Science & Environment

U.S. Geological Survey

Saltwater injection. Fracking. Enhanced oil recovery.

News of protests in recent months against oil- and gas-related activity in the Flint Hills has drawn fresh attention to these and other terms — as well as some confusion.

Jackson County Emergency Preparedness

It’s time for your annual reminder of what to do when – not if – the New Madrid fault goes.

Drop to the floor. Cover your head. Hold on until the shaking stops.  

Prairies in Missouri and southern Illinois could look shorter by the end of the century, according to a study from the Missouri Botanical Garden and Kansas State University. 

Researchers reported in the journal Global Change Ecology that tall varieties of the big bluestem grass that covers much of Midwestern prairies could be taken over by shorter forms of the plant over the next several decades. That's because climate change could reduce rainfall in many parts of the region, leading to drier conditions.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The fight over an oil-related waste disposal well in Kansas’ Flint Hills has broadened into a campaign to protest similar wells across several counties and lobby lawmakers for regulatory changes.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas energy regulators have given the green light for an oil company to dispose of production-related wastewater in the Flint Hills — a plan that had met with resistance from residents.

Courtesy of Romeo Durscher / NASA

It is indeed dark during the day as a total solar eclipse makes its way from Oregon to Missouri to South Carolina. Eleven states are in the path of total darkness. Follow the astronomical phenomenon's journey across America along with NPR journalists and others experiencing the eclipse.

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Lexi Churchill / KCUR

It's a sticky summer afternoon in Kansas City, Kansas and Richard Mabion is outside replacing neighbor’s light bulbs for free. These bulbs will last longer and shine brighter, but most importantly, they’ll be much better for the environment.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission / Flickr - CC

Hackers have been infiltrating the networks of companies that run nuclear plants in the United States, including in Kansas, since May.

The New York Times reports that U.S. officials suspect foreign governments, including Russia, are behind the attacks. 

Farmers complained when China rejected shipments of U.S. corn after finding unapproved varieties.
File: Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

This story was updated at 3:12 p.m.

A federal jury in Kansas City, Kansas, awarded nearly $218 million to Kansas corn farmers after finding seed giant Syngenta AG was negligent when it introduced strains of genetically engineered corn seed into the marketplace that were not approved for import by the Chinese government.  

The eight-member jury returned its $217,700,000 verdict after an 18-day-long trial, the first of eight certified class actions lawsuits against Syngenta brought in state court.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Whenever she takes people out on her boat, Vicki Richmond from the Healthy Rivers Partnership likes to ask if they know where their drinking water comes from.

“You’d be amazed how many people don’t know it’s the Missouri River,” says Richmond as members of the media clamber aboard. For Drinking Water Week, the Kansas City Water Department arranged to have Richmond show us the Missouri River.

(This reporter would like to state, for the record, she knew before today where our drinking water came from.)

Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Why did the turtle cross the road? Because it’s turtle mating season in Missouri.

Department of Conservation spokesman Joe Jerek says young male turtles are usually in search of territory while females are trying to nest.

“And if you think about it, comfort’s also a factor for turtles. They’re reptiles. As reptiles, they’re cold-blooded, so basking on a warm asphalt road feels good on a cool spring day,” Jerek says.

Unfortunately every year some of these turtles end up getting hit by cars.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

The questions never stop coming. All fall and winter, people have not forgotten the 2016 outbreak of oak leaf itch mites. This itch mite is the pest that caused your friends and neighbors to hibernate indoors until a hard freeze brought this apocalypse to an end.

Kansas City Zoo

For the first time, the Kansas City Zoo’s baby chimpanzee has enjoyed being on public display with her twelve companion chimps. Baby Ruw was born at the zoo in April last year but rejected by her mother.

The 10-month-old spent Sunday morning touring her open habitat, clinging to the backs of older chimps. The zoo's senior director of zoological operations, Sean Putney, says Ruw’s reintroduction is going well.

Clean Line Energy Partners website

For the second time in three years, a massive electricity line project is back in Missouri seeking approval. 

The Grain Belt Express Clean Line would connect Kansas wind turbines to the eastern states with an 800-mile-long overhead transmission line. The company running the $2 billion project says it has approvals from three of the four states in its path, only Missouri stands in the way.

The transmission line is supported by  utility companies and unlikely bedfellows such as the Sierra Club and Walmart.

Natalie Curtis / Flickr--CC

An ice storm is expected to move across the Kansas City metro starting Friday, bringing sleet, freezing rain and likely hazardous road conditions.

The National Weather Service issued an ice storm advisory for the metro beginning at 9 a.m. Friday, prompting many schools and universities to suspend classes and activities for the day. 

Districts that have canceled classes include Belton public schools, Grandview public schools, Olathe public schools and Gardner/Edgerton public schools.

Tom Schroeder / Kansas City Wildlands

It took bee expert Mike Arduser about seven months to discover all the bee species living in two small patches of nature preserve in Kansas City.

But with a net and a lot of patience, he found something unexpected: 89 different bee species – including two never before seen in Missouri – pollinating flowering plants.

The surprising diversity is good news for conservationists because many of the bees evolved to fill narrow niches and serve vital roles in pollinating specific native plants.

USGS

Updated: 10:40 p.m. 

Kansas City metro area residents on Sunday night experienced rattling windows and shifting furniture due to another Oklahoma earthquake. 

According to the Associated Press, "The U.S. Geological Survey reported the earthquake struck at 7:44 p.m., with an epicenter located one mile west of Cushing, about 50 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. The USGS initially stated it was a magnitude 5.3 earthquake but lowered that rating to 5.0."

courtesy of Mark Brodwin / Janet Rodgers

Astronomer Mike Browdin understands that the immensity of our universe can be intimidating to some people. He gets that people don't think about supernovas and black holes as much as he does, and that it overwhelms them when they try to wrap their heads around it.

"Some people feel that when they are faced with the vastness of the universe and space and time, they feel insignificant," Browdin told Central Standard's Gina Kauffman. "And we are really small compared to that."

Kat Northern Lights Man / Flickr-CC

You know you've thought about it before — whether or not you could survive a zombie outbreak. Well, according to a new study, Kansas City is one of the best cities to be in during a hypothetical zombie apocalypse.

United Sates Department of Energy / Flickr-CC

A drive 30 minutes north of Omaha, Nebraska, leads to the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant. It's full of new equipment. There's a white concrete box building that's still under construction. It's licensed until 2033. But the plant is closing Monday.

Nuclear power is expensive, especially when compared to some of the alternatives, so the U.S. nuclear power industry is shrinking. As more plants go offline, industry leaders are forced to reckon with what critics call a "broken system" for taking plants out of service and storing radioactive waste.

sashapo / Flickr - CC

Try to find a hotel room in St. Joseph, Missouri a year from now, and you might be disappointed. On August 21, 2017, tens of thousands of visitors will have descended on the city to watch a remarkably rare event: a total solar eclipse.

St. Joseph falls in the small band in which the entirety of the sun will be blocked by the moon, causing the sky to go dark.

Eduard Solà / Wikimedia Commons

Seeing a planarian for the first time, you might not even know what you’re looking at. Brown, black, or white in color, these flatworms are about the size of a toenail clipping and have two light-sensing spots on their triangular-shaped heads that make them look cross-eyed. Their simple appearance, though, belies a surprising ability.

 

“You can take one of these animals and cut them into 18 fragments,” says Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, who does this for a living, “and each and every one of those fragments will go on to regenerate a complete animal.”

Updated Nov. 5, 2017 with a statement from Solar Roadways - The Idaho vendor that planned to work with the Missouri Department of Transportation on a solar road initiative is disappointed the pilot project did not work out. In an email, Scott Brusaw with Solar Roadways said it was a complicated contract.

Echo Bluff State Park is officially open.

Gov. Jay Nixon cut the ribbon Saturday on Missouri's newest park, which is being promoted as a hub from which visitors can explore the state's Ozark region.

Courtesy U2D, Inc.

A device that could improve homeland security, help the military and protect workers in nuclear facilities and hospitals has won a coveted award for a team led by a UMKC professor.

Physics professor Anthony Caruso led a team of 20 student researchers plus researchers at MU-Columbia and Kansas State University and two private companies in taking the product from concept through prototype to production.

Americasroof / Wikimedia--CC

The Mid-America Regional Council, or MARC, releases a Skycast each day with a forecast of ozone air quality. The third orange ozone alert in 2016 for the Kansas City area was issued for Thursday. It recommended "limiting prolonged outdoor exertion" by children and adults, especially those with respiratory issues, such as asthma. 

In recent years, ozone alerts haven't been issued until July, says Amanda Graor, MARC's air quality program manager.

Rex Archer and Alex Garza
Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

The greatest threat to public health in the face of bioterrorism, viral pandemics and natural disasters may actually be less of a headline-grabber: An insufficient budget.

Speaking on KCUR’s Up to Date on Friday, the former chief medical officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that while various programs are in place to protect against biological weapons and disease outbreaks, the system could still break down at the state and local level.

Courtesy of KCP&L

Kansas City Power and Light has agreed to buy wind energy from two plants now under construction in northwest Missouri.

NextEra Energy Resources is building its Osborn wind farm east of St. Joseph. It’s expected to be up and running by the end of the year and provide 200 megawatts of energy. A little further north, Tradewind Energy plans to complete the 300 megawatt Rock Creak wind farm near Tarkio, Missouri by September 2017.

ROY ANDERSON / OKLAHOMA FORESTRY SERVICES/ OKLAHOMA HIGHWAY PATROL

UPDATED, 10:20 a.m.:  A massive wildfire still rages in south-central Kansas, though authorities on the scene  indicate much of the blaze is coming under control. 

Active fires are still burning in Harper and Barber Counties in Kansas. The AP also reported Thursday emergency responders were called back out to Comanche County after a fire that was contained Wednesday night briefly reignited Thursday morning. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR

KC Water officials say a rigorous testing protocol should keep what happened in Flint, Michigan, from happening here.

“We’re trying to make sure the water is the best we can get out of here,” says plant manager Mike Klender. “We live in the city. We drink our water.”

The ongoing crisis in Flint began when the city switched to a new water source, but Kansas City is still pumping from the source it’s relied on for 80 years: the Missouri River.

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