ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro. The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season ends tomorrow. It'll be remembered as one of the quietest on record. Since June, there have been just two hurricanes, both were relatively weak. As NPR's Jon Hamilton reports, forecasters were expecting something very different.
JON HAMILTON, BYLINE: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Americans to expect an unusually active year with between seven and 11 hurricanes. Other forecasters offered variations on that theme.
Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 6:47 pm
The U.S. lost an average of 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands from 2004 to 2009, according to the latest data published by federal agencies. More than 70 percent of the estimated loss came in the Gulf of Mexico; nationwide, most of the loss was blamed on development that incurred on freshwater wetlands.
"The losses of these vital wetlands were 25 percent greater than during the previous six years," NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports for our Newscast unit. She also notes that the loss equals "about seven football fields every hour."
Credit Courtesy of Del Baston, Center for American Archaeology
A dog burial in Greene County, Ill. This fossil dates back to about 8,500 years ago.
Credit Courtesy of Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
This part of a dog skull found in a cave in Belgium dates back to about 36,000 years ago. Scientists think this species was an ancient sister-group to all modern dogs and wolves, rather than a direct ancestor.
Scientists have used some new tricks and old dogs to show that thousands of years ago, wolves may have first become man's best friend in Europe.
Researchers extracted DNA from ancient wolf or dog fossils and compared it with DNA from modern dog breeds and wolves. Until recently, labs didn't have the kind of genetic tools they'd need to work with such old dog DNA and do this kind of detailed comparison.
Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 8:08 am
The idea that grass can armor anything is hard to believe.
But on a recent visit to the Lake Pontchartrain levee, LSU agronomist Jeff Beasley explained how plain old, garden variety grass has earned a reputation with the US Army Corps of Engineers as one of the best armoring materials to keep the huge mud walls of a levee from collapsing during a storm.
"You know how we reinforce concrete with rebar?" says Beasley. "We can do the same with these levees."
Florida — especially South Florida — is very flat and very low, and in places like Miami Beach and Key West, buildings are just 3 feet above sea level. Scientists now say there may be a 3-foot rise in the world's oceans by the end of the century.
H. Jerry Qi, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Colorado University, holds simple models printed using polymers that have "shape memory." The flat piece on the left can reshape itself into a box with the application of heat.
New Orleans' levee board is suing energy companies for damaging the Mississippi River delta by cutting canals through the marshland. The canals let in sea water, which kills marshes, eroding the city's protective buffer against storms. A map of the delta.
Credit Frank Relle
The canals have become tools for the local seafood and charter-fishing business, too. Dr. John Lopez of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation holds a crab trap pulled from a canal. A dormant natural-gas well is in the background.
Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 7:48 am
Anyone following the development of the Master Plan for the Louisiana coast knows that the central part of the plan is also its most controversial: large scale river diversions, opening the levees on the sides of the Mississippi River south of New Orleans to let the silt-carrying Mississippi out into these sinking deltas to begin rebuilding them.