Environment

In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? 

WLRN's award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

Hurricane Season A Bust? Not So Fast

Aug 21, 2013
FlickR/NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Almost halfway finished, the 2013 hurricane season has been a breeze in Florida.

But Craig Fugate, the federal government's top emergency manager, looks at things a little differently. His question: "Have we started playing college football yet?"

Fugate and Bryan Koon, director of the state Division of Emergency Management, held a news conference Wednesday to reinforce the message that Florida is just entering the thick of hurricane season in late August and September --- which, coincidentally is when college football starts.

Global sea level has been rising as a result of global warming, but in 2010 and 2011, sea level actually fell by about a quarter of an inch.

Scientists now say they know why: It has to do with extreme weather in Australia.

The sea level drop coincided with some of the worst flooding in that continent's history. Dozens of people died and torrents washed away houses and cars, forcing thousands from their homes.

Veterans Build New Army Of Divers In Shark-Infested Waters

Aug 16, 2013
Operation: Blue Pride

Once a warrior always a warrior.

For Sergeant Stephen Wayne Jackel Jr., who walks on two metal prosthetics below the knees - he’s found a new army to join after retiring from the United States Army at 34 years old. 

“We aren’t concerned about the army we’re going to build, it’s how long its going to take to build that army,” said Jackel Jr. 

That army being raised is not land-based brigade but a group of undersea soldiers, with severely injured veterans leading the way.

The appearance of a Brazilian fish has sent a chill through summertime swimmers in Sweden and Denmark. The alarming fish isn't the much-feared piranha but its cousin, the pacu, which has large teeth and a reputation for attacking men's testicles.

Help Miami-Dade Find New Sources Of Sand

Aug 12, 2013
Yahoo Images/Cejas.me

Miami-Dade County needs new sources of sand for its beaches.

The Army Corps of Engineers says Miami-Dade is running out of offshore supplies and the county is looking for new places to harvest sand.

The corps is holding public meetings every day this week starting in Miami Beach this evening. Meetings will be held in Palm Beach and Broward counties Tuesday and Thursday.  

The corps is already considering a couple of different places Miami-Dade can get more sand from such as upland sources and federal and state waters in Southeast Florida.

The weather is one of those topics that is fairly easy for people to agree on. Climate, however, is something else.

Most of the scientists who study the Earth say our climate is changing and humans are part of what's making that happen. But to a lot of nonscientists it's still murky. This week, two of the nation's most venerable scientific institutions tried to explain it better.

Magnolia Pictures

Imagine you’re wrenched away from your mother at two years of age, transported thousands of miles away, put in the care of strangers then kept day and night in a small, cramped, dark space. You’re forced to do tricks for food.

But eventually you've grown to a weight of about 12,000 pounds, and finally see your chance to get even. So you take it.

Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost roughly as much land as makes up the state of Delaware.

"If you put the state of Delaware between New Orleans and the ocean, we wouldn't need any levees at all," says John Barry, vice president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. "There is this large buffer of land that has disappeared, and that buffer makes New Orleans much more vulnerable to hurricanes."

Balancing Tourism With Eco-Preservation On Islamorada

Jul 23, 2013
Cammy Clarck/Miami Herald

A proposal to build an eco-friendly resort in the Upper Keys is raising questions about how to marry economic development and environmental preservation.

Coral Springs urologist Dr. Albert Vorstman owns eight acres of land in Islamorada along US-1 that Miami Herald reporter Cammy Clark described in a recent article:

Flickr photo from VgM8989

As an undergrad at Louisiana State University, I learned quickly what it means to live in a swamp. I left our college newsroom after an all-nighter working a tropical storm and found my car parked behind Tiger Stadium — filled to the stickshift with murky brown water.

OceanGate, Inc.

A team of scientists from  around the country recently spent two days off the coast of South Florida to investigate the explosion of lionfish.

What they found was shocking. Why?

Because there’s a war going on and the indomitable lionfish are winning.

These voracious predators are known to invade the shallows of coral reef.  They’re dangerous because they ruin the habitat and eat juvenile spiny lobsters, snappers, groupers, tarpon and bonefish - all valuable marine species humans rely on.

Why Handwringing About Sea Level Rise Won't Save Miami

Jun 28, 2013
FL Center for Environmental Studies

Miami as the modern Atlantis has a strangely tragic and romantic appeal.

Officially founded in 1896 (though there were settlers for some 75 years before that), and if a Rolling Stone article due to hit newsstands on July 4 is correct, Miami and the rest of coastal South Florida is looking at a very succinct timeline of existence.

With its pleasant climate, Florida has become home to more exotic and invasive species of plants and animals than any other state in the continental U.S. Some invasive species have been brought in deliberately, such as the Burmese python or the Cuban brown snail. But the majority of species are imported inadvertently as cargo.

Amanda Hodges, who heads the biosecurity research lab at the University of Florida, says that until recently, scientists saw about a dozen new bugs arrive in Florida each year.

Where Are The Most Deaths From Lightning? Florida

Jun 25, 2013

Florida ranks number one in the country in lightning strikes per square mile. So, it should be no surprise that Florida leads in lightning deaths as well.

But what’s eye opening to John Jensenius, a lightning specialist with the National Weather Service, is that 82 percent of the lightning deaths are male.

Also surprising is what they were doing when hit by lightning.

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