• Location matters: Sandy’s tides hit some parts of the N.J. coast harder than others

    USGS researchers ground-truthed Hurricane Sandy’s October 2012 storm tides in New Jersey and found northern coastal communities had significantly higher storm tides than southern ones did, though flood damage was widespread in both areas. The findings suggest that some southern New Jersey communities may be underestimating their future flood risks.

  • Using drones, insect biobots to map disaster areas

    Researchers have developed a combination of software and hardware that will allow them to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and insect cyborgs, or biobots, to map large, unfamiliar areas – such as collapsed buildings after a disaster. “The idea would be to release a swarm of sensor-equipped biobots – such as remotely controlled cockroaches – into a collapsed building or other dangerous, unmapped area,” says one of the researchers.

  • Climate, not conflict, explains extreme “Middle East Dust Bowl”

    Climate change, not ongoing regional conflict, was the cause of a severe dust storm that enveloped much of the Middle East and the Mediterranean last September, according to new research. The storm, labeled by some media outlets as the “Middle-Eastern Dust Bowl,” affected Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Cyprus, leading to scores of people being hospitalized, ports being closed, flights being cancelled, and large portions of the affected countries and eastern Mediterranean Sea being covered in an unprecedented haze.

  • 2015 Indonesian fires exposed 69 million to “killer haze”

    More than 69 million people living in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia were exposed to unhealthy air quality conditions during the 2015 wildfires in Equatorial Asia during the autumn of 2015. The wildfires are linked to as many as 17,270 premature deaths. “The wildfires of 2015 were the worst we’ve seen for almost two decades as a result of global climate change, land use changes, and deforestation. The extremely dry conditions in that region mean that these are likely to become more common events in the future, unless concerted action is taken to prevent fires,” said one researcher.

  • Be Prepared: Asteroid emergency planning exercise

    What would we do if we discovered a large asteroid on course to impact Earth? While highly unlikely, that was the high-consequence scenario discussed by attendees at an 25 October NASA-FEMA tabletop exercise in El Segundo, California. The exercise simulated a possible impact four years from now — a fictitious asteroid imagined to have been discovered this fall with a 2 percent probability of impact with Earth on 20 September 2020.

  • Global climate 2011-2015: hot and wild

    The World Meteorological Organization has published a detailed analysis of the global climate 2011-2015 – the hottest five-year period on record — and the increasingly visible human footprint on extreme weather and climate events with dangerous and costly impacts. The record temperatures were accompanied by rising sea levels and declines in Arctic sea-ice extent, continental glaciers, and northern hemisphere snow cover. All these climate change indicators confirmed the long-term warming trend caused by greenhouse gases.

  • Powerful earthquake causes substantial destruction in New Zealand

    A 7.8 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand has killed at least two people and destroyed infrastructure and property. The prime minister said the damage was likely to amount to nearly $1.5 billion. Overnight, aftershocks measuring up to 6.3 magnitude were registered in the area, which in 2011 saw a similar magnitude quake kill 185 people.

  • Addressing the risk of an ecological breakdown

    In Surviving the 21st Century, Julian Cribb says that “Our combined actions may be leading to a gross ecological breakdown that will strike humanity harder than anything in our experience.” He adds: “Today humanity is facing ten huge existential threats, all of our own making. The good news is that we have the brains and the technologies to solve them – and to prosper from their solution. However we currently lack the collective will, the ability to co-operate, and the institutions to save ourselves. That is a worry.” He concludes: “This is absolutely a book about solutions – and opportunities. It is about hope – though a hope that is well-founded, on fact and science, not simply on belief, ignorance, or wishful thinking. It’s about understanding and facing up to the things which imperil out future, so that we can overcome them.”

  • Studying controlled wildfires in a lab better to understand the real thing

    The Soberanes, which raged for months across the Big Sur region, cost more than $200 million to battle from the air and ground, making it the most expensive firefight in U.S. history. Such forest fires make an enormous impact on both climate change and human health in the United States and across the globe. Researchers, using fuels taken from wildfire areas across the country such as pine branches and peat, clad in lab coats, gloves and goggles, are lighting fires in controlled experiments to mimic wildfires on a much smaller scale.

  • Bangladesh confronting climate change head on

    Three decades ago, Bangladeshi scientists recognized that global warming would produce more destructive cyclones, heavier rain, and rising sea levels. Combined with the fact that 10 percent of the country is less than two meters above sea level, it was evident that something needed to be done to prevent future catastrophes and protect the lives of Bangladeshi citizens. A new book, which demonstrates how Bangladeshis are confronting climate change head on.

  • Increasing cost of natural hazards as climate changes

    A new comprehensive study of Australian natural hazards paints a picture of increasing heatwaves and extreme bushfires as this century progresses, but with much more uncertainty about the future of storms and rainfall. The study documents the historical record and projected change of seven natural hazards in Australia: flood; storms (including wind and hail); coastal extremes; drought; heatwave; bushfire; and frost.

  • Record-breaking hot year may be the new normal by 2025

    The hottest year on record globally in 2015 could be just another average year by 2025 if carbon emissions continue to rise at their current rate, according to new research. And no matter what action we take, human activities had already locked in a “new normal” for global average temperatures that would occur no later than 2040. However, while annual global average temperatures were locked in, it was still possible with immediate and strong action on carbon emissions to prevent record-breaking seasons from becoming average — at least at regional levels.

  • Drowning: Warming above 2 degrees centigrade would place many coastal cities at risk

    The first predications of coastal sea level with warming of two degrees by 2040 show an average rate of increase three times higher than the twentieth century rate of sea level rise. By 2040 with 2 degrees centigrade warming, more than 90 percent of coastal areas will experience sea level rise exceeding the global estimate of 20cm, with up to 40cm expected along the Atlantic coast.

  • Natural protection: Coastal wetlands reduce cost of flood damages during hurricanes

    As communities across the Southeast United States and the Caribbean count the cost of flood and wind damage during Hurricane Matthew, a pioneering study has quantified how much protection natural coastal habitats provide during hurricanes. The study found more than $625 million in property damages were prevented during this natural catastrophe by coastal wetlands along the Northeast coast. Without wetlands, the damage bill would be much higher for Sandy and other predicted hurricanes. Where wetlands remain, the average damage reduction from Sandy was greater than 10 percent.

  • Loss of Arctic sea ice linked to personal CO2 emissions

    Three square meters of Arctic summer sea ice disappears for every ton of carbon dioxide a person emits, wherever they are on the planet. The rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice is one of the most direct indicators of the ongoing climate change on Earth, and the newly discovered linear relationship helps us understand our personal contribution to global climate change for the first time and highlights the importance of lowering emissions to limit global warming to 1.5°C.