Rebecca Hersher

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.

Hersher was part of the NPR team that won a Peabody award for coverage of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and produced a story from Liberia that won an Edward R. Murrow award for use of sound. She was a finalist for the 2017 Daniel Schorr prize; a 2017 Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting fellow, reporting on sanitation in Haiti; and a 2015 NPR Above the Fray fellow, investigating the causes of the suicide epidemic in Greenland.

Prior to working at NPR, Hersher reported on biomedical research and pharmaceutical news for Nature Medicine.

Pastor Aaron Trigg was at home when the water arrived in Rainelle. It had been raining hard all day, filling the creeks and rivers that run through southern West Virginia. In the past, such intense downpours would only last a few hours. But this storm brought wave after wave of torrential rain.

"You could hear the water up in the mountains just crashing trees," Trigg remembers.

Rainelle is a small town in a steep valley. When the creek near downtown jumped its banks on the evening of June 23, 2016, the water immediately flooded into every home on Trigg's block.

A suspected oil tanker leak off the coast of Israel last week has led to Israel's biggest maritime ecological disaster in many years, with authorities closing the country's beaches and beginning a massive cleanup effort.

Millions of Texas residents suffered last week when a winter storm caused a statewide electrical grid failure. But those who had power, even intermittently, are also paying a price — literally.

Many residents face enormous bills for the electricity they used during the storm.

Residents with variable-rate power plans are being hit the hardest. Such plans charge different prices for electricity depending on how much demand there is. The more demand, the higher the price.

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Federal scientists have confirmed that 2020 basically tied with 2016 for the hottest year recorded since 1880. The Earth is about 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer today than it was in the mid-20th century. Scientists warn that humans must keep global temperatures from rising more than about 3 degrees Fahrenheit in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Devon Hall has lived most of his nearly seven decades in Duplin County, N.C. The land is flat and green there in the southeastern part of the state, about an hour's drive from the coast. It's lovely unless you live downwind of one of the county's many industrial hog farms.

"It can get really bad," says Hall, the co-founder of the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help in Duplin County.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in a case brought by the city of Baltimore against more than a dozen major oil and gas companies including BP, ExxonMobil and Shell. The city government argued that the fossil fuel giants must pay for the costs of climate change because they knew that their products cause potentially catastrophic global warming.

The Environmental Protection Agency adopted a new rule restricting the types of scientific studies its own regulators can use to rein in pollution, in the Trump administration's latest effort to undercut the use of science in establishing public health standards.

With just a few weeks left, 2020 is in a dead-heat tie for the hottest year on record. But whether it claims the top spot misses the point, climate scientists say. There is no shortage of disquieting statistics about what is happening to the Earth.

President-elect Joe Biden will name Michael Regan, North Carolina's environment secretary and a former EPA official, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a source familiar with the decision who spoke about private conversations on the basis of anonymity.

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate environmental lawyer and Obama administration veteran Brenda Mallory to run the Council on Environmental Quality, according to a source with knowledge of the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect private conversations.

The White House office oversees environmental reviews for virtually all major infrastructure projects, including pipelines and highways.

Climate change is making people sick and leading to premature death, according to a pair of influential reports on the connections between global warming and health.

Scientists from the World Meteorological Organization released a preliminary report on the global climate which shows that the last decade was the warmest on record and that millions of people were affected by wildfires, floods and extreme heat this year on top of the global pandemic.

A satellite scheduled to launch from California later this month will measure sea level rise and provide other crucial data to scientists who study how global warming is affecting the Earth's oceans.

The United States will formally leave the Paris Agreement on Wednesday, no matter who wins the election. Of the nearly 200 nations that signed the agreement, the U.S. is the only one to walk away from its promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

President Trump originally announced his intention to withdraw from the landmark agreement in 2017 and formally notified the United Nations last year. A mandatory yearlong waiting period ends on Wednesday, a coincidence that nonetheless highlights the Trump administration's commitment to derailing efforts that address climate change.

When Amanda Daniels found an affordable first-floor apartment in Wicker Park, a hip Chicago neighborhood, she was excited.

"It had a washer and dryer, which is like gold. And it had a huge shared patio space," she remembers. "I was like, 'This place is awesome.' "

Daniels was living paycheck to paycheck at the time. The year after she moved in, a summer rainstorm flooded her living room with brown water. It destroyed her rug and table, but she salvaged what she could and moved.

Five years ago, the Obbink family decided to buy a house in Virginia Beach, Va.

Kerrie Obbink led the charge because her husband, Steve, was an active-duty member of the Navy. That was why they had moved from Connecticut to Virginia in the first place. Kerrie started looking for houses that were in their price range, and where she could imagine raising their children.

It didn't take long to find a place that seemed right. "He liked the standalone garage," she remembers, "and there was a park across the street with playing fields, which was nice."

Each family had their reasons for ending up in harm's way.

For the Harts, it was the chance to have a large backyard in a quiet part of Ashland, Ore. The porch of the Baltimore house was perfect for Scott Harris' barbecue equipment. Kevin Boudreaux had grown up on the bayou and wanted to settle near his childhood home in Cameron, La.

A 25-year-old was infected twice with the coronavirus earlier this year, scientists in Nevada have confirmed. It is the first confirmed case of so-called reinfection with the virus in the U.S. and the fifth confirmed reinfection case worldwide.

The cases underscore the importance of social distancing and wearing masks even if you were previously infected with the virus, and they raise questions about how the human immune system reacts to the virus.

On Nov. 4, the day after the election, the United States will officially exit the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The date is a coincidence. Still, the timing underscores a crucial victory for the Trump administration in its efforts to derail federal action on global warming, which the president dismisses as a hoax.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency fails to help tens of thousands of people whose homes have repeatedly flooded, according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security.

Updated at 6:15 p.m.

David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning basic tenets of climate science, has been hired for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Updated at 11:45 a.m.

Hurricane Laura tore through a region that is home to dozens of major oil refineries, petrochemical plants and plastics facilities. Now, residents could be breathing dangerously polluted air from those sites, public health experts and local advocates say.

The upshot of climate change is that everyone alive is destined to experience unprecedented disasters. The most powerful hurricanes, the most intense wildfires, the most prolonged heat waves and the most frequent outbreaks of new diseases are all in our future. Records will be broken, again and again.

But the predicted destruction is still shocking when it unfolds at the same time.

Hurricane Laura's top wind speeds nearly doubled in just 24 hours as it approached the border between Texas and Louisiana. The wall of water it pushed in front of it grew until forecasters warned that it would produce "unsurvivable" storm surge.

Updated Friday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Millions of people rely on real estate websites when they're hoping to buy or rent a home. Major sites such as Zillow, Redfin, Trulia and Realtor.com feature kitchens, bathrooms, mortgage estimates and even school ratings. But those sites don't show buyers whether the house is likely to flood while they're living there.

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