sea level rise
Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at East Carolina University

In 2010, the Science Panel that advises the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission released a report. It said the state could expect a 39-inch sea-level rise by the end of the century. If that came to pass, it would affect billions of dollars of property along the coast.

Map of fall colors
Dr. Howard Neufeld, Michael Denslow / Appalachian State

What weekend should you go to Grandfather Mountain in western North Carolina to see the fall colors at the peak of perfection? There's a map that was created by scientists at Appalachian State that attempts to answer that very question.

Environment NC
Dave DeWitt

Environmental groups are putting pressure on Governor Pat McCrory to do more to clean up coal ash across the state. Environment North Carolina delivered a petition with 40,000 signatures to his office today.

Legislation goes into effect today that directs Duke Energy to clean up coal ash at the four pits deemed to be the highest risk. The law gives Duke 15 years to complete the clean-up.

Environmentalists say that doesn’t go far enough.

National Audubon Society, Meryl Lorenzo


Climate change will likely alter the migratory routes and habitats of more than half of the birds in North America, according to new study published by the National Audubon Society.

Wood Duck
Ellerbee Creek Watershed Association

Honking horns, slamming doors and congested streets: these are the sounds and sites of a bustling city. 

A champion tiger shark at a fish rodeo in 1988
Joel Fodrie / UNC IMS

Over the past 30 years, the size of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico has been shrinking. Drastically. Some sharks are 70 percent smaller.

The findings come from the University of Alabama and the University of North Carolina's Institute of Marine Sciences.

Researchers came up with a novel way of gathering the historical data. While there wasn't any academic database that collected such information, local newspapers in the Gulf region have been publishing the results of fishing competitions for years.

seismic testing
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

The days of oil rigs off the coast of the Outer Banks is still many years away, if it ever comes. But the state of North Carolina is already making plans that will allow oil companies to use seismic imaging to search for possible oil reserves.

Donald Van der Vaart, the Energy Policy Advisor with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, told the North Carolina Energy Policy Council that seismic testing was last done off the coast of North Carolina in the 1980s.

The hydraulic fracturing (fracking) water cycle.
Environmental Protection Agency

Big news came out this week about fracking: Duke scientists have found that natural gas wells used in fracking caused contamination in eight drinking water wells in Texas and Pennsylvania.

Photo: A drilling site in northeastern Louisiana.
Daniel Foster via Flickr

A Duke University study exonerates hydraulic fracturing from contaminating drinking water at sites in Pennsylvania and Texas. Instead, researchers blame faulty shale gas wells for leaking methane into the water, sometimes making it flammable.

solar panels
Strata Solar

Duke Energy is investing $500 million in solar power generation in North Carolina.

Three new large-scale solar facilities will be built in Bladen, Wilson, and Duplin Counties. The 65 megawatt facility in Duplin will be the largest solar plant east of the Mississippi.

Due to a state law passed in 2007, Duke and other utilities must source at least 12.5 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021.

“We choose solar today because solar is the cheapest renewable energy certificate available to us,” said Duke Energy Vice President Rob Caldwell.

red wolf
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Hank and Betty seem like they’re in a pretty good mood today. It’s stopped raining, and the sun is poised to peak out between the loblolly pines that surround their den. And their caretaker, Kim Wheeler, has brought them a snack.

As the director of the Red Wolf Coalition, Wheeler cares for these two captive red wolves at their enclosure just south of Columbia. She often brings groups of tourists here to see the mating pair and learn more about how the species behaves.

Hofmann Forest
Historical State, NCSU Libraries

A new buyer has been added to the sales agreement for the 78,000-acre Hofmann Forest.

N.C. State University plans to sell two-thirds of the property to an Alabama-based sustainable timber company called Resource Management Service. The remaining third will still go to Hofmann Forest, LLC, which is owned by the Walkers, a prominent farming family in Illinois.

NC State spokesman Brad Bohlander says endowment trustees are happy to have the timber company on board.

Hurricane Arthur
National Weather Service / NOAA

Historically, today marks the peak in the Atlantic hurricane season. 

There have been four named storms so far and three of those were hurricanes.  Hurricane Arthur caused damage to eastern North Carolina when it came ashore along the Outer Banks in July.  

Richard Bandy is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Newport.  He said forecasts for a below normal season are proving accurate. 

On February 2, between 50,000 and 82,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of ash pond water waste were released at Duke Energy’s Dan River Steam Station (pictured above) north of Eden, N.C.
Steven Alexander / USFWS

Governor Pat McCrory says he'll allow a coal ash management plan to become law without his signature.

The governor says Duke Energy needs to take action as soon as possible. It needs to take care of the coal ash that's in ponds across the state. But that doesn't mean the governor is happy with the plan.

"I am letting the bill become law without signing it because there are major deficiencies that need to be corrected," he said in a recorded statement.

Dave DeWitt

A state task force will begin work soon to try to control an invasive plant that threatens the Eno River. Hydrilla was first spotted in the southern U.S. in the 1960s.

Hydrilla came to this country from Asia and is especially concentrated on the eastern side of the Eno River State Park, where the water is wide and slow-moving.

The plants are visible just below the surface of the river, like a giant bright green blanket choking off sunlight to the river’s bottom. The plant is spreading at a rate of about a mile a year, and in twelve years could reach Falls Lake.

Haw River
Haw River Assembly

The City of Burlington will embark on a series of improvements to its wastewater collection system. It’s part of an agreement between the city and various environmental groups. 

Back in January, more than 3.5 million gallons of raw sewage spilled out of a cracked pipe near a wastewater treatment plant and into the Haw River. The Haw River winds through Alamance County and feeds into Jordan Lake, the main source of drinking water for more than a quarter of a million people.

A hog farm in Lyons, Georgia.
Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS

Several environmental groups have filed a federal complaint against the state over hog waste. In a filing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the organizations say North Carolina has failed to enforce rules regulating disposal of hog waste.  

Students at Estes Elementary finishing lunch.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Schools in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have launched a district-wide composting program in their cafeterias. 

The program started on the first day of classes in 15 elementary and middle schools.  Many individual schools in North Carolina have started composting, but few districts have created their own programs. 

Dan Schnitzer, sustainability coordinator for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, says the schools will be able to use some of the compost their students create.

A reduction of emissions from coal-fired plants like this one have helped North Carolina meet federal air quality standards.
eutrophication&hypoxia / Flickr, Creative Commons

North Carolina is meeting a new national standard for reducing particle pollution. 

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has notified Governor Pat McCrory that it will officially designate that the state is in compliance this coming December. 

State air quality experts say particle pollution can reach dangerous levels at any time during the year. 

A map of Duke Energy's 14 coal ash sites and their operational status in 14 energy plants across the state.
Duke Energy

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources plans to fine Duke Energy for groundwater contamination from two coal ash ponds near Wilmington.

State officials decided to fine Duke as they wait for the outcome of legal action against the utility company.

In lawsuits filed last summer, officials say Duke has illegally leaked toxic chemicals like thallium from coal ash ponds.

These are 33 basins across North Carolina full of ash left over from burning coal. Two of these basins are at the L.V. Sutton Electric Plant in New Hanover County.


A new, longer ferry route between Hatteras and Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks is now permanent. 

Officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the North Carolina Department of Transportation made the announcement Monday. 

Tim Hass of the state Ferry Division says the original shorter route continues to be a problem.

Every year on Cape Hatteras National Seashore, female sea turtles return to the beaches where they were born to lay the next generation. The turtle digs a hole in the sand with her back flippers, lays her eggs, covers the nest and heads back into the ocean.

This summer, researchers report finding a healthy number of sea turtle nests — a good thing, since they are a “threatened” species.


The Cape Hatteras National Seashore researchers found at least 121 turtle nests since May. That's about half the record number of nests found last summer.

But Research Coordinator Britta Muiznieks says this year's count is average and she's not worried.

"Sea turtles don't nest every year. They nest every two to three years. There are no alarm bells going off because our numbers are declining compared to last year," she says.

A Marcellus Shale drill rig in Pennsylvania used in the fracking process.
Ken Skipper, USGS

State officials are holding a hearing in Sanford today on proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing. Hundreds are expected to attend.

Fracking is a form of shale gas extraction, and it's controversial, among other things, because of it's a serious contamination threat to drinking water.

So as the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission shares its proposed rules for the industry, many people are interested. Earlier this week, hundreds packed an auditorium at N-C State in Raleigh.

Campers at the NC Zoo in Asheboro learn to use radio telemetry
NC Zoo

A dozen lucky kids tented overnight on the grounds of the NC Zoo recently. They were taking part in a one-of-a-kind summer camp. Carol Jackson tagged along with a video camera.

Usually when kids camp overnight at a zoo they look closely at the animals and learn from the keepers, or maybe the veterinarians.