• Perspective: ApocalypseIn the Event of a Killer Asteroid, Volcanic Apocalypse, or Nuclear Holocaust, Mushrooms Could Save Humanity from Extinction

    About 66 million years ago, an asteroid plummeted through Earth’s atmosphere and crashed into the sea floor, creating an explosion over 6,500 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima. The impact sent clouds of debris and sulfur into Earth’s atmosphere, blocking the sun’s light and warmth for about two years. Photosynthesis ground to a halt, which meant no more plant growth. The surviving dinosaurs starved to extinction. But fossil records show that fungi thrived in the aftermath. “Blot out the sun, and even the best-prepared survivalist, a master of the wilderness, will starve to death along with everyone else,” Bryan Walsh writes in his new book, End Times. In order to survive, he says, people would need to adopt sunlight-free agriculture — cultivating mushrooms, rats, and insects.

  • Perspective: Water woesBottled Water Is Sucking Florida Dry

    Florida has the largest concentration of freshwater springs in the world, but they are being devastated by increasing pollution and drastic declines in water flow. Some springs have dried up from overextraction; others have shown signs of saltwater intrusion and harmful algae blooms. The answer to this problem is simple: No more extraction permits should be granted, and existing permits should be reduced with the goal of eliminating bottled water production entirely in Florida. But that simple solution is not being implemented. In the next few months, Nestlé, the largest bottled-water company in the world, is set to renew its permit at Ginnie Springs, one of the most popular recreational attractions along the Santa Fe River,” Sainato and Skojec write. “The permit allows Nestlé to take one million gallons per day at no cost, with just a one-time $115 application fee.”

  • Perspective: Water woesThe Water Wars Are Here

    Everyone remembers the scene in Chinatown when Jack Nicholson almost gets his nose sliced off, but many do not recall what the dispute was about. It wasn’t drug smuggling or gun running that got Nicholson’s character slashed. It was water rights. Since the film was released in 1974, the question of who will get the limited water in the American West, particularly the all-important flow of the Colorado River, has grown even more contentious. Dystopian novels and movies predict a future in which people fight it out for every last drop of water to quench the thirst of expanding cities, parched agriculture, and wasteful suburban grass lawns. But the future is already here.

  • Perspective: Mitigating climate crisisCan We Engineer Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis?

    The Climate Apocalypse is upon us. More carbon monoxide has been discharged into the atmosphere in the last 50 years than in the whole of human history that went before. Carbon traps heat and the world is getting hotter. Heat holds water vapor and so rainfall is getting more frequent while heat waves last longer. Ice at the poles melts and coastal cities face inundation as sea levels rise. The doom confidently predicted by many climate scientists around the world is being met by optimism among other scientists who are employing innovative technologies that may transform the debate and offer hope for us all. These technological breakthroughs will impact all aspects of climate change from carbon emissions to food production and all forms of energy.

  • Internal displacementJan-June 2019: More Than 10M Internally Displaced by Violence, Extreme Weather Events

    More than 10 million new internal displacements were recorded between January and June 2019, according to a new report. Of the total, 3.8 million were triggered by conflict and violence, while disasters triggered a record seven million new displacements. The fact that the vast majority were associated with storms and floods suggests that mass displacement by extreme weather events is becoming the norm. 

  • VolcanoesVolcanoes Kill More People Long after They First Erupt – Those Deaths Are Avoidable

    By Jenni Barclay and Roger Few

    You may think of volcanic eruptions as spectacular but brief explosions. But in reality, these destructive forces wreak havoc before headlines are made and continue long after they fade. As our new research shows, it is the drawn-out nature of volcanic eruptions that can be most fatal – and understanding why is the key to saving lives.

  • GeoengineeringGeoengineering versus a Volcano

    Major volcanic eruptions spew ash particles into the atmosphere, which reflect some of the Sun’s radiation back into space and cool the planet. But could this effect be intentionally recreated to fight climate change? Solar geoengineering is a theoretical approach to curbing the effects of climate change by seeding the atmosphere with a regularly replenished layer of intentionally released aerosol particles. Proponents sometimes describe it as being like a “human-made” volcano.

  • PreparednessPreparing for the Unexpected Disaster

    When thinking of earthquakes in the U.S., California often comes to mind. But what if a massive earthquake suddenly struck Middle America? Would first responders and emergency managers have the tools to swiftly secure infrastructure and ensure public safety? Would every level of government, as well as stakeholders at non-governmental organizations or in the private sector, know how to properly communicate and share resources? DHS S&T asked itself these questions, and they were the driving force behind S&T joining FEMA and others for FEMA’s 2019 Shaken Fury exercise.

  • ResilienceHelping an Iowa Town Recover from Tornado Through Research, Outreach

    In the months following the tornado which hit Marshalltown, Iowa, faculty and students in Iowa State University’s sustainable environments interdisciplinary graduate program examined the housing recovery experience of different groups of Marshalltown residents. The goal is to finalize a toolkit that communities can use to examine social and economic challenges that exacerbate a disaster’s damage and slow recovery efforts.

  • PerspectiveTrump Pushed Staff to Deal with NOAA Tweet that Contradicted His Inaccurate Alabama Hurricane Claim, Officials Say

    President Trump told his staff that the nation’s leading weather forecasting agency – the National Weather Service (NWS), which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — needed to take back a statement NWS made on 1 September, correcting a tweet the president had sent wrongly claiming that Hurricane Dorian threatened Alabama. Trump’s demand was conveyed by White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (NOAA is part of the Commerce Department). Ross then threatened to fire the acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs unless NOAA issued a statement backing Trump’s false claim about Alabama, and admonishing the NWS’s scientists for correcting Trump’s wrong and misleading claim. Jacobs issued the statement Trump demanded in an unsigned press release on 6 September (NOAA chief scientist has now launched an investigation of Jacobs’s misleading press release, which was issued without consulting any scientists or meteorologists). Trump, talking with reporters on Wednesday, then falsely asserted that he did not direct NOAA to issue such a statement. “No, I never did that,” he said. “I never did that. It’s a hoax by the media. That’s just fake news.”

  • FloodsClimate Change Influences Magnitude of River Floods

    Overflowing rivers can cause enormous damage: Worldwide, the annual damage caused by river floods is estimated at over 100 billion dollars - and it continues to rise. So far it has not been clear how climate change influences the magnitude of river floods. Until now: an large international study involving a total of 35 research groups provides clear evidence that changes in the magnitude of flood events observed in recent decades can be attributed to climate change.

  • FloodsThese Dams Needed Replacing 15 Years Ago. Now Texas Will Drain Four Lakes Instead — Causing Other Problems.

    By Chase Karacostas

    Texas officials will start draining four lakes next week in Guadalupe County in Central Texas without a plan in place for when the lakes, and the 90-year-old dams that support them, will be rebuilt. Area homeowners, who got barely a month’s notice, said they felt blindsided by the plan, and they say it will slash their property values, kill their beloved century-old cypress trees and render the lakes — which have hosted water skiing tournaments for decades — unusable.

  • PerspectiveLeak Suggests UN Agency Self-Censors on Climate Crisis after U.S. Pressure

    Leaked communications suggest that the UN’s migration agency is censoring itself on the climate crisis and the global compact on migration, following pressure from the U.S. government. an email sent by a U.S.-based official of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on 28 August to colleagues around the world relayed that the U.S. state department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) told the agency documents related to program activities it funds “must not be in conflict with current [U.S. government] political sensitivities.” These sensitivities include mentioning climate change and the UN sustainable development goals. 

  • Perspective: Climate mitigationBill Gates Is Funding a Chemical Cloud That Could Put an End to Global Warming

    Whether you agree or not, global warming is happening. As reported by the minds at NASA, human activity continues to exacerbate the problem. Currently, there is more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than in all of human history. Two-thirds of extreme weather events from the past 20 years can be tied back to human activity, while both our summers and winters are getting much warmer. Bill Gates is currently backing a potential solution to global warming that centers around the technology of solar geoengineering.

  • Perspective: Truth decayNOAA’s Chief Scientist Will Investigate Why Agency Backed Trump over Its Experts on Dorian, Email Shows

    NOAA acting chief scientist said he was investigating whether the agency’s response to President Trump’s incorrect claims about the risk Hurricane Dorian posed to Alabama constituted a violation of NOAA policies and ethics. Forecasters in the Birmingham, Alabama office of the National Weather Service (NWS) immediately corrected Trump’s initial (1 September) false claims, but five days later (6 September), two NOAA administrators issued an unsigned press release which appeared to lend support to Trump’s claims. “The NWS Forecaster(s) corrected any public misunderstanding in an expert and timely way, as they should,” the chief scientist, Craig McLean, wrote to NOAA employees. “There followed, last Friday, an unsigned press release from ‘NOAA’ that inappropriately and incorrectly contradicted the NWS forecaster. My understanding is that this intervention to contradict the forecaster was not based on science but on external factors including reputation and appearance, or simply put, political.” Scientists and experts in emergency response harshly criticized NOAA officials for bowing to political pressures and conceding to Trump’s false claims during a weather emergency, when accuracy, messaging, and trust in public safety agencies are vital to keep the public safe.