Rebecca Hersher

Rebecca Hersher is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.

Hersher was part of the NPR team that won a Peabody award for coverage of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and produced a story from Liberia that won an Edward R. Murrow award for use of sound. She was a finalist for the 2017 Daniel Schorr prize; a 2017 Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting fellow, reporting on sanitation in Haiti; and a 2015 NPR Above the Fray fellow, investigating the causes of the suicide epidemic in Greenland.

Prior to working at NPR, Hersher reported on biomedical research and pharmaceutical news for Nature Medicine.

New York City hospitals are struggling to make sure they have enough staff, beds and protective equipment to treat a relentless and growing stream of COVID-19 patients. Providing effective, efficient care to people who are seriously ill requires hospitals to rapidly test people who appear to have the viral disease.

But even with New York's statewide effort to procure and distribute coronavirus testing supplies to hospitals, some medical centers say they still don't have what they need to test patients on-site. That includes one major hospital in Brooklyn.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Spring begins today in America. Good.

Perhaps you are mildly surprised to learn that March 19 is the first day of spring. Perhaps you learned as a child that the spring equinox — when day and night are roughly the same length — occurs on either March 20 or March 21.

Opening arguments ended Monday in Texas in the highest profile criminal case ever brought against a company and its employees for allegedly failing to adequately prepare for the effects of climate change.

The company, Arkema, owns a chemical plant outside Houston that flooded when Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 5 feet of rain on the area in 2017. The rising water knocked out power to the plant and caused volatile chemicals stored there to heat up and eventually catch fire. Burning containers and trailers sent up a column of black smoke above the facility for days.

Updated Feb. 21, 11:56 a.m. ET

Coming off a shift at Tuen Mun Hospital in Hong Kong on Wednesday night, cardiologist Alfred Wong was getting ready to go to dinner with his wife. The last time they ate together, she brought the meal to the courtyard below their apartment, placed it on a bench, then sat down at least 10 feet away.

From across the patio, they ate. On separate benches. Looking at each other.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. After listening to those voices, I want to bring in one of our colleagues who is covering this outbreak. It's NPR science reporter Becky Hersher, who is reporting from Hong Kong. Hi, Becky.

Last year was the second hottest on record globally, according to the latest climate data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

It's the latest confirmation that the Earth is steadily getting hotter — the planet has already warmed about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (or almost 1 degree Celsius) compared with in the mid-20th century — and that robust greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming to continue unabated.

Normal November weather in Mozambique's capital, Maputo, is pleasant and warm with a chance of epic thunderstorms. The sun will be shining in the morning, and then boom the sky opens up and a stiff wind begins to blow and it's probably best if you're inside.

The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement. The withdrawal will be complete this time next year, after a one-year waiting period has elapsed.

"We will continue to work with our global partners to enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change and prepare for and respond to natural disasters," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Monday.

Updated at 5:33 p.m. ET

Kurds in northern Syria have announced an abrupt change in alliances in the wake of President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the area.

American soldiers had been supporting Kurdish fighters, as part of the U.S. military's operations against Islamic extremists in the region. But, with the U.S. already withdrawing, neighboring Turkey has launched an operation against Kurds in Syria, who they argue are terrorists.

Typhoon Hagibis slammed into Japan over the weekend, dropping more than 35 inches of rain in some places and causing catastrophic flooding in communities in the region around Tokyo, as well as further inland.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now to the small town in Maryland hit by two flash floods in two years. This is what it sounded like when residents called 911.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh, my God.

As the world's climate changes, ocean warming is accelerating and sea levels are rising more quickly, warns a new report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report is a synthesis of the most up-to-date climate science on oceans and ice, and it lays out a stark reality: Ocean surface temperatures have been warming steadily since 1970, and for the past 25 years or so, they've been warming twice as fast.

Leaders from nearly 200 countries are attending a special United Nations Summit on climate change today as they face increasing pressure from citizens around the world to cut global greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming.

Currently, global emissions are on track to cause potentially catastrophic climate change in the coming decades.

Lead-based paint was extremely popular in the early and mid-20th century — used in an estimated 38 million homes across the U.S. before it was banned for residential use in 1978.

The firefighters came on Monday. They went up and down the halls, knocking on every apartment in the six-story Ansonborough House building in downtown Charleston, S.C., and leaving notices on the doors of those who didn't answer: This area is under mandatory evacuation.

The manager of the building heeded the warning and left a note on the window in the lobby explaining that the building would not be staffed all week.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, why is it that when a hurricane evacuation order goes out, some people remain behind, particularly elderly people? NPR's Rebecca Hersher has been asking in Charleston, S.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CAN LOVE YOU BETTER")

Walmart announced Tuesday that it is ending sales of some kinds of ammunition at its stores. The move came in the wake of two deadly shootings at Walmart stores in recent months, including one in El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 people.

If you want to know what climate change will look like, you need to know what Earth's climate looked like in the past — what air temperatures were like, for example, and what ocean currents and sea levels were doing. You need to know what polar ice caps and glaciers were up to and, crucially, how hot the oceans were.

Humans must drastically alter food production to prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming, according to a new report from the United Nations panel on climate change.

The panel of scientists looked at the climate change effects of agriculture, deforestation and other land use, such as harvesting peat and managing grasslands and wetlands. Together, those activities generate about a third of human greenhouse gas emissions, including more than 40% of methane.

It technically began last fall when Hurricane Florence swelled the Ohio River, but really it was all the unnamed storms that came after it — one after another after another, bringing rain on rain on rain across the central U.S. until the Mississippi River hit flood stage this winter.

Much of the Mississippi, and the massive tributaries that feed it, stayed flooded until June. That meant more than 140 days of cascading disasters for hundreds of small towns from Minnesota to Louisiana and catastrophic damage to ranch and farm communities that dot the Mississippi's swollen branches.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Updated at 9:34 a.m. ET

If you are neurotic and anxious, your dog may be feeling the stress, too.

Scientists are ramping up research on the possible health effects of a large group of common but little-understood chemicals used in water-resistant clothing, stain-resistant furniture, nonstick cookware and many other consumer products.

Hurricane Maria was the rainiest storm known to have hit Puerto Rico, and climate change is partly to blame, according to a new study.

The worst rain fell in the mountainous central part of Puerto Rico, from the northwest to the southeast. That part of the island is rainy under normal conditions. In an average year, it gets more than 150 inches of rain.

When Maria hit in 2017, it dropped nearly a quarter of that annual rainfall in just one day.

Several members of a powerful science panel for the Environmental Protection Agency expressed doubt at a hearing Thursday about the long-established scientific consensus that air pollution can cause premature death.

The panel was meeting to consider recommendations that would fundamentally change how the agency analyzes the public health dangers posed by air pollution and could lead to weaker regulation of soot.

When a storm gets very intense very quickly, it gets a very special, very scary name: bomb cyclone.

And just such a storm has arrived in the central U.S.

The skin lesions are the first sign that something is wrong. Then limbs fall off and the body disintegrates, collapsing in on itself as it liquefies. In the end, what was once a sea star is only a puddle on the ocean floor.

Since 2013, sea star wasting disease has killed so many starfish along the Pacific Coast that scientists say it's the largest disease epidemic ever observed in wild marine animals. Where there used to be dozens of stars, scuba divers now report seeing none.

The weather clearly does not care that the U.S. government is partially shut down.

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