this weekend, and you may be tempted to take a selfie with it. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is asking that you please resist that urge.

BB and HH / Creative Commons

The story goes that during World War II, the English started using radar to detect Nazi bombers. 

Travel forecasters are predicting busy highways this Memorial Day weekend. AAA expects more than 38 million people to travel over the holiday, the highest volume in a decade.

Long Island residents are getting their first chance to see the details of the plan to build a third track between Floral Park and Hicksville on the Long Island Rail Road as the MTA held its first of six public meetings on Tuesday.

NASA / Flickr

The man who once walked on the moon, and helped America define itself as a leader in space travel is now out with a new book. It reads half as a memoir, and  half as a motivational speech to the next generation of explorers who he hopes will carry on America's legacy.

Patrick Skahill / WNPR

Take a trip out to the Housatonic River Valley over the next few days, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a peculiar-looking fungus that’s a tasty trophy for mushroom hunters. 

Rafael Medina / Creative Commons

There's a lot of concern about pollinating insects and butterflies. As native populations dwindle, gardeners are rallying to support them.

Mention the concept of food waste, and for many people, it's likely to conjure images of rotting fruit and vegetables or stale meals unfit for consumption.

But a lot of the food that gets tossed out in America — some $162 billion worth each year, enough to fill 44 skyscrapers — is fresh, nutritious and downright delicious: think plump eggplants, bright yellow squashes, giant, vibrant-orange carrots with a crisp bite. The kind of beautiful produce that would be perfectly at home in, say, this giant vegetable paella made by celebrity chef José Andrés and his team.

Liz West / Creative Commons

Colin has a "pet" raccoon that visits his porch. The raccoon will press her tiny paw up against the outstretched palm of Colin's significant other, which rests on the indoor side of the glass. Eventually, the raccoon gets a bit of food because "she" is too cute to resist. The pleased raccoon now visits on a regular basis. Colin fears this cannot end well.

An Amtrak engineer might have lost track of where he was right before a passenger train derailed, killing eight people and injuring scores of others, federal investigators have found.

In a briefing with reporters Tuesday, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said Brandon Bostian might have thought he was past a curve when he accelerated to 106 mph.

Emily Mocarski/flickr creative commons

Last week, police and wildlife officials were called in to tranquilize and relocate two bears within four days.

Courtesy Clearwater

The sloop Clearwater is being readied for a return to the Hudson River after a winter of restoration work. 

State officials are apologizing for the way they’ve handled a plan to use an island in the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts as a breeding ground for endangered timber rattlesnakes. They say they are now looking at alternatives.

A legislative hearing held near the reservoir in Athol Tuesday brought out some strong opposition and showed what a major political issue rattlesnakes have become in that part of the state.

One year after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing 8 passengers and injuring scores of others, a key question remains unanswered: Why was the train going so fast?

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

As Schuyler Thomson lead a group of paddlers down the Housatonic River in northwest Connecticut, he squinted through the morning sunlight on the water. 

mystuart / Creative Commons

We all know peonies for their audaciously large, colorful flowers. 

Updated at 3 p.m. ET.

Out in the Nevada desert today, the world got a good look at the first public test of the Hyperloop — a concept that could someday become a new mode of transportation.

Don't call it a Wright Brothers' "Kitty Hawk" moment just yet, though. The demo focused on only one piece of a very complicated system.

NASA announced Tuesday the discovery of an unprecedented number of planets beyond our solar system — astronomers have confirmed the existence of 1,284 new worlds orbiting distant stars.

These planets beyond our solar system — exoplanets — were discovered with the help of NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which launched in 2009.

Adam Frenier / NEPR

A Berkshire Superior Court judge has granted Kinder Morgan an injunction, allowing it to go forward with a natural gas pipeline in Sandisfield, Massachusetts, on its way to Connecticut. But the judge did issue conditions.

Patrick Skahill / WNPR

From floods to fires --  burst pipes to a man overboard, when something goes wrong on a commercial fishing vessel -- crew members at sea need to act fast. But how do they prepare? 

A change in the weather has helped firefighters battling a massive blaze in Fort McMurray, a Canadian oil-sands town in the province of Alberta.

Cooler temperatures and light rain have officials sounding optimistic, hopeful that the wildfire — which continues to burn — might have reached a "turning point" that will lead to its containment.

"This is great firefighting weather," Alberta fire official Chad Morrison said at a weekend news conference. "We can really get in there and really get a handle on this fire ... get a death grip on it."

Patrick Skahill / WNPR

Police dogs are great at sniffing out hidden drugs -- and as more crime goes digital, state police in Connecticut are training canines to sniff out evidence on computers and cell phones.

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