Rebecca Hersher | New Hampshire Public Radio

Rebecca Hersher

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration upgraded the computer model that forecasters use to predict the weather one to two weeks in the future, called the Global Forecast System. The new model is better at predicting where hurricanes will form and how intense they will be as well as where and when snowstorms and rainstorms will occur, and how much precipitation will fall.

"This is going to have a fundamental impact on the forecasts that are provided day to day," says Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service.

Pastor Aaron Trigg was at home when the water arrived in Rainelle. It had been raining hard all day, filling the creeks and rivers that run through southern West Virginia. In the past, such intense downpours would only last a few hours. But this storm brought wave after wave of torrential rain.

"You could hear the water up in the mountains just crashing trees," Trigg remembers.

Rainelle is a small town in a steep valley. When the creek near downtown jumped its banks on the evening of June 23, 2016, the water immediately flooded into every home on Trigg's block.

A suspected oil tanker leak off the coast of Israel last week has led to Israel's biggest maritime ecological disaster in many years, with authorities closing the country's beaches and beginning a massive cleanup effort.

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Federal scientists have confirmed that 2020 basically tied with 2016 for the hottest year recorded since 1880. The Earth is about 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer today than it was in the mid-20th century. Scientists warn that humans must keep global temperatures from rising more than about 3 degrees Fahrenheit in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Devon Hall has lived most of his nearly seven decades in Duplin County, N.C. The land is flat and green there in the southeastern part of the state, about an hour's drive from the coast. It's lovely unless you live downwind of one of the county's many industrial hog farms.

"It can get really bad," says Hall, the co-founder of the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help in Duplin County.

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate environmental lawyer and Obama administration veteran Brenda Mallory to run the Council on Environmental Quality, according to a source with knowledge of the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect private conversations.

The White House office oversees environmental reviews for virtually all major infrastructure projects, including pipelines and highways.

Climate change is making people sick and leading to premature death, according to a pair of influential reports on the connections between global warming and health.

Scientists from the World Meteorological Organization released a preliminary report on the global climate which shows that the last decade was the warmest on record and that millions of people were affected by wildfires, floods and extreme heat this year on top of the global pandemic.

A satellite scheduled to launch from California later this month will measure sea level rise and provide other crucial data to scientists who study how global warming is affecting the Earth's oceans.

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A 25-year-old was infected twice with the coronavirus earlier this year, scientists in Nevada have confirmed. It is the first confirmed case of so-called reinfection with the virus in the U.S. and the fifth confirmed reinfection case worldwide.

The cases underscore the importance of social distancing and wearing masks even if you were previously infected with the virus, and they raise questions about how the human immune system reacts to the virus.

Updated at 6:15 p.m.

David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning basic tenets of climate science, has been hired for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Updated at 11:45 a.m.

Hurricane Laura tore through a region that is home to dozens of major oil refineries, petrochemical plants and plastics facilities. Now, residents could be breathing dangerously polluted air from those sites, public health experts and local advocates say.

The upshot of climate change is that everyone alive is destined to experience unprecedented disasters. The most powerful hurricanes, the most intense wildfires, the most prolonged heat waves and the most frequent outbreaks of new diseases are all in our future. Records will be broken, again and again.

But the predicted destruction is still shocking when it unfolds at the same time.

Hurricane Laura's top wind speeds nearly doubled in just 24 hours as it approached the border between Texas and Louisiana. The wall of water it pushed in front of it grew until forecasters warned that it would produce "unsurvivable" storm surge.

Scientists are trying to understand how much plastic humans are pumping into the ocean and how long it sticks around. A study published this week says it may be much more than earlier estimates.

By some measures, the plastic trash that's floating on the surface of the water only accounts for about 1% of the plastic pollution that humans generate.

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Suppose you took a slice of the Atlantic Ocean, like a slice of pie, and found how much plastic is in the water. NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports on people who did that.

The places with the most severe air pollution nearly 40 years ago remain among the most polluted places today, according to a new study that uses historical air pollution data to track disparities in air quality over time.

Decades of research and the lived experiences of millions of Americans have established that people in the United States do not have equal access to clean air, and that poor people and people of color are more likely to breathe polluted air than their fellow citizens who are white or rich.

Local officials and public health experts warn that domestic violence is spiking in Australia as the country deals with the aftermath of catastrophic fires paired with the global pandemic.

The fires killed at least 35 people and destroyed nearly 2,000 houses in the southeastern part of the country in 2019 and early 2020, leaving thousands of Australians jobless and still in temporary housing as the coronavirus pandemic swept through with its widespread lockdowns, illness and economic pain.

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President Trump's nominee to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission is Nancy Beck, a toxicologist who currently leads chemical and pesticide regulation at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The CPSC is the top federal consumer watchdog in the country. Its five-member board, which Beck will lead for seven years if she is confirmed, is responsible for reviewing safety information and collecting injury reports for more than 15,000 types of products, from baby toys to sports equipment to home appliances.

Some of the country's most polluting industries have flooded state regulators with requests to ease environmental regulations, according to an NPR review of hundreds of state environmental records.

Companies across the country say the pandemic is interfering with their ability to comply with laws that protect the public from pollution.

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With traffic dramatically down in recent months, the United States is in the middle of an accidental experiment showing what happens to air pollution when millions of people stop driving.

Unprecedented job losses and furloughs have pushed millions of Americans to the brink of eviction during the coronavirus pandemic, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House have failed to fund a legal assistance program that is routinely available to disaster survivors.

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Multiple cities have started door-to-door coronavirus screenings and testing in an effort to identify those who are infected and help severely ill people get treated.

It's a small part of a larger effort to test more Americans for coronavirus in order to get a handle on how widely it has spread and prevent another wave of infections as some parts of the economy slowly reopen.

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The number of people breathing unhealthy air in the United States is increasing despite decades of declines in the overall amount of air pollution being released, and climate change is a major cause.

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