• Improving ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast

    The U.S. Geological Survey has awarded more than $12.5 million to seven universities and a university-governed non-profit to support operation, improvement and expansion of the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system for the West Coast of the United States.

  • The Big One: Back to the Future on the San Andreas Fault

    Maybe you’ve heard that the “Big One is overdue” on the San Andreas Fault. No one can predict earthquakes, so what does the science really say? Where does the information come from? And what does it mean? Earth scientists have been gathering data at key paleoseismic sites along sections of the San Andreas Fault to figure out the past timeline of earthquakes at each spot.

  • Improving Hail Forecasts with Facial Recognition Technique

    The same artificial intelligence technique typically used in facial recognition systems could help improve prediction of hailstorms and their severity. Instead of zeroing in on the features of an individual face, scientists trained a deep learning model called a convolutional neural network to recognize features of individual storms that affect the formation of hail and how large the hailstones will be, both of which are notoriously difficult to predict.

  • Climate Change to Shrink Global Economy

    Prevailing economic research anticipates the burden of climate change falling on hot or poor nations. Some predict that cooler or wealthier economies will be unaffected or even see benefits from higher temperatures. A new study, however, suggests that virtually all countries – whether rich or poor, hot or cold – will suffer economically by 2100 if the current trajectory of carbon emissions is maintained: 7 percent of global GDP will disappear by 2100 as a result of business-as-usual carbon emissions – including over 10 percent of incomes in both Canada and the United States.

  • July 2019 Was Hottest Month on Record for the Planet

    Much of the planet sweltered in unprecedented heat in July, as temperatures soared to new heights in the hottest month ever recorded. The record warmth also shrank Arctic and Antarctic sea ice to historic lows. The average global temperature in July was 1.71 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 60.4 degrees, making it the hottest July in the 140-year record, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. The previous hottest month on record was July 2016. Nine of the 10 hottest Julys have occurred since 2005—with the last five years ranking as the five hottest. Last month was also the 43rd consecutive July and 415th consecutive month with above-average global temperatures.

  • Who Will Save the Amazon (and How)?

    It’s only a matter of time until major powers try to stop climate change by any means necessary. The Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is accelerating development of the Amazon rainforest (60 percent of which is in Brazilian hands), thereby imperiling a critical global resource. As readers with more respect for science than Bolsonaro know, the rainforest is both an important carbon sink and a critical temperature regulator, as well as a key source of fresh water. Deforestation has already damaged its ability to perform these crucial roles, and scientists in Brazilian estimate that increasingly warm and dry conditions could convert much of the forest to dry savanna, with potentially catastrophic effects. What should (or must) the international community do to prevent a misguided Brazilian president (or political leaders in other countries) from taking actions that could harm all of us? How far would the international community be willing to go in order to prevent, halt, or reverse actions that might cause immense and irreparable harm to the environment on which all humans depend.

  • Millions of Times Later, 97 Percent Climate Consensus Still Faces Denial

    In July, the Exxon- and Koch- funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) issued a formal complaint, asking NASA to “correct” a statement on the space agency’s website that said that “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.” So, what is the real percentage of climate researchers who agree that climate change is largely man-made? And what is the origin of the widely held perception among the American public that the science is still unsettled?

  • July 2019 Was Hottest Month on Record for the Planet

    Much of the planet sweltered in unprecedented heat in July, as temperatures soared to new heights in the hottest month ever recorded. The record warmth also shrank Arctic and Antarctic sea ice to historic lows. The average global temperature in July was 1.71 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 60.4 degrees, making it the hottest July in the 140-year record, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. The previous hottest month on record was July 2016. Nine of the 10 hottest Julys have occurred since 2005—with the last five years ranking as the five hottest. Last month was also the 43rd consecutive July and 415th consecutive month with above-average global temperatures.

  • Governments Failing to Understand Global Catastrophic Risks: Report

    Governments are failing to understand the human-driven catastrophic risks that threaten global security, prosperity and potential, and could in the worst case lead to mass harm and societal collapse, say researchers. The plausible global catastrophic risks include: tipping points in environmental systems due to climate change or mass biodiversity loss; malicious or accidentally harmful use of artificial intelligence; malicious use of, or unintended consequences, from advanced biotechnologies; a natural or engineered global pandemic; and intentional, miscalculated, accidental, or terrorist-related use of nuclear weapons.

  • Predicting the Strength of Earthquakes

    Scientists will be able to predict earthquake magnitudes earlier than ever before thanks to new research. “Our research, which is technically rather simple, provides answers relevant not only to earthquake dynamics, but to prediction of earthquake behavior before the earthquake ends,” said one of the researchers.

  • Whaley Bridge Dam Collapse Is a Wake-up Call: Concrete Infrastructure Will Not Last Forever Without Care

    Torrential rain in the Midlands and North of England that saw half a month’s rain fall in one day caused such volumes of water to pass through the spillway of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam, above the town of Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire, that the protective concrete facing was damaged – badly enough to put the dam at risk of a full collapse. It is clear from data of dam failures in the UK and worldwide that the most common cause is overtopping of the dam due to the spillway’s inadequate capacity to discharge floodwaters, due to damage or design. The lesson from Whaley Bridge dam is that the maintenance of dam spillways cannot be ignored – in any circumstances or at any cost.

  • This High-Tech Solution to Disaster Response May Be Too Good to Be True

    The company called One Concern has all the characteristics of a buzzy and promising Silicon Valley start-up: young founders from Stanford, tens of millions of dollars in venture capital and a board with prominent names. Its particular niche is disaster response. And it markets a way to use artificial intelligence to address one of the most vexing issues facing emergency responders in disasters: figuring out where people need help in time to save them. That promise to bring new smarts and resources to an anachronistic field has generated excitement. But there are skeptics, and interviews and documents show the company has often exaggerated its tools’ abilities and has kept outside experts from reviewing its methodology.

  • Volcano Threats Are Hiding in Plain Sight

    The series of powerful earthquakes that shook Southern California in July prompted understandable concern about whether the region is prepared for a period of possibly more active seismic shifts. It also generated, however, a viral wave of apocalyptic warnings that a “supervolcano” in Yellowstone National Park, a few states away, was about to erupt and plunge the world into darkness in a colossal explosion of lava and ash. There is a serious volcanic threat in the contiguous U.S., but it isn’t in Wyoming,” Sillow writes. “It lurks hundreds of miles to the west, inside the snow-capped, picture-postcard peaks of Mount Rainier, Mount Shasta, Mount Hood and others. They might look like ordinary mountains, but in fact they are volcanoes—and potentially dangerous ones.

  • The World's Aging Dams Are Not Built for Ever More Extreme Weather

    The town of Whaley Bridge in the UK has had to be evacuated after damage to a dam built in 1831. The Toddbrook Reservoir is just one of many ageing dams worldwide not designed for ever more extreme rainfall as the planet warms. Dams are typically designed to cope with a so-called 1-in-100-year flood event. But as the world warms the odds of extreme rainfall are changing, meaning the risk of failure is far greater. Engineers have been warning for years that many old dams around the world are already unsafe and need upgrading or dismantling.

  • Climate Change Has Made Our Stormwater Infrastructure Obsolete

    We are not ready for the extreme rainfall coming with climate change. A quick dramatic thunderstorm in New York on Wednesday flooded Staten Island so badly that brown murky water joined bus riders for their evening ride home. It’s just one in a growing number of examples of infrastructure not being up to the task. Many cities’ water management systems—think stormwater drains or dams—aren’t equipped to handle climate change-influenced weather shifts.