• 2017 climate, weather disasters in U.S. totaling $306 billion — a new record

    2017 will be remembered as a year of extremes for the United States as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, fires, and freezes claimed hundreds of lives and visited economic hardship upon the nation. The average U.S. temperature in 2017 was 54.6 degrees F (2.6 degrees F above average), making 2017 third warmest year in 123 years of record-keeping. The five warmest years on record for the United States all have occurred since 2006. In 2017, the United States experienced 16 weather and climate disasters each with losses exceeding $1 billion, totaling approximately $306 billion — a new U.S. record. Far more tragic was the human toll. At least 362 people died and many more were injured during the course of these disasters.

  • With storms intensifying and oceans on the rise, Boston weighs strategies for staying dry

    As this year’s hurricanes marched across the Caribbean into the Gulf Coast or out to the North Atlantic, cities along the U.S. northeastern coast knew they were dodging bullets. If Boston gets hit by a storm like Hurricane Harvey, mayor Marty Walsh acknowledged in a radio interview, “we are wiped out as a city.” An MIT analysis suggests that a Category 1 hurricane with a few feet of surge on top of a high tide could flood a quarter of a million Boston residents. And climate change is bringing more intense storms and rising tides. A multi-billion-dollar seawall is among climate adaptation options under consideration for the iconic coastal city.

  • To reduce the number of bigger earthquakes in Oklahoma, inject less saltwater

    Starting around 2009, saltwater disposal (SWD) volume began increasing dramatically as unconventional oil and gas production increased rapidly throughout Oklahoma. As a result, the number of magnitude 3-plus earthquakes rattling the state has jumped from about one per year before 2011 to more than 900 in 2015. Oklahoma is now the most seismically active state in the lower 48 United States.


     

  • Hurricanes make 2017 year of highest insured losses ever

    The hurricane trio of Harvey, Irma, and Maria will cost the insurance industry a record amount in 2017: the final insurance bill for those and other natural catastrophes, including a severe earthquake in Mexico, is expected to come to $135 billion – higher than ever before. And overall losses – that is, including uninsured losses – amounted to $330 billion, the second-highest figure ever recorded for natural disasters. The only costlier year so far was 2011, when the Tohoku earthquake in Japan contributed to overall losses of $354 billion in today’s dollars.

  • The Texas coastline is slowly disappearing. Here's how one community is coping.

    The Lone Star State’s shoreline is experiencing one of the highest rates of land loss of any coastal area in the country thanks to a combination of subsidence, sea level rise, and storm surges. The significant land loss averages 4 feet per year along the state’s coastline, according to the Texas General Land Office. In some places, more than 30 feet of shoreline disappears underwater annually.

  • An X-factor in coastal flooding: Natural climate patterns create hot spots of rapid sea level rise

    Many scientists have found evidence that climate change is amplifying the impacts of hurricanes. For example, several studies just published this month conclude that human-induced climate change made rainfall during Hurricane Harvey more intense. But climate change is not the only factor making hurricanes more damaging. A recent study showed that two converging natural climate processes created a “hot spot” from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Miami where sea levels rose six times faster than the global average between 2011 and 2015. We also showed that such hot spots have occurred at other points along the Eastern Seaboard over the past century. Now we see indications that one is developing in Texas and Louisiana, where it likely amplified flooding during Harvey – and could make future coastal storms more damaging. Accelerations in sea level rise are hard to predict, and it is unclear whether they will become more serious over time. But they make it even more urgent for coastal communities to take sea level rise seriously today.

  • Humidity may intensify heat stress to a point exceeding human endurance

    Climate scientists say that killer heat waves will become increasingly prevalent in many regions as climate warms. However, most projections leave out a major factor that could worsen things: humidity, which can greatly magnify the effects of heat alone. Now, a new global study projects that in coming decades the effects of high humidity in many areas will dramatically increase. At times, they may surpass humans’ ability to work or, in some cases, even survive.

  • Hotter temperatures will accelerate asylum-seekers migration to Europe

    New research predicts that migrants applying for asylum in the European Union will nearly triple over the average of the last fifteen years by 2100 if carbon emissions continue on their current path. The study suggests that cutting emissions could partially stem the tide, but even under an optimistic scenario, Europe could see asylum applications rise by at least a quarter.

  • Billion-dollar weather and climate disasters on the rise

    from 1980 to 2017, the United States has sustained 218 weather and climate disasters in which overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2017). The total cost of these 218 events exceeds $1.2 trillion. This total does not yet include the costs for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Between 1 January and 6 October 2017, there have been fifteen weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. The 1980–2016 annual average pf weather events with losses exceeding $1 billion each is 5.5 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2012–2016) is 10.6 events (CPI-adjusted).

  • Promising new wildfire behavior model may aid fire managers in near real-time

    Wildfires continue to scar California beyond the normal fire season in what’s been a particularly catastrophic year for natural disasters across the U.S. But a new big-data solution for predicting wildfire spread is also heating up, and it may become a useful tool in the firefighters’ arsenal, according to wildfire researchers.

  • Twitter, citizen science, and AI help improve flood data collection

    Urban flooding is difficult to monitor due to complexities in data collection and processing. This prevents detailed risk analysis, flooding control, and the validation of numerical models. Researchers are combining Twitter, citizen science and cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to develop an early-warning system for flood-prone communities.

  • Cities with bad traffic may be more resilient to disruptive events

    New research shows that cities with bad traffic under normal conditions may actually be more efficient at handling adverse events, like accidents and storms. Conversely, some cities with typically low traffic congestion become severely backed-up under the pressure of these disruptive scenarios. Efficiency refers to the average time delay a commuter would face annually due to traffic. Resilience is the ability of road networks to absorb adverse events that fall outside normal daily traffic patterns.

  • New method to assess damage from natural disasters

    Awesome. Amazing. Incredible. Unbelievable. Spectacular. These words aptly describe what is left following any natural disaster, whether it’s an earthquake, tornado, hurricane or any other occurrence where homes, buildings or infrastructure are destroyed and lives are turned upside down. However, these words are not the words the people whose lives have been permanently changed want to hear from anyone in their town assisting with the recovery efforts, or studying the effects of an event, not when it comes to discussing what is left of their homes and businesses, especially while piles of debris line the streets waiting to be cleared. Researchers offer a way to measure debris volume using drones, then develop an information-based model to determine the cost of cleanup.

  • GAO: DoD needs to do more on climate adaptation

    Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), issued a report titled Climate Change Adaptation: DoD Needs to Better Incorporate Adaptation into Planning and Collaboration at Overseas Installations. The report found that the Department of Defense (DoD) needs to better incorporate adaptation to climate change into planning and collaboration at overseas installations.

  • South Florida faces increasing inland flood threat

    As South Florida raises groundwater levels to fight saltwater intrusion, the threat of inland flooding will only increase, according to newly published research results. Although high groundwater levels in South Florida are a major contributor to inland floods, especially during the wet season or extreme rain events, traditional flood models don’t account for the groundwater beneath our feet, scientists have found.