• Coastal retreatClimate change: we need to start moving people away from some coastal areas, warns scientist

    By Luciana Esteves

    Climate change has forced a paradigm shift in the way coastal flooding and erosion risks are managed. In areas of lower risk, adaptation plans are being devised, often with provisions to make properties and infrastructure more resilient. Adaptation may involve requiring raised foundations in flood-prone areas or the installation of mitigating measures, such as sustainable drainage systems. Building codes may also be established to make structures more disaster-proof and to control the types of constructions within risk zones. But such adaptation options are often of limited use or unsuitable for high-risk areas. In such areas relocation is the only safe climate-proof response.

  • Climate threatsParis climate targets may be exceeded sooner than expected

    A new study has for the first time comprehensively accounted for permafrost carbon release when estimating emission budgets for climate targets. The results show that the world might be closer to exceeding the budget for the long-term target of the Paris climate agreement than previously thought.

  • Hurricane Florence32 dead, 500,000 homes without power, Wilmington virtually cut off

    Emergency crews have been busy Monday and today in many cities across the Carolinas as both residents and the authorities were trying to cope with the aftermath of a record rainfall. The water damaged tens of thousands of homes, and floodwaters may not recede for days. Even as the remnants of Hurricane Florence pulled away, it was clear that the turmoil had only begun.

  • Mitigating climate threatsEither cover 89 percent of the U.S. with trees, or go solar

    How many fields of switchgrass and forests of trees would be needed to offset the energy produced by burning coal? A lot, it turns out. While demand for energy isn’t dropping, alarms raised by burning fossil fuels in order to get that energy are getting louder.

  • HurricanesHurricanes can cause enormous damage inland, but emergency plans focus on coasts

    By Craig E. Colten

    Coastal residents also prepare for major storms by building homes elevated above anticipated high water levels, in order to minimize damage and qualify for flood insurance. And building codes commonly call for reinforced construction to endure high wind speeds. All of these sensible and essential preparations focus on wind and storm surge in coastal zones. Today, however, risk from hurricanes is extending inland. Some of the worst damage from Eastern Seaboard hurricanes in the past several decades has come from inland flooding along rivers after storms move ashore.

  • Sea wallsWhen is a sea wall a good idea?

    By Aline Reynolds

    Recent hurricanes like Maria and Sandy have brought crippling winds, torrential rains, and flooding to vulnerable coastal regions, in some cases killing thousands of people. Sea walls and other barriers are often suggested as a way of protecting these low-lying coastal communities, but how large should such a wall be, and where is the most effective place to build it? Environmental scientists and researchers is trying to answer these questions and more, to help curb the devastation from future hurricanes.

  • ResilienceKeeping buildings functioning after natural disasters

    After an earthquake, hurricane, tornado or other natural hazard, it’s considered a win if no one gets hurt and buildings stay standing. But an even bigger victory is possible: keeping those structures operational. This outcome could become more likely with improved standards and codes for the construction of residential and commercial buildings.

  • Planetary securityAsteroid-deflection mission passes key development milestone

    The first-ever mission to demonstrate an asteroid deflection technique for planetary defense has moved into the final design and assembly phase, following NASA’s approval on 16 August. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will test what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique — striking an asteroid to shift its orbit — and take a critical step in demonstrating how to protect our planet from a potential impact.

  • Disasters & wealthNatural disasters widen racial wealth gap

    Damage caused by natural disasters and recovery efforts launched in their aftermaths have increased wealth inequality between races in the United States, according to new research.

  • Sinking stateGroundwater loss drives more California land sinking

    Despite higher-than-normal amounts of rain in early 2017, the large agricultural and metropolitan communities that rely on groundwater in central California experienced only a short respite from an ongoing drought. When the rain stopped, drought conditions returned and the ground has continued to sink, by up to a half-meter annually.

  • WildfiresWildfire risk does not depress housing demand in wildfire-prone areas

    Demand for real estate rebounds in high-risk areas within one to two years of a wildfire, a new study finds. The study found that real estate prices for homes in wildfire-prone areas fall relative to homes in low-risk areas immediately following a blaze. But the effect is only temporary: Sale prices in risky areas rebound within one to two years.

  • Climate threatsCalifornia: New planning tools to prepare state for devastating climate change impact

    Warning that two-thirds of Southern California’s beaches could completely disappear and the average area burned by wildfires could nearly double by 2100, the State of California the other day released California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, which details new science on the devastating impacts of climate change and provides planning tools to support the state’s response.

  • Earthquake forecastingA milestone for forecasting earthquake hazards

    By Kim Martineau

    Earthquakes pose a profound danger to people and cities worldwide, but with the right hazard-mitigation efforts, from stricter building requirements to careful zoning, the potential for catastrophic collapses of roads and buildings and loss of human lives can be limited. All of these measures depend on science delivering high-quality seismic hazard models. And yet, current models depend on a list of uncertain assumptions, with predictions that are difficult to test in the real world due to the long intervals between big earthquakes. Researchers have come up with a physics-based model that marks a turning point in earthquake forecasting.

  • FloodsCatastrophic floods may trigger human resettlement away from rivers

    Flooding is one of the most damaging natural hazards, and its negative impacts have markedly increased in many regions of the world in recent decades. In the period 1980-2014, floods generated economic losses exceeding $1 trillion and caused more than 226,000 casualties. The increasing trend of global flood losses has mainly been attributed to the increasing exposure of people and assets due to rising populations in flood-prone areas.

  • Volcanic threatsNapoleon's defeat at Waterloo partly caused by Indonesian volcanic eruption

    Electrically charged volcanic ash short-circuited Earth’s atmosphere in 1815, causing global poor weather and Napoleon’s defeat, says new research. Historians know that rainy and muddy conditions helped the Allied army defeat the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo. The June 1815 event changed the course of European history. Two months prior, a volcano named Mount Tambora erupted on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, killing 100,000 people and plunging the Earth into a ‘year without a summer’ in 1816.