Massachusetts Gas Explosions Draw Scrutiny of Natural Gas Safety and Climate Risks

A quiet, sunny afternoon in New England quickly turned to chaos and tragedy as a series of 80 fires and explosions erupted across three communities in the Merrimack Valley north of Boston on September 13. Extreme overpressure in a Columbia Gas distribution system caused uncontrollable natural gas venting over a wide area, and the resulting blasts killed one and injured more than two dozen.

Hundreds of Seals Have Died in Maine

Since July 1, more than 460 dead seals have washed up on beaches and islands in Maine, New Hampshire, and northern Massachusetts. Another 137 coughing, sneezing, and sick seals have stranded themselves, overwhelming marine animal rescuers. In an announcement last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared the mass die-off an unusual mortality event (UME)—adding to the three other UMEs currently affecting right, humpback, and minke whales in the same waters.

Can the Red Wolf Survive Extinction a Second Time?

In 1980, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the last 14 pure red wolves from the wild with plans to breed them in captivity and repopulate the landscape. Seven years later, four males and four females were released on the Albermarle Peninsula in North Carolina. After reaching a peak population of about 130 animals by 2006, gunshot and vehicular collisions have cut their numbers to just two dozen. The USFWS is now poised to abandon efforts to save them, this time with no plan for how, when, or where to reunite red wolves with their natural habitat.

Coral Reefs Lost to Kīlauea Eruption

When searing black lava from fissure 8 slid into the Pacific Ocean at Kapoho Bay on June 3, it had been five weeks since the collapse of the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater, along the eastern rift zone of the Kīlauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. Toxic, acid-laden steam billowed high above boiling waves. Within 36 hours, the bay became paved over by lava, creating a new coastline almost a mile out and destroying shallow-water coral reefs and tidepools.

History, Hidden Under the Waves

Broken, brown tree stumps and roots lie askew along an ancient peat bog on Block Island, churned up by Hurricane Sandy. Such bogs are not unusual in New England, but this one is different: it’s 6,000 years old and under 12 feet of water—a relic of a time when the ocean floor was filling in as mile-high glaciers melted and seas rose. [Archeologists and Native American tribes work together to identify culturally important sites underwater.]