• Asteroid 1998 QE2, nine times larger than cruise ship, to glide past earth

    Two weeks from now, on 31May 2013, asteroid 1998 QE2 will sail serenely past Earth, getting no closer than about 3.6 million miles, or about fifteen times the distance between Earth and the moon. While QE2 is not of much interest to those astronomers and scientists on the lookout for hazardous asteroids, other asteroids are. NASA recently announced developing a first-ever mission to identify, capture, and relocate an asteroid for human exploration.

  • California community sinking into the ground, and engineers are baffled

    Several homeowners in the community of Lake County, California are faced with a problem: their houses are sinking into the ground and they do not know why. The situation has been deteriorating steadily, and now mail delivery has been cancelled in the area, and city and county crews have been forced to change the subdivision’s sewage line to an overland pipe as a result of manhole collapses.

  • State agency imposes heavy fine on PG&E for San Bruno blast

    The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) two weeks ago  wrapped up its investigation of a 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California, and recommended  that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) pay $2.25 billion for its negligence, which led to the blast.

  • Hazard of Western Indian Ocean earthquake, tsunami greater than thought

    Earthquakes similar in magnitude to the 2004 Sumatra earthquake could occur in an area beneath the Arabian Sea at the Makran subduction zone, according to recent research. The study suggests that the risk from undersea earthquakes and associated tsunami in this area of the Western Indian Ocean — which could threaten the coastlines of Pakistan, Iran, Oman, India, and potentially further afield — has been previously underestimated.

  • Japan has an earthquake early-warning system, but California is yet to deploy one

    The 2011 Fukushima earthquake claimed many lives, but at least some lives were saved by an early warning system designed ten years ago at Caltech and deployed in Japan in 2007. The system gives people about a minute to prepare for the impending tremor. California is yet to deploy the system.

  • Assessing asteroid risk to Earth

    Of the more than 600 000 known asteroids in our Solar System, almost 10 000 are classified as near-Earth objects, or NEOs, because their orbits bring them relatively close to Earth’s path. A dramatic proof that any of these can strike Earth came on 15 February, when an unknown object thought to be 17-20 meter in diameter arrived at 66 000 km/h and exploded high above Chelyabinsk, Russia, with 20-30 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

  • New grass hybrid helps reduce runoffs, flooding

    Scientists use hybridized forage grass to combine fast root growth and efficient soil water retention. Field experiments show Festulolium cultivar reduces water runoff by up to 51 percent against nationally-recommended cultivar. The hybrid captures more water and reduces runoff and likelihood of flood generation.

  • Lower waves' impact on coastal communities uncertain

    Coastal impacts of climate change studies have predominantly focused on the influence of sea-level rise and, until now, not focused on how changing wave conditions will impact the coastal zone in a changing climate. Scientists note, though, that waves are dominant drivers of coastal change in these sandy environments, and variability and change in the characteristics of surface ocean waves can far exceed the influences of sea-level rise in such environments. Since warmer oceans will see lower waves, the effect of warming on coastal communities is uncertain.

  • New technology prevents bridge collapse

    Researchers propose a new technology that could divert vibrations away from load-bearing elements of bridges to avoid catastrophic collapses. The researchers propose a “wave bypass” technique that has many similarities to those being used by researchers looking to create Harry Potter-style invisibility cloaks, which exploit man-made materials known as metamaterials to bend light around objects.

  • California braces for out-of-control wildfires

    The lack of precipitation over the past two winters has California and federal officials concerned about the impact wildfires could have in the summer months. California has already recorded 845 wildfires this year, a 60 percent increase compared with the average for the previous five years.  

  • Draft of the 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment is out

    As mandated by the U.S. Global Change Research Act (GCRA), the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is currently producing a National Climate Assessment (NCA). The NCA is a report to inform the president, the Congress, and the American people about the current state of scientific knowledge regarding climate change effects on U.S. regions and key sectors, now and in the coming decades. The National Research Council (NRC) says that as the United States continues to engage with the threats, opportunities, and surprises of climate change in its many manifestations, the 2013 NCA should prove to be a valuable resource.

  • DHS chemical plant security program hobbled by problems, poor oversight

    A DHS program responsible for the security of chemical facilities, such as the West Fertilizer Company plant in Texas, has been ineffective owing to a number of issues, leading federal investigators to wonder “whether it can achieve its mission, given the challenges the program continues to face.”

  • Finding the right balance for natural hazard mitigation

    Uncertainty issues are paramount in the assessment of risks posed by natural hazards and in developing strategies to alleviate their consequences.Researchers describe a model that estimates the balance between costs and benefits of mitigation — efforts to reduce losses by taking action now to reduce consequences later — following natural disasters, as well as rebuilding defenses in their aftermath.

  • Former lawmakers to hold hearings on aliens

    Six former member of Congress have agreed to hold a congressional style hearing on the existence of aliens in space. “It’s a huge universe out there,” former Representative Roscoe Bartlett (D-Maryland) said. “You have to be kind of presumptuous and arrogant to assume we’re the only intelligent life in the universe.”

  • River beds keep moving, increasing flood risk

    A detailed study of shifting river beds could hold the key to more accurate flood prevention. It is commonly believed that the elevation of river beds is more or less constant, so any change in flood risk is due to changes in hydrology. Researchers find, however, that there is a significant trends in the elevation of river beds, an indication that river channels are filling in with sediment or that sediment is being eroded through time.