Climate Change | St. Louis Public Radio

Climate Change

Andrew Hurley is the historian for the five-year project “The Missouri Transect: Climate, Plants and the Community.”
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The Great Flood of ’93 took a severe toll on St. Louis as an unprecedented weather phenomenon. But St. Louis is no stranger to floods, tornadoes, heat waves, ice storms and more.

Amid dealing with the effects of these events, St. Louisans should be aware that climate change has the potential to increase the frequency of them as well.

A cornfield outside of Valmeyer, Illinois. Aug 31, 2018
Brian Heffernan | St. Louis Public Radio

Researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center want to learn how a changing climate could affect the fertility of corn and other major crops.

Scientists at the Danforth Center, Stanford University and the University of Delaware have received a $3.5-million grant from the National Science Foundation to take a closer look at anthers in maize plants. Anthers — the male reproductive part of the plant — generate pollen.

A field of rye
Stephen Ausmus | U.S. Department of Agriculture

Farmers and ranchers in Missouri could help cut the state’s contribution to climate change by using practices that store carbon from the atmosphere in the soil, according to a climate science report released this month.

In Missouri, many farmers use no-till or reduced-till practices, which means not using mechanical equipment to overturn the soil. They do this to improve soil health and prevent erosion, but research also shows that no-till farming can store carbon in the soil. Missouri could cut carbon dioxide emissions further if farmers adopted more practices that not only enhances soil quality, but also promotes carbon sequestration, concludes the report from Climate Central, a nonprofit climate science group.

Washington University professor Daniel Giammar is leading a team of engineers and geologists to understand how quickly carbon dioxide becomes limestone rock when injected into volcanic rock deep underground.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

With mounting concern over climate change, scientists around the world are looking for ways to keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

A team of geologists and engineers at Washington University is testing ways to trap carbon dioxide beneath the Earth’s surface. The process, known as carbon sequestration, involves injecting carbon dioxide deep underground. Over time, the gas reacts with the surrounding rock and water and becomes rock itself.


Longtime St. Louis meteorologist Cindy Preszler now runs WeatherSTL.com.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Despite a warming world, there’s little chance of weather becoming unpredictable – or at least less predictable than it already is. That’s according to new research from the University of Missouri’s School of Natural Resources.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh spoke with local meteorologist Cindy Preszler about the findings – along with Anthony Lupo, a professor of atmospheric science who helped lead the study.

Tower for drilling horizontally into the Marcellus Shale Formation for natural gas in Moreland Township, Pa.
Ruhrfisch | Wikimedia Commons

Natural gas company Spire could soon win federal approval to build a 65-mile pipeline that ferries natural gas from eastern U.S. shale formations to the St. Louis region. However, some residents and environmental lawyers want to put a halt to the project, saying there are too many environmental risks involved with building the pipeline. 

The Spire STL Pipeline would run through Scott, Greene and Jersey counties in Illinois and St. Charles and St. Louis counties in Missouri. Because it crosses state lines, it requires approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which released an environmental assessment of the project at the end of September.

Area residents and environmentalists complain that the project would only encourage more hydraulic fracturing, an activity that emits methane, one of several greenhouse gases that causes climate change.

Lara Hamdan / St. Louis Public Radio

The Climate Change Theatre action put theater and advocacy together to bring awareness to the harmful environmental impacts of climate change. The action began on Oct. 1 and runs through Nov. 18 – involving over 225 events in 40 countries.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about a local production of short plays inspired by climate change and the current attitudes towards science.

This treehopper in a greenhouse at Saint Louis University would not normally have a purple horn or "pronotum." It was painted that color for identification purposes.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Researchers are studying countless plants and animals to understand how climate change could threaten populations. At Saint Louis University, scientists want to know if changes in temperature could affect the mating songs of insects.  

Biologists at SLU have received $480,000 from the National Science Foundation to study how temperature affects treehopper mating songs, which could provide clues as to how climate change could affect insect survival. The loss of insect species could adversely affect agriculture and many ecosystems that depend on them.

Mizzou researchers studied fossils of clams called Abra segmentum valves that had been infected by trematodes, collected from nothern Italy.
Scientific Reports

Fossil records suggest that there could be another consequence of climate change and rising sea levels: an increase in parasitic worm infections. 

Scientists at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Bologna studied clams collected in northern Italy that date back to the Holocene Epoch, a time when the planet was warming up after the Ice Age. Parasitic worms called trematodes, also known as flukes and flatworms, would attempt to feed on these ancient clams and the clams would respond by developing pits to keep them out.

By looking at the pits, the researchers learned that the presence of trematodes increased during relatively short periods of sea level rise.

John Posey, director of research for the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, has researched what the impacts of climate change could be like in the St. Louis region.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Maybe you've heard it suggested that as the impacts of climate change are felt more keenly in the coming century and sea levels rise, that people living on the coasts will move inward to the Midwest … a place like St. Louis, for example.

A recent New York Times article suggests that prospect may even be a little warmer than initially expected. What can we expect the St. Louis of the future, under the impacts of climate change, will be like?

Mary Miller, Anne Barton-Veenkant and Chloe Jackson joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss this weekend's People's Climate March.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

This weekend, St. Louis will play host to a local People’s Climate March. The event is spearheaded by a new local grassroots group called 350 STL, which is part of an international organizing collective called 350.org.

Ameren Missouri's largest coal-fired power plant in Labadie, Missouri.
File photo | Veronique LaCapra I St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order today that would relieve coal-dependent states such as Missouri from having to comply with strict carbon emissions limits. The plan to eliminate the Clean Power Plan was announced earlier this week by Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt. 

About 77 percent of electricity generated in Missouri comes from coal. Under the Clean Power Plan, Missouri would have to cut its carbon pollution by nearly a third by 2030, based on 2012 levels. Coal-fired power plants would be required to curb their greenhouse gas emissions and over the long term, and utility companies that operate them would have to transition away from coal to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. Missouri is one of 28 states challenging the rule in court.

But local environmentalists say there are consequences to removing the Clean Power Plan.

Asha Paudel

Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election has put many environmentalists and scientists on edge about U.S. commitments to fight climate change, since the president-elect has previously called climate change a "hoax" and vowed to "cancel" the Paris climate agreement.

Among the nervous scientists is Missouri Botanical Garden ethnobotanist Jan Salick, who has studied the effects of climate change on indigenous peoples since the early 2000s. Earlier this month, Salick attended the United Nations annual climate change meeting in Marrakech, Morocco. 

She spoke to St. Louis Public Radio's Eli Chen about her research and the challenges scientists face in the current political climate. Here is the conversation:

Amy Harmon covers science and society for the New York Times.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amy Harmon has been a national correspondent for The New York Times, covering the intersection of science and society, since 1997. On Thursday, she joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the divide between public opinion and scientific data. She will address audiences on similar subject matter at the Danforth Plant Science Center on Thursday evening as well.

A member of Washington University engineering professor Rajan Chakrabarty's laboratory lights up forest material in a combustion chamber.
Provided by Washington University in St. Louis

Recent studies have indicated that wildfires such as the ones that have raged in the western United States could have a cooling effect on our climate. But early findings by engineers at Washington University suggest that wildfire smoke could have a warming effect on the atmosphere. 

Using material from forests in the west, Wash U scientists have been recreating wildfires in the laboratory to understand the effects such events have on climate and public health. Research predicts that wildfires could occur more frequently and for longer periods of time. A 2012 study suggests that the area burned by wildfires in the United States could double by 2050.

(via Flickr/KOMUnews)

In Missouri, 27 percent of  carbon emissions are caused by the transportation sector, according to a national report. 

Local environmental advocates are using the findings by the nonprofit think tank, Frontier Group, to argue that providing more carbon-neutral transportation options could improve public health and safety. The report includes multiple policy recommendations to reduce transportation's impact on the environment, including incentives for consumers to purchase electric cars and creating more paths for pedestrians and bikers. 

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle will recieve the World Ecology Award from the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center on Oct. 16.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

It took hundreds of millions of years to populate oceans with its vast array of wildlife from plankton up to Coral Reefs and blue whales. It only took a few decades for humans to extract 90 percent of the big fish in the ocean and cut the number of Coral Reefs in half, said Dr. Sylvia Earle, a famous oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence.

This combined sewer overflow (archway in channel) discharges sewage and rain water into the upper River Des Peres, on Ferguson Ave. just south of Melrose Ave. in University City.
Veronique LaCapra

St. Louis is among the U.S. cities where millions of gallons of sewage has flowed into rivers and streams, according to a new study.

The St. Louis region saw as much as 200 million gallons of sewage overflow due to the December floods, according to research released today by Climate Central, a science and news organization. It concludes that St. Louis and other cities that have trouble handling heavy rains need to do more to address the problem.

John Burroughs seniors Garrett Moore and Hunter Wilkins plant milkweed at Bellerive Park on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Plants such as milkweed, blazing star, goldenrods, turtleheads, and the aster and cardinal flowers are just a few that are native to the St. Louis area. And, planting them is not only aesthetically pleasing but they are environmentally beneficial, especially to pollinators such as butterflies and honeybees.

Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Scientists say frogs are one of the first "canaries in the coal mine" for climate change. That’s because they absorb a lot of what’s in the environment through their skin.

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