• Wildfire smoke is becoming a nationwide health threat

    The impacts of recent forest fires in California reach well beyond the burned areas. Smoke from the Camp Fire created hazardous air quality conditions in San Francisco, more than 170 miles to the southwest – but it didn’t stop there. Cross-country winds carried it across the United States, creating hazy conditions in locations as far east as Philadelphia. As an air pollution exposure scientist, I worry about the extreme levels of air pollution that rise from these fires and affect many people across great distances.

  • Stronger buildings could delay wildfire destruction, but not stop it

    Low humidity and strong winds in California mean that this month’s wildfires could strike again. Unfortunately, better building materials and planning can only offer so much protection, says an engineering expert.

  • New sea-level rise and flood alert network launches

    The City of Imperial Beach is a low-lying coastal community south of San Diego that is one of the most vulnerable in California to sea-level rise. During periods of extreme high tides and winter swell, Imperial Beach experiences flooding that impacts residents, businesses and infrastructure. A new program, called Resilient Futures, will significantly upgrade its flood alert capabilities and better prepare for sea-level rise.

  • Better forest management won’t end wildfires, but it can reduce the risks – here’s how

    President Donald Trump’s recent comments blaming forest managers for catastrophic California wildfires have been met with outrage and ridicule from the wildland fire and forestry community. Not only were these remarks insensitive to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in California – they also reflected a muddled understanding of the interactions between wildfire and forest management. As scientists who study forest policy and community-based collaboration, here is how we understand this relationship.

  • The bitter lesson of the Californian fires

    California is burning, again. Dozens of peoples have been killed and thousands of buildings destroyed in several fires, the most destructive in the state’s history. The California fires are just the most recent in a series of major wildfires, including fires in Greece in July this year that killed 99 people, Portugal and Chile in 2017, and Australia. Why do wildfires seem to be escalating? Despite president Donald Trump’s tweet that the California fires were caused by “gross mismanagement” of forests, the answer is more complex, nuanced, and alarming.

  • Houston's urban sprawl dramatically increased rainfall, flooding damage during Hurricane Harvey

    Houston’s urban landscape directly contributed to the torrential rainfall and deadly flooding experienced during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, according to Princeton and University of Iowa researchers. The researchers report that Houston’s risk for extreme flooding during the hurricane — a category 4 storm that caused an estimated $125 billion in damage and killed 68 people — was 21 times greater due to urbanization.

  • Technology assesses bridge safety after powerful storms

    Hurricanes and heavy rains often cause strong, overflowing river currents that can damage critical infrastructure, such as bridges. For example, after Hurricane Katrina, many National Guard convoys loaded with aid did not drive on bridges for fear the bridges could not support the heavy trucks. To safely transport, they had to use roundabout roads or boats to reach Katrina survivors. Loose or loosening soil is often the culprit in weakening bridge stability. Thus, an instrument that can quickly assess the soil conditions around bridge pillars is a top priority.

  • Natural solutions can reduce global warming

    Restoring the United States’ lands and coastal wetlands could have a much bigger role in reducing global warming than previously thought, according to the most comprehensive national assessment to date of how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and stored in forests, farmland, grasslands and wetlands.

  • Methods for protecting England’s coastal communities “not fit for purpose”

    In October 2018, a stark report suggested that current methods being used to protect England’s coastal communities are “not fit for purpose.” The Committee on Climate Change’s Managing the coast in a changing climate report showed that between 2005 and 2014, over 15,000 new buildings were built in coastal areas at significant risk of coastal flooding and/or erosion. Experts say that evidence suggests there should be far stricter controls on coastal developments.

  • After the next Big One: How will San Francisco’s skyscrapers fare?

    When Stanford civil engineers look at San Francisco’s skyline, they wonder: Will the city be ready if a major earthquake shakes those skyscrapers? It’s not primarily a question of whether all the towers will remain standing, though there are some concerns about the ones built more than 30 years ago. The more complicated question is this: If one or more high-rises suffers serious damage, how badly could that disrupt the rest of the city?

  • Culture strongly influences coping behaviors after natural disasters

    Demographic and cultural differences strongly influence the coping styles young people use when they’re affected by a natural disaster, and these disparities should be taken into account when providing services to help them recover from these traumatic experiences, a new study found.

  • Bolstering resilience to withstand floods

    Historically, flooding is the most destructive natural disaster in this country. Facing this ever-growing threat, many wonder, “What can be done to protect life and property, reduce insurance claims, as well as help communities become more resilient?” DHS S&T has initiated multiple projects across the nation through its Flood Apex Program to offer an answer to this question.

  • Studying landslides in order to survive them

    People who live in the Basin and Range of Nevada are accustomed to earthquakes, flash floods and wildfires. But researchers say this part of the United States has generated numerous, large landslides as well. This landslide-prone region includes parts of California, Utah and Arizona. Landslides get far less attention than other natural disasters because they typically occur in less populous areas, but they can be devastating.

  • “Majority rules” when looking for earthquakes, explosions

    Finding the ideal settings for each sensor in a network to detect vibrations in the ground, or seismic activity, can be a painstaking and manual process. Researchers at Sandia are working to change that by using software that automatically adjusts the seismic activity detection levels for each sensor. The new software reduces false, missed detections of seismic activity.

  • Technologies to remove CO2 from air and sequester it key to climate change mitigation

    To achieve goals for climate and economic growth, “negative emissions technologies” (NETs) that remove and sequester carbon dioxide from the air will need to play a significant role in mitigating climate change, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences.