Science and the Environment

Science and the Environment
2:45 am
Wed December 17, 2014

For Crop-Duster Pilots, Wind Towers Present Danger

A pilot for Earl's Flying Service sprays chemicals on a field in southeastern Missouri.
Courtesy of Mike Lee

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 10:29 am

Crop-dusting pilots are the adrenaline junkies of the agriculture world. They whiz through the air, flying under power lines to sow seeds or spread pesticides on farmers' fields.

It's a dangerous job, and now these pilots are facing a new challenge — short towers that can sprout up in fields overnight. These towers are used to gather data for wind energy companies.

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Science and the Environment
5:11 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

CO2 and the History of Weighing Smoke

The science of weighing carbon gas is tied to Sir Walter Raleigh's attempt to weigh smoke after a wager with Queen Elizabeth I.
Courtesy of Louis Vest, flickr.com/photos/oneeighteen

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 11:36 am

Officials from countries around the word have met for the last two weeks in Lima, Peru to talk global climate change.   At the heart of those talks is how to limit billions of tons of CO2 that are pumped into the atmosphere every year from coal burning power plants.  

But how do we keep track of the CO2 we’re releasing? And just how do we weigh something that floats in the first place? 

It turns out there is a venerable history to the science of weighing smoke.

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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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