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Clarity in Crisis: Avoiding Another Fukushima

How science can quell media hype—By David Roberts On March 11, 2011, one of history’s most catastrophic tsunamis leveled dozens of Japanese towns and crippled Fukushima’s nuclear reactors. Few will forget watching the water rushing inland and the reactor explosions that followed. Fewer still will forget the ensuing media-fed radiation fears that had residents fleeing…

Geography in the News: Chernobyl’s Legacy

By Neal Lineback and Mandy Lineback Gritzner, Geography in the NewsTM Chernobyl’s legacy endures Chernobyl is a place known around the world. The meltdown at the Chernobyl power plant in 1986 made front-page news and, until Japan’s Fukushima disaster of 2011, was considered the world’s worst nuclear accident. With North Korea’s recent threats of nuclear…

Supreme Court Divided After Hearing on EPA Authority

In a hearing Monday, the Supreme Court questioned whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is correct in its interpretation that regulating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles triggers the requirement to also implement permitting requirements for large stationary sources. At issue is the legality of EPA’s interpretation of the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) regulations. Industry groups argue that the PSD…

EIA: Carbon Emissions Decline

In 2012, energy-related carbon emissions in the United States declined 3.8 percent even as global carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.4 percent, according the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The recorded 5.29 million metric tons of carbon dioxide amounted to the largest decline since 1994, continuing a downward trend that started in 2007. EIA attributed last year’s decrease to several factors, including a mild…

Using the Clean Air Act to Regulate Carbon Emissions

In an attempt to address global changes in climate, the Obama administration set specific deadlines for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use the Clean Air Act to cut carbon dioxide pollution from new and existing power plants. Just weeks away from the deadline for release of proposed rules for new power plants (full disclosure: Duke scholars will…

Glowing in the Dark

“Radioactive Plume in the ocean” is the kind of headline that ensures people will pay attention to the news story that follows. 

GYRE Expedition – Day 5- Bearing Witness; Witnessing Bears. Act 2 (Wednesday, June 12)

A mile down the beach and a mile out on the flat more-or-less, another mother trails three cubs from clam-hole to clam-hole. When she spots a big dark male headed her way from half a mile away, she moves off, in a hurry and a worry, frequently glancing over her shoulder and occasionally breaking into…

GYRE Expedition – Day 5- Bearing Witness; Witnessing Bears. Act 1 (Wednesday, June 12)

 In the “morning” of the never-ending daylight, as the sun has swung round to the east and climbs the sky once more, we awaken in our windowless cabins. We’ve spent the short night at anchor in Hallo Bay. We head shoreward, trying to beat a dropping tide. We partially succeed. Enough of the half-mile mudflat…

GYRE Expedition, Day 4 – Landing in Hallo Bay (Tuesday, June 11)

We spent several morning hours steaming west across Shelikof Strait to Hallo Bay in Katmai National Park, and landed the skiff on a rocky ledge at one end of a long bite of black beach backed spectacularly by the snow-peaked Alaska Range and Hallo Glacier. The highest peaks, piled in snows, leap from sea level…

GYRE Expedition, Day 3- Late Afternoon (Monday, June 10)

ODILE’s Magic Desktop Lab – Odile Madden has brought two amazing pieces of equipment from the Smithsonian. One looks like a microscope stand without the microscope. The other looks like a little hand-held vacuum cleaner. Both fit on a desktop, and they’re incredible. The first shoots laser beams and the second generates x-rays. What you…

GYRE Expedition, Day 3 (Monday, June 10)

In late morning we head toward Wonder Bay on Shuyak Island. On the way we run across a huge, nearly blond Brown Bear foraging on the beach. The world’s largest Brown (Grizzly) Bears live in this area and nearby Kodiak. As we approach, it gets concerned enough to amble away, easily hopping over some heavy…

GYRE Expedition, Day 2 – afternoon (Sunday, June 9)

  A lost shipment of fly swatters has recently made an appearance on various beaches. We found one yesterday and today Kate has found three more fly swatters. She adds them to her pack. After lunch we go ashore at a place named Red Buoy Beach. Guess why it’s called that. There’s sparse trash here,…

GYRE Expedition, Day 2 – morning (Sunday, June 9)

 I wake to find us motoring off the Kenai Peninsula. We have passed the Chugash Islands, passed the Barren Islands. We are headed south toward Shuyak, which looms large far ahead. Islands are so high here that some are visible from distances of up to 100 miles. Afognak rises behind Shuyak (it hides the next…

GYRE Expedition Day One – Afternoon (Saturday, June 8)

  A discussion: Why bother to clean beaches never visited by people? If it’s just an ugly mess, why not just leave it? Answers vary, even among our group. “Seeing this offends my dignity,” says one colleague. “I am embarrassed as a human to see how much trash is here.” “We just don’t like it;…

GYRE Expedition Day One – Morning (Saturday, June 8)

Morning we wake in Tonsina Bay, one of many coves ringed by near-vertical forested slopes. The beauty takes my breath away. So do a half-dozen mountain goats, each with a small baby, above the treeline, above a grass slope, on a rocky precipice. How do mountain goats survive their lives? They choose the absolutely most…