Rebecca Hersher | KALW

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.

Updated at 9:34 a.m. ET

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

Updated at 9:35 p.m. ET

The Arkansas River just keeps rising. The usually placid tributary of the Mississippi has become a bloated torrent carrying entire trees downstream, drowning riverfront property and halting commerce for hundreds of miles.

Federal weather forecasters are predicting a "near normal" number of storms this hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 1.

Between nine and 15 named storms, including includes tropical storms, are predicted to form in the Atlantic this year, said Neil Jacobs, acting administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Mississippi River is rising again as torrential rain falls across much of the Midwest. It's the latest in a series of storms that have flooded major cities and small communities along the length of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers on and off for more than a month.

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.

Detecting very small earthquakes is notoriously difficult. The churning of the ocean, a passing car or even the wind can feel a lot like a minor quake to the sensors that blanket seismically active parts of the U.S.

That's a problem for scientists who rely on data about all the earthquakes in a region to study what triggers the biggest, most destructive ones.

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.

An hour south of Charlotte, N.C., two forks in the road beyond suburbia, a freshly constructed house sits in a wind tunnel waiting to be set on fire.

To the left of the house is a brick wall with a hole in the middle, made by a 2-by-4 propelled at 70 miles per hour.

In front of the house is a metal staircase five stories tall. At the top are the hail guns.

More than 100 fans begin to turn, slowly at first and then faster. The ember generators flicker on. The fire is about to begin.

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.

How Federal Disaster Money Favors The Rich

Mar 5, 2019

If they had known, they never would have bought the house on Bayou Glen Road. Sure, it was a beautiful lot, tucked in a bend of the creek, backyard woodsy and wild, the neighbors friendly and the street quiet. A little piece of nature just 20 minutes from downtown Houston. It was exactly what John and Heather Papadopoulos — recently married, hoping to start a family — were looking for in 2007. They didn't think much about the creek that ran along their yard, aside from appreciating the birds it attracted to the neighborhood.

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.

Leaders from nearly 200 countries, including the United States, are at a big climate conference in Poland this week. They are struggling to agree on rules for how to meet their national promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate agreement of 2015. The official U.S. position is making it difficult.

As the international climate summit in southern Poland enters its second and final week, most countries agree on the basic scientific facts: greenhouse gasses are causing climate change, and every country is feeling its effects.

But the United States, under the leadership of President Trump, has taken a different view. The administration questions the overwhelming scientific evidence suggesting that human activity is causing the climate to warm. As a result, the U.S., which has been a leader in past negotiations, is playing unpredictable role in this year's summit.

For the next two weeks, leaders from around the world are attending a major climate conference in Poland. They will talk about how to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and how to support those communities that are already being affected by climate change.

Climate change is already causing more frequent and severe weather across the U.S., and the country is poised to suffer massive damage to infrastructure, ecosystems, health and the economy if global warming is allowed to continue, according to the most comprehensive federal climate report to date.

Hurricanes are dropping more rain and causing more flooding than in the past, and humans are to blame on multiple fronts.

Climate scientists have warned for decades that global warming will cause extreme weather to get more frequent and severe. A pair of studies published today in the journal Nature find that hurricanes are already causing more rain than they used to, and that cities themselves may be making the rainfall from those storms even worse.

In October 2017, Drew Wynne collapsed inside a walk-in refrigerator at his coffee business in North Charleston, S.C. By the time his business partner found him crumpled on the floor, Wynne was dead. He had suffocated on a chemical called methylene chloride.

Carmen Lugo has lived in Puerto Rico her whole life, and her whole life she has feared the water that comes out of her tap.

"When I was a child, we used filters," she says, leaning on the doorjamb with her 11-year-old in front of her and two teenage sons sleepy-eyed behind her on a morning in July.

"The water here," she says, pausing as she purses her lips in a tight smile. She chooses her words carefully. "We want to be in good health," she finally says. "My husband, he buys water from the Supermax," referring to a local grocery store.

Hurricane Florence is moving relentlessly toward the Southeastern U.S. It's a large, powerful cyclone that will likely bring storm surge and high winds to coastal communities.

But climate scientists say one of the biggest threats posed by Florence is rain.

The Houston Ship Channel has the rhythm of an ant colony. Barges and oil tankers lumber through the silty water; tangles of exposed pipe rise hundreds of feet above a sea of white tanks. Residents of the coastal plain between Houston and Galveston will tell you the plain is flatter than a regulation pool table. But if you can get up high enough you'll see trains and ships and trucks moving ceaselessly from dock to dock, terminal to terminal.

The Houston Ship Channel has the rhythm of an ant colony. Barges and oil tankers lumber through the silty water, tangles of exposed pipe rise hundreds of feet above a sea of white tanks. Residents of the coastal plain between Houston and Galveston will tell you the plain is flatter than a regulation pool table. But if you can get up high enough you'll see trains and ships and trucks moving ceaselessly from dock to dock, terminal to terminal.

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When Star Ames was a child there was a flood. The streets were like rivers and the houses like islands. It was 1960 and the village of Odanah, Wis. was up to its neck.

The town had been built on the banks of the Bad River, in the floodplain. "I remember watching the river come up," Ames says. "Every place we thought was high enough, the water kept coming up."

Each year, Dylan Jennings harvests wild rice from the lakes and rivers near his home in northern Wisconsin. He and a partner use a canoe, nosing carefully through rice beds and knocking rice kernels into the boat's hull using special sticks.

"It's a really long process," he says. "It starts with identifying the area where you are going to go ricing and knowing those areas in a very intimate way."

Updated at 4:35 p.m. ET

Social media companies have not had a good week in the stock market.

Nuclear power plants in Europe have been forced to cut back electricity production because of warmer-than-usual seawater.

Plants in Finland, Sweden and Germany have been affected by a heat wave that has broken records in Scandinavia and the British Isles and exacerbated deadly wildfires along the Mediterranean.

The dense network of cables that make up the Internet is likely to be inundated with saltwater as sea levels rise, a new analysis suggests, putting thousands of miles of critical infrastructure along U.S. coastlines underwater in the next 15 years.

After months spent staggering beneath the weight of roughly a dozen official ethics probes, mounting bipartisan criticism and one used mattress, Scott Pruitt decided to

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