Current Event September 18, 2017
Hurricane Harvey was enormous and Hurricane Irma had record high winds of 185 miles per hour. This is very unusual, but not unprecedented. What’s unusual is that they both hit land. Global warming creates more heat, and the more heat you have, the bigger the storms. Listen to hear about the relationship between big storms and climate change.
Current Event September 4, 2017
Many parts of Texas were hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful storm to strike Texas in more than half a century. The coastal tourist town of Rockport was hit directly. About half of the residents evacuated and rescue was difficult because of high winds, failed cell phone towers, and flooding. Listen to hear what this powerful hurricane was like from people who experienced it firsthand.
Science Middle School
The phrase “no two snowflakes are alike” is actually scientifically accurate. Snow forms high in the atmosphere, and despite its uniform appearance, each snowflake is different based upon where and how it was formed. Although snowflakes are non-living, they grow and change from the time they are formed to the time they reach the ground. Listen to learn how snow is formed, and why it exists in some places but not others.
Current Event May 8, 2017
Recently, severe weather struck Texas, the South, and the Midwest bringing thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods that led to multiple deaths. The storms killed 15 people in East Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi and caused the rivers in Missouri to swell to levels not seen in a century. Listen to learn more about the human impact of this extreme weather.
Current Event March 24, 2017
Although the United States has cut its emissions of smog-forming pollutants by half over the past few decades, smog levels in the Western United States have increased each year. Now, scientists believe that rising emissions in Asia are causing smog in the United States. Asian emissions have tripled over the past decades and are particularly high in China and India. During the spring, storms lift and carry emissions from Asia to the Western United States, causing fog. Listen to learn more about how emissions levels in different parts of the world are changing and how global climate systems move emissions around the Earth and then debate: How can we address global pollution?
Science Middle School
Our bodies react differently to extreme heat depending on how much humidity is in the air. Heat index is a measure of how hot it feels outside, taking into account both air temperature and relative humidity. As the humidity rises, the heat index rises. In dry heat, our sweat quickly evaporates, which helps lower our internal temperature; but on a humid day, our sweat cannot fully evaporate as the air is already damp, and this prevents us from effectively cooling off. It also raises our risk of heat stroke and even death. To illustrate the science, this podcast considers the case of a man who was lost for three weeks in a remote desert in southern Utah and survived. Listen to hear more about dry versus wet heat and how it affects the human body.
Current Event February 2, 2017
California has been in a severe drought since 2014. It’s underground aquifers, which are permeable rocks that can hold groundwater are dry. During recent droughts, farmers pumped groundwater to irrigate their crops, which dropped the water table and drained the aquifers. In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, they are also getting less snow and more rain, which just runs into the ocean. Farmers are now experimenting with water management and ways to store excess water. With some recent heavy rains, rivers all over the state flooded and some farmers flooded their fields, letting the water seep deep into the ground to refill the aquifers. Listen to hear about ways to catch and store rainfall to help farmers.
Current Event January 10, 2017
A week of high pollution levels in Paris has brought strict restrictions on driving. The Paris mayor is making public transportation free in an effort to reduce the pollution particles in the air. There are also health concerns if people breathe this air for more than an hour, so some school sports and outdoor activities were banned temporarily. Listen to hear more about how Paris is managing this pollution crisis.
Current Event December 8, 2016
Wildfires swept through the city of Gatlinburg Tennessee, destroying several businesses and homes, forcing everyone to evacuate. The Great Smoky Mountains were being threatened by wildfires, along with Ripley’s Aquarium which houses 10,000 sea creatures. The staff at the aquarium were not allowed to stay and worried about the air quality and the flames reaching the building and the animals. Listen to this story to hear about the relief felt by the staff the next day.
Current Event October 19, 2016
Hurricane Matthew has left destruction in Haiti, with over 1,000 fatalities. In some towns, 80 to 90 percent of the homes were damaged or destroyed. Aid workers are making their way to the most vulnerable Haitians and trying to overcome the obstacles in getting food and water to some towns. Listen to hear more about the concerns about the spread of disease as well as what it will take to rebuild these devastated areas of Haiti.
Current Event August 30, 2016
Floods have devastated parts of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The flooding hasn’t spared schools, and 15 of the 46 schools in Livingston parish have flood damage. Three to six feet of water has swamped schools and homes in the area. The Superintendent has opened one of the schools as an emergency shelter. He is providing housing for residents whose homes have been flooded. Listen to hear the Superintendent talk about how the uncertainty of the situation means even he doesn’t know when schools will be opening this year.
Current Event April 6, 2016
The severe drought in California resulted in a state-wide mandate of 25% reduction in water use last year. This affects many residents, especially those who make a living in farming and agriculture. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains feeds water into the state’s reservoirs, which supplies about 30% of the state’s water needs. Last year the snowpack was 5% of average. This year, it’s about 95%. Even though it’s just below average, this is a great improvement. However, most growers remain cautious about whether the drought is really over.
Current Event February 16, 2016
Last summer, President Obama laid plans for fighting climate change. The Clean Power Plan includes Environmental Protection Agency standards on carbon pollution from U.S. power plants. Twenty-seven states sued over the proposal. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court put a hold on the Clean Power Plan by a vote of 5-4. Environmentalists say this ruling threatens progress on global warming. In some states, coal companies and Republican politicians are cheering this decision. Listen to hear from supporters and opponents, and what this may mean for regulating coal.
Current Event January 6, 2016
Along the Mississippi River, people are just starting to assess the damage caused by a winter flood. The rainwater is moving south along the river and threatening more communities. Many people couldn’t afford flood insurance and thought they were on safe ground. Six feet of water ruined businesses, destroyed homes and closed roads. Listen to hear more about this devastating flood.
Current Event October 13, 2015
Hurricane Joaquin hit South Carolina bringing over 20 inches of rain. People were evacuated, homes flooded and roads collapsed. The cost of the damage is still being calculated and a few counties were declared disaster areas. People in South Carolina are very concerned about the failure of eleven dams that led to much of the flooding. Who is responsible? In some towns, the dams are owned by private homeowners, and have not gotten enough repair or attention. Listen to this story to hear about the damage from Hurricane Joaquin, and what can be done to prepare for future disasters.
Current Event September 15, 2015
New government climate change regulations, which aim to limit the demand for coal, are threatening to cause layoffs, bankruptcies and impact the livelihood of many U.S. coal town families. Coal is the number one contributor to climate change and 40% of the coal mined in the United States is on federal land, land belonging to the public. Coal mining companies pay the government to lease this land, as a part of the federal coal program. Debates have sparked hearings this summer in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico. In Wyoming, where 84% of the coal mined on federal land comes from, coal miners are fighting for their jobs. Listen to different perspectives on coal mining.
Current Event September 7, 2015
This year’s wildfire season is one of the worst and most expensive. With the combination of climate change, an extended fire season, and drought, catastrophic fires are becoming the new normal. Some people are starting to call the U.S. Forest Service the “U.S. Fire Service,” since fighting fires has become their main responsibility and their biggest cost. It costs more than $150 million a week to fight fires, which is more than the Forest Service can afford. FEMA and the U.S. Forest Service have been battling over spending, but there are doubts Congress will increase the budget this year.
Current Event September 4, 2015
It’s been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans. At the time, President George W. Bush and his administration were widely criticized for their slow response to the flooding. But on the 10 year anniversary, Bush was invited back to visit the city again. His tour sparked mixed reactions from residents who still feel they were let down by the federal government's response to the massive disaster.
Current Event April 15, 2015
The drought in California has continued for another season and will be worsened by a lack of snowfall in the region this winter. With no end in sight, California Governor Jerry Brown announced statewide mandatory water restrictions for the first time in history. Listen to learn more about how these new rules will lower water use through mandated cuts and individual incentives.
Science Middle School
Tsunamis are created by tectonic plates thrusting against each other and then lifting the sea floor and dropping it down, which creates a giant wave. A 2010 earthquake in Chile was caused by a shift in the seafloor. This same shift set off tsunami detection buoys and left scientists waiting for the tsunami to hit. But it ended up being small. Listen to learn more about this quake and how tsunamis are created.