• North Korea threatens EMP attack on U.S.

    North Korea’s relentless march toward acquiring the capability to place a hydrogen bomb on top of an ICBM will soon pose a threat to all major U.S. cities. There is another threat that marrying of a hydrogen bomb to a powerful rocket poses: An EMP threat. The North Koreans could launch a missile into the upper atmosphere, then detonate a high-yield hydrogen bomb in space in order to generate an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, which would shut down the U.S. power grid and damage electrical devices. Experts testifying before the Congressional EMP Commission said that in the event of a massive EMP attack on the United States using multiple high-yield warheads, around 90 percent of the American population would be dead after eighteen months due to famine, disease, and societal breakdown.

  • Montreal: The infrastructure cost of climate change

    Montreal’s climate is changing and will continue to do so at a rapidly increasing rate and with much more spatial variability in the future. “Climate plays a key role in the design and operation of urban infrastructure and to a large extent determines water and energy demands. As a result, changes in climate conditions will have direct impacts on how we design almost any aspect of the city, from its drainage system to its energy use,” explains one expert.

  • Climate change, infrastructure, and the economic impacts of Hurricane Harvey

    Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation with an economy the size of Sweden, and many other cities and towns in southeastern Texas have been devastated by the torrential rains and flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. Estimates put total rainfall in some areas as high as 52 inches, shattering the record for highest rainfall from a single storm in the continental United States. Stanford experts comment on how climate change and infrastructure planning contribute to the severity of impacts from extreme weather events like Hurricane Harvey.

  • What Hurricane Harvey says about risk, climate and resilience

    The risks we face from disasters depend on three factors: hazard, exposure, and vulnerability. Despite the politicized discourse that suggests that the science is somehow a matter of opinion rather than fact, we are incredibly vulnerable to natural disasters – disasters that are increasingly being amplified in a warming world. What sensible, pragmatic, bipartisan steps can we take to increase our resilience to risks that a disaster like Hurricane Harvey represents? First and foremost, we should reduce our exposure and build resilience to the hazards we already face today. We can’t continue building in places that we know will flood. We need to build and modernize infrastructure to make our water management systems more resilient to both floods and droughts. Ultimately, though, even these practical steps may not be enough. In a changing climate, building capacity and resilience to cope with today’s risks leave us unprepared for future extremes. That’s why, in order to reduce the risk of disasters both here and abroad, we need to minimize the climate change that is turbocharging these events. Hurricane Harvey exemplifies the risks we all face – and a more dangerous future if we don’t take actions now. More people and vulnerable infrastructure exposed to more frequent and intense hazards equals even greater risk for us in the future. The time to rethink the equation is now.

  • Harvey’s losses “would reach $190 billion or 1 percent of the nation's GDP”: AccuWeather

    AccuWeather’s Dr. Joel N. Myers predicts that “The total losses from this storm would reach $190 billion or 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), countering the expected growth in the economy for the rest of this year.” The one percent loss that AccuWeather is predicting will be spread out over the next 12 months, but the bulk of it will occur over the next four months. “This is the costliest and worst natural disaster in American history,” Myers said.

  • Finding better routes for relief supplies to disaster sites like Houston

    Harvey’s trail of destruction through southern Texas this week is drawing attention to the difficulty of providing relief services in a place where roads, ports, and airports are heavily damaged, if not destroyed. One expert uses mathematical modeling and high-powered computing to develop quicker, more efficient ways of moving something from one place to another. “Commercial supply chains are focused on quality and profitability,” she says. “Humanitarian supply chains are focused on minimizing loss of life and suffering, and distribution is focused on equity and fairness much more than in commercial applications.”

  • To aid flood victims, forget goods. Send money

    Harvard experts offer advice on how best to help. “There is a natural inclination for generous people to send supplies of all sorts,” says Arnold Howitt, co-founder and co-director of the Program on Crisis Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. “We don’t know exactly what displaced people need, and the task of unpacking, sorting, and routing various items that randomly arrive in the disaster area is usually well beyond the constrained capabilities of the aid providers on the scene.”

  • Immigration authorities seek to soothe fears about Hurricane Harvey rescues

    Immigration enforcement and Border Patrol officials reiterated on Thursday that their agents are not conducting routine immigration operations during rescue efforts in Southeast Texas — despite rumors to the contrary. ICE spokeswoman said that the false reports about ICE conducting immigration enforcement operations during rescue missions “are furthering an unhelpful narrative that could ultimately discourage people from seeking help in a dire situation.”

  • Machine-learning shows earthquake-prediction promise

    By listening to the acoustic signal emitted by a laboratory-created earthquake, a computer science approach using machine learning can predict the time remaining before the fault fails. The work not only has potential significance to earthquake forecasting, but the approach is far-reaching, applicable to potentially all failure scenarios including nondestructive testing of industrial materials brittle failure of all kinds, avalanches and other events.

  • “Shape memory” metals for earthquake-resistant construction

    Researchers have found an economical way to improve the properties of some “shape memory” metals, known for their ability to return to their original shape after being deformed. The method could make way for the mass production of these improved metals for a variety of applications, including earthquake-resistant construction materials.

  • It’s been one week since Harvey hit Texas. Here’s what you need to know.

    It’s been one week since Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast. While the rainfall may be in decline, the floodwaters are only beginning to recede and it’ll be weeks, if not months, before Houston resembles itself. Here’s what you need to know. 

  • Climate change is part of every story now, including Harvey

    “Climate is not central [to the Houston story], but by the same token it is grossly irresponsible to leave climate out of the story, for the simple reason that climate change is, as the U.S. military puts it, a ‘threat multiplier,’” David Roberts writes. “Everything human beings do, we do in a climate (except hang out on the space station, I suppose). Our climate has been in a rough temperature equilibrium for about 10,000 years, while we developed agriculture and advanced civilization and Netflix. Now our climate is about to rocket out of that equilibrium, in what is, geologically speaking, the blink of an eye. We’re not sure exactly what’s going to happen, but we have a decent idea, and we know it’s going to be weird. With more heat energy in the system, everything’s going to get crazier — more heat waves, more giant rainstorms, more droughts, more floods. That means climate change is part of every story now.”

  • Flooding from Hurricane Harvey causes a host of public health concerns

    Houston’s drinking water system is being stressed by overflowing water reservoirs and dams, breached levees and possible problems at treatment plants and in the water distribution system. Failure of drinking water systems could lead to water shortages. Raw sewage, dead bodies in the water and release of dangerous chemicals into the floodwaters could lead to the spread of disease through contact with contaminated water and to infection through open wounds. Houston has at least a dozen sites that have been designated environmentally hazardous, so there is a risk of petrochemical contamination. Indeed, companies have reported that pollutants from refineries have already been released. As if those are not bad enough, the “unprecedented” amount of water leads to the perfect breeding opportunities for mosquitoes, which are vectors of Zika and many other infectious diseases.

  • Houston’s flooding underscores disaster management challenges of years to come

    As the Earth’s climate changes, many scientists predict that warmer temperatures could lead to intensifying hurricanes, with individual storms dropping more rain. As such, the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in and around Houston may presage the challenges that disaster managers will face in the years ahead.

  • With reservoirs past capacity, what can flood control officials, engineers do?

    For the last few days, the world has been watching as Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall, first as a Category 4 hurricane late Friday in the Texas Gulf Coast. As the storm has moved out, some parts of the region may see more than 50 inches of rain, according to forecasters. With heavy rain still expected, rivers rising, and major dams outside of Houston overflowing as Storm Harvey pushes reservoirs past capacity, what can flood control officials and engineers do?