• CybersecurityUSD launches a new Center for Cyber Security Engineering and Technology

    To address the threats cyberattacks pose to the security, prosperity, and privacy of the United States and its citizens, the University of San Diego announced the creation of its Center for Cyber Security Engineering and Technology. The Center will focus on cybersecurity challenges through education, training, and research.

  • Big dataManaging the data deluge for national security analysts

    In this information age, national security analysts often find themselves searching for a needle in a haystack. The available data is growing much faster than analysts’ ability to observe and process it. Sometimes they cannot make key connections and often they are overwhelmed struggling to use data for predictions and forensics. A Sandia National Laboratories’ team has made a number of breakthroughs that could help solve these problems.

  • Emerging threatsSocial sciences are best hope for ending debates over climate change

    By Andrew J. Hoffman

    The toxicity of the public debate in the United States over climate change is increasing, and to detoxify the debate, we need to understand the social forces at work. We must recognize that the public debate in the United States over climate change is not about carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas models; it is about opposing cultural values and worldviews through which that science is viewed. The opposing sides have less to do with the scientific basis of the issue and more to do with the ways in which people receive, assess, and act upon scientific information. To move forward, we have to disengage from fixed battle on one scientific front and seek approaches that engage people who are undecided about climate change on multiple social and cultural fronts. Only by broadening the scope of the debate to include this social and cultural complexity can we ever hope to achieve broad-scale social and political consensus. More scientific data can only take us so far; engaging the inherently human aspects of this debate will take us the rest of the way.

  • Emerging threats2015 likely to be warmest on record, 2011-2015 warmest 5-year period: WMO

    The global average surface temperature in 2015 is likely to be the warmest on record and to reach the symbolic and significant milestone of 1° Celsius above the pre-industrial era, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The years 2011-2015 have been the warmest five-year period on record, with many extreme weather events — especially heatwaves — influenced by climate change. Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached new highs, with global average concentration of CO2 crossed the 400 parts per million barrier for the first time. “This is all bad news for the planet. Greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing climate change, can be controlled. We have the knowledge and the tools to act. We have a choice. Future generations will not,” said WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud.

  • Emerging threatsParis pledges, if implemented and followed, can avert severe climate change

    More than 190 countries are meeting in Paris this week to create a durable framework for addressing climate change and to implement a process to reduce greenhouse gases over time. A key part of this agreement would be the pledges made by individual countries to reduce their emissions. Scientists say that if implemented and followed by measures of equal or greater ambition, the Paris pledges have the potential to reduce the probability of the highest levels of warming, and increase the probability of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

  • Emerging threatsGlobal climate shift in the 1980s largest in 1,000 years

    Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fueled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research. Scientists say that a major step change, or “regime shift,” in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from the Arctic to Antarctica, was centered around 1987. The scientists document a range of associated events caused by the shift, from a 60 percent increase in winter river flow into the Baltic Sea to a 400 percent increase in the average duration of wildfires in the Western United States. It also suggests that climate change is not a gradual process, but one subject to sudden increases, with the 1980s shift representing the largest in an estimated 1,000 years.

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  • DisastersHow bad will this El Niño be? Worse than you may think

    By Marc A. Levy

    Last week, Columbia University Earth Institute’s International Research Institute on Climate and Society convened a 2-day workshop reflecting on efforts over the past twenty years to improve responses to climate variability, especially risks associated with El Niño. Concerns that the current El Niño has the potential to exceed in severity the devastating El Niño of 1997-98 permeated the discussion. At the conference, Marc A. Levy of the Earth Institute presented a brief overview of the social, economic, and political changes that will have a large effect on human impacts from El Niño. He amplifies those remarks here.

  • Coastal infrastructureU Maine launches center for studying, developing coastal and offshore structures

    During a laboratory dedication on Monday at the University of Maine, the Harold Alfond Foundation announced a $3.9 million grant to the University of Maine to match $9.98 million already raised, formally establishing the Harold Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory and Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center on campus. The UMaine Composites Center is the largest STEM research and development program located in a Maine university, and is at the heart of one of UMaine’s seven Signature Areas of Excellence — Advanced Materials for Infrastructure and Energy.

  • ClimateRecords: October, year-to-date hottest in human history

    October 2015 was the hottest October in modern history, and the first ten months of the year have also set new records for worldwide warmth, U.S. government scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said last week. The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for October 2015 was the highest for October in the 136-year period of record, at 0.98°C (1.76°F) above the twentieth century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F). The first ten months of 2015 comprised the warmest such period on record across the world’s land and ocean surfaces, at 0.86°C (1.55°F) above the twentieth century average, surpassing the previous record of 2014 by 0.12°C (0.22°F).

  • STEM educationDHS seeking faculty, students for summer 2016 research programs

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is seeking faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students interested in participating in one of its 10-week programs in summer 2016, including its Summer Research Team Program for Minority Serving Institutions and its Homeland Security — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (HS-STEM) Summer Internship Program. The deadlines for applying for both programs occur in December 2015.

  • BiodefenseSurface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) technology for on-site detection

    Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) technology currently is applied using chemical analysis of materials, such as scanning at airports to identify what materials may be inside of glass vials. Researchers want to expand SERS for use in biological applications that could employ antibodies for purposes such as identifying viruses, water toxins, or pathogens in food samples. The researchers work on developing a small hand-held device that allows users to take a sample, put it in a glass vial and insert into the instrument for rapid identification.

  • WaterSmall landscape changes can yield big freshwater gains

    A typical bird’s-eye view of the Midwest offers a patchwork landscape covered mostly by agriculture but mottled with forest, wetland, grassland, buildings, and pavement. This pattern influences the quality and supply of the many natural benefits the landscape provides people, including freshwater. A new opportunity for improving the health and supply of Wisconsin’s lakes, waterways, and groundwater has emerged from a recent study showing that making small tweaks to how large some of those patches in the pattern are could mean big freshwater benefits, especially where making drastic changes to the landscape would be hard, as is the case throughout much of the state.

  • ResilienceGlobal climate finance increases to $391 billion

    A new report about the world’s inventory of climate finance shows that more money than ever before — at least $391 billion — was invested in low-carbon and climate-resilient actions in 2014. Private actors invested $243 billion in renewable energies, a surge of 26 percent from 2013, which resulted in record solar PV and onshore wind deployment. Public finance reached at least $148 billion continuing its steady growth over the past three years. Also, 74 percent of total climate finance ($290 billion) and 92 percent ($222 billion) of private investment was raised and spent in the same country. The domestic preference of climate finance highlights the importance of domestic investment policy and support frameworks.

  • In the trenchesMost people object to fully autonomous weapons: Survey

    Public opinion is against the use of autonomous weapons capable of identifying and destroying targets without human input, according to a new survey. “It has been said that future wars will be fought with completely automated systems,” said one of the researchers behind the survey. “The survey results clearly show that more public discussion is necessary so that we can make intelligent decisions about robotic weapon technologies.”

  • SustainabilityInvestment portfolios may take short-term hits as a result of climate change sentiment

    A new report reveals that global investment portfolios could lose up to 45 percent as a consequence of short-term shifts in climate change sentiment. The report concluded that about half of this potential loss could be avoided through portfolio reallocation, while the other half is “unhedgeable,” meaning that investors cannot necessarily protect themselves from losses unless action on climate change is taken at a system level.