• Speech Recognition Techniques Help Predict Volcanoes’ Behavior

    Researchers are aiming to automatically analyze volcanic activities to develop early-warning models that could save the lives of people living near volcanoes. Machine learning has been used for  pattern identification in speech recognition, and researchers say the same technique can be used to understand patterns of volcanic “behavior.”

  • As Sea Levels Rise, Are We Ready to Live Behind Giant Walls?

    Of all the many varied impacts in a warming planet, sea level rise is one of the most straightforward to predict because sea water expands as it warms and because extra water is flowing from melting glaciers and ice sheets. Given the costs of flooded coastal cities, European Commission scientists suggest that it would save money in the long run to build improved sea defenses around 70% of the continent’s coastline. Do we really want to live in a world in which we all live behind huge walls? Is this the only way to adapt?

  • “Planetary Quarantine”: Risks of Alien Contamination

    In Michael Crichton’s 1969 novel The Andromeda Strain, a deadly alien microbe hitches a ride to Earth aboard a downed military satellite and scientists must race to contain it. While fictional, the plot explores a very real and longstanding concern shared by NASA and world governments: that spacefaring humans, or our robotic emissaries, may unwittingly contaminate Earth with extraterrestrial life or else biologically pollute other planets we visit.

  • Park-Like Tsunami Defenses: Sustainable Alternative to Towering Seawalls

    In tsunami preparedness, it turns out there can be strength in beauty. Rows of green hills strategically arranged along coastlines can help to fend off destruction from tsunamis while preserving ocean views and access to the shore. For some communities, they may offer a better option than towering seawalls.

  • Sea Level Could Rise More than 1 Meter by 2100 if Emission Targets Are Not Met

    Global mean sea-level rise could exceed 1 meter by 2100 and 5 meters by 2300 with unchecked emissions, a survey among 100 leading international experts finds. The risk assessment is based on the increasing body of knowledge of the systems involved – while the scientists highlight the remaining uncertainties, they say it is clear now that previous sea-level rise estimates have been too low.

  • Disaster Strikes Locally, but Urban Networks Spread the Damage Globally

    Disasters that occur in one place can trigger costs in cities across the world due to the interconnectedness of the global urban trade network. In fact, these secondary impacts can be three times greater than the local impacts.

  • Changes in Snowmelt Threaten Farmers in Western U.S.

    Farmers in parts of the western United States who rely on snowmelt to help irrigate their crops will be among the hardest hit in the world by climate change, a new study reveals. The study pinpointed basins globally most at risk of not having enough water available at the right times for irrigation because of changes in snowmelt patterns. Two of those high-risk areas are the San Joaquin and Colorado river basins in the western United States.

  • Waterfront Development Added Billions to Property Values Exposed to Hurricane Florence

    Rapid development in flood-prone zones during recent decades helped boost the amount of property exposed to 2018’s devastating Hurricane Florence substantially, a new study says. It estimates that the value of property in North Carolina and South Carolina potentially exposed to flooding at $52 billion—$42 billion more than at the start of the century (in 2018 dollars). While much development took place between 1950 and 2000, financial risk rose quickly afterward because much of it clustered along coastlines and adjacent to rivers and lakes, where buildings were more vulnerable to flooding.

  • Conflict, Disasters Trigger Record Number of Internally Displaced

    A new report finds a record 50.8 million people globally are displaced within their own countries due to conflict, violence and natural disasters.  The report, published by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, says an estimated 33.4 million people were newly displaced in 2019, the highest annual figure since 2012. 

  • Coronavirus: Governments Knew a Pandemic Was a Threat – Here’s Why They Weren’t Better Prepared

    Most people think or at least hope their government is doing a good job in the face of COVID-19, according to the polls. But there can be no doubt that governments around the world were ill-prepared for this pandemic. How is it possible that we were not ready? Not only had Bill Gates been banging on about this for a long time, but pandemics also featured strongly on regional and national risk registers produced by governments and bureaucrats, as well as international registers from non-governmental organizations. Despite all the effort that has gone into developing these tools, governments around the world have been bad at acting on their warnings about a pandemic. We see at least six possible reasons for this.

  • Human-Caused Warming Cause More Slow-Moving Hurricanes

    Hurricanes moving slowly over an area can cause more damage than faster-moving storms, because the longer a storm lingers, the more time it has to pound an area with storm winds and drop huge volumes of rain, leading to flooding. The extraordinary damage caused by storms like Dorian (2019), Florence (2018) and Harvey (2017) prompted researchers to wonder whether global climate change will make these slow-moving storms more common.

  • New Flood Damage Framework to Help Planners Prepare for Sea-Level Rise

    Scientists agree that sea levels will continue to rise this century, but projections beyond 2050 are much more uncertain regarding exactly how much higher ocean levels will be by 2100. While actions to protect against 2050 sea-level rise have a secure scientific basis, this range in late-century estimates makes it difficult for coastal communities to plan their long-term adaptation strategies.

  • COVID-19 Disruptions: Understanding Food Security Implications

    According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the world’s food systems and disrupting regional agricultural trade and value chains. The FAO has warned that food shortages are a real risk in the coming months. This global health crisis will test our food and trade systems in ways never experienced before.

  • Improving Accuracy of Storm Surge Analysis

    Accurately predicting how many people are at risk due to sea level rise and storm surges has always challenged scientists, but a new method is improving models that account for the impact of these natural occurrences. A new model developed by international team of scientists can be used to better understand and prepare for the impacts of climate change.

  • It’s Time to Admit Our COVID-19 “Exit Strategy” Might Just Look Like a More Flexible Version of Lockdown

    As the COVID-19 curve starts to flatten in Australia and New Zealand, people are rightly wondering how we will roll back current lockdown policies. Australia’s federal health minister Greg Hunt says Australia is looking to South Korea, Japan and Singapore to inform our exit strategy. New Zealand is relaxing some measures from next week.Toby Phillips writes in The Conversation that a long-term solution – a vaccine – is many months, probably years, away. In the meantime, we must rely on social distancing policies to contain the epidemic – and begin to accept the idea that an “exit strategy” may really look more like a more flexible version of lockdown.