The Future of Forecasting

Science News, April 2015

By incorporating clever computing, statistical wizardry and even smartphones, future forecasts may offer personalized predictions for areas as narrow as 10 Manhattan city blocks over timescales of just a few minutes. The work could one day provide earlier warnings for potentially deadly storms and even resolve personal conundrums such as whether to grab an umbrella for a run to the coffee shop or to wait a few minutes because the rain will soon let up.

Feature article on how new technology is driving weather forecasting into the small scale and the near future. Research projects covered include new supercomputers boosted by video game console components, crowdsourcing weather data from smartphones and a system that promises tornado warnings an hour or more in advance of a twister touchdown. Story accompanied by an online sidebar on why earlier tornado warnings could cause people to make unsafe decisions. Published in both online and print editions (cover story of issue).

War Zone Volcano: Scientists face an uphill battle to reveal Mount Nyiragongo’s fiery past and forecast its future

Science News, December 2014

On clear nights a red glow radiates from the top of Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On the mountain’s summit the source of the light thrashes and boils: the largest and most active lava lake in the world.

Feature article on scientists uncovering the eruptive history of Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, facing fast-flowing lava, armed bandits, and missile strikes. Story accompanied by slideshow and podcast. Published in both online and print editions. Cover story of special issue on disasters.

Palatable Speech

Science Notes, August 2013

Alexis sits on a blue chair in the middle of the room. “Hey, look at this book with us,” she parrots back to a therapist, squirming nervously. As the eight-year-old struggles to make the “b” sound in “book,” her voice trails off. Alexis was born with an opening between the roof of her mouth and her left nostril. Along with one in 700 newborns, she came into the world with a cleft palate. The scar from her reconstructive surgery has faded away, but her speech impediment is a constant reminder of how Alexis was born disfigured.

Feature article on an iPad game built to help children born with cleft palates improve their speech accompanied by infographic and podcast. Reviewed by the Knight Science Journalism Tracker.

Stephanie Moura, ocean policy manager

The SciCom Interviews, April 2013

Off the coast of New England, a telecommunications company digs trenches for new cable lines. Four years ago, the path of the dig would be a cost-efficient straight line through a vulnerable seafloor ecosystem. Now, thanks to new state policies in Massachusetts, the company is paying more for rerouted cables — but worrying less about lengthy approvals and backlash from environmentalists.

Kamikaze Electrons

NASA BARREL, June 2012

Towering 15 stories above the Antarctic landscape, the white balloon casts a long, dark shadow across the snow. The ground crew makes final preparations for launch, filling the balloon with helium and securing its cargo. In one fluid motion, the workers free the balloon from the Earth. Rising into the air, it becomes a fading silhouette in a cloudless sky.