Science and the Environment

Science and the Environment
2:04 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

How Underground Sensors in Texas Will Help NASA Predict Drought and Floods

Soil moisture meters across the state could one day help predict weather patterns across the state.
Photo courtesy of Richard Casteel

Originally published on Tue November 25, 2014 11:22 am

From StateImpact Texas:

Stanley Rabke’s family has lived and worked on their Hill Country ranch since 1889. Generations of Rabkes have struggled with the extremes of Texas weather, but one storm sticks out in Stanley’s memory: it came after the drought of the 1950s.

“It rained and rained and rained,” he says. “Back then we raised turkeys, we lost thousands of turkeys that washed away in the creek.”

The disaster underscores an irony of life in Texas. “You hope and pray that you’re going to get a good rain, [but] on the other side of it, you hope you don’t get a flood,” says Rabke.

A quick walk from where the turkeys met their fate, some new technology that will help manage that risk is being installed — soil monitoring sensors in the ground.

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Science and the Environment
6:24 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Texas Grid Operator Says Clean Energy Plan Could Raise Bills and Lead to Blackouts

The agency in charge of running the state's energy grid says the EPA's plan to reduce carbon emissions could put strain on the grid and raise rates for consumers.
Mose Buchele/StateImpact Texas

Originally published on Tue November 18, 2014 10:30 am

The clean energy plan put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency aims to combat climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by power plants.  But it may come at a price, according to a report released Monday by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the group that manages much of Texas electric grid.

The report says electricity bills could rise as much as 20 percent because of the carbon reduction goals, adding that the goals could also endanger electric reliability. Part of that is due to the way the plan would change Texas' energy mix.  

“What we found is that the likely impact of the clean power plan is going to be the retirement of a significant portion of the coal-fired capacity in ERCOT," says ERCOT Director of System Planning Warren Lasher.

The goal of the EPA’s clean energy plan is to reduce Texas carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

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Conservation
12:46 am
Fri October 24, 2014

Bringing The Bobwhite Quail Back To Texas

Tom Harvey, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Quail hunting season opens this weekend. And there’s new hope that the bobwhite quail is making a rebound. The population has dropped off by about 75 percent over the last 40 years—partly because their grassy habitats have been depleted by development and cattle grazing. Conservationists are trying to get more landowners to restore native prairies on their property.


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Technology
5:03 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Apple Says iOS Encryption Protects Privacy; FBI Raises Crime Fears

FBI Director James Comey says new encryption features allow people "to place themselves beyond the law."
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 8:58 am

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are up in arms about new technology now available from Apple and soon to be released by Google.

The software encrypts the data on smartphones and other mobile devices so that not even the companies themselves will be able to access the information.

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Lake Waco
5:24 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Zebra Mussels Invade Lake Waco

A cluster of zebra mussels.
flickr.com/noaa_glerl

Zebra mussels have been found in Lake Waco. The invasive shellfish are worrisome because they can clog pipes to the water system and power plants. 


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