The Best Reporting on the Hottest Temperatures

Journalism in the public interest.
Aug. 10 2012 3:16 PM

Heat Wave!

ProPublica gathers the best reporting on the local effects of rising temperatures around the world.

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Corn stalks suffering from drought conditions are seen on a farm Mechanicsville, Md.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

July was the hottest month ever recorded in the continental United States, and the past 12 months have been hotter than any such period on record. Half of all counties in the country have been declared disaster areas, mainly due to drought.  

We’ve rounded up some of the best journalism on the effects of rising temperatures. Got others you’re burning to share? Add them in the comments.

Profits on Carbon Credits Drive Output of a Harmful Gas, New York Times, August 2012
Under a U.N. carbon credit program, manufacturers can get credits for reducing emission of greenhouse gases. But air-conditioner and refrigerator manufacturers realized they could profit from a waste gas produced while making coolant, and they started making and destroying more of it to earn credits. The result: more production of the original coolant, which also contributes to global warming and damages the ozone layer.

In Drought-Stricken Midwest, It's Fodder vs. Fuel, NPR, July 2012
A U.S. law requires gas companies to buy a certain amount of ethanol, which is made from corn. That means ethanol factories are buying up the crop. Farmers who need corn for livestock, and who are already struggling with drought, say the system isn't fair.

Wildfire: Red Slurry's Toxic Dark Side, Denver Post, June 2012
Hundreds of thousands of gallons of "red slurry" were dropped on wildfires raging in Colorado. The chemical mixture is effective at firefighting, but it’s also full of toxins that threaten the water supply and wildlife, including ammonia and nitrates. For more background on the Colorado fires, read I-News Network’s account on how more people are moving into the state’s high-risk “red zones”, even as the frequency of fires has increased over the past decade.

Oysters in Deep Trouble: Is Pacific Ocean’s Chemistry Killing Sea Life?, Seattle Times, April 2012
Since 2005, millions of Pacific oysters in a Washington estuary have failed to reproduce and the oyster larvae have been dying. Though region-specific causes contributed to the decline, some scientists believe that greenhouse gases are leading to increased corrosive seawater sooner than expected.

The Great Oasis, The New Yorker, December 2011
About one--third of the earth is covered in desert, a percentage that increases each year thanks in part to climate change and unsustainable farming. The New Yorker’s Burkhard Bilger examines the science and politics involved in various countries’ efforts to stop desertification, from China and Israel to Oman and Nigeria.

Our Dying Forests, Salt Lake Tribune, September 2011
This multipart series centers on the decline of the once-lush forestation in the Rocky Mountain West, where warmer winters and longer growing seasons have sparked an explosion of native beetle species that have destroyed 40 million acres of moisture-starved spruce, firs, and aspen.

Extreme Heat Blanches Coral, and Threat is Seen, New York Times, September 2010
In 2010 many of the world’s coral reefs turned white in reaction to too-warm waters. Coral bleaching and die-offs often occur in years when El Niño or other unusual weather patterns contribute to hot ocean temperatures, but scientists say that global warming is also playing a factor in what they call “global bleachings.”

Losing Louisiana, Times-Picayune, December 2008
Rising sea levels pose a particular problem for Louisiana’s fragile coastline, where the land is sinking and protective wetlands have been ravaged by development and hurricanes. North Carolina’s shore is also seeing the impact of rising seas, as the Charlotte Observer covered in a recent series on coastal erosion.

Cora Currier is a reporting intern at ProPublica.

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