• Hurricane Sandy offered support for reliance on nuclear power

    A Scientific American writer is impressed with the way nuclear power facilities were able safely to withstand the wrath of Hurricane Sandy; the lesson he draws from this experience: “Global warming is increasing the probability and destructiveness of extreme weather events like Sandy. (I don’t see the point of dithering over this claim any more.) The last thing we should do in the face of this threat is abandon nuclear energy. If anything, we need more nuclear power, not less, to curb global warming”

  • Fracking: fact vs. fiction

    In communities across the United States, people are hearing more and more about a controversial oil and gas extraction technique called hydraulic fracturing — aka, hydro-fracking; controversies pivot on some basic questions: Can hydro-fracking contaminate domestic wells? Does it cause earthquakes? How can we know? What can be done about these things if they are true? Experts making presentations at the Geological Society of America (GSA) meeting this week in Charlotte, North Carolina, will address these and related critical questions

  • Study supports move toward common U.S. math standards

    A new study analyzing the previous math standards of each state provides strong support for adoption of common standards, which U.S. students desperately need to keep pace with their counterparts around the globe

  • USGS sampling water in Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath to ensure public health

    Excessive nutrients in U.S. rivers, streams, and coastal areas are a major issue for water managers, because they cause algal blooms that increase costs to treat drinking water, limit recreational activities, and threaten valuable commercial and recreational fisheries; U.S. Geological Survey crews are sampling water for nutrients, sediment, and pesticides to document water quality in areas affected by the hurricane

  • The science of hurricanes is imprecise, but delayed decisions on preparedness and adaptation may cost lives

    It is difficult to tie a specific storm like Hurricane Sandy to the phenomenon of climate change; a professor of civil and environmental engineering says that this is a perfect example where the climate science may not yet be as precise as we would like, but important preparedness decisions still need to be made with some urgency; this is also an example where delayed decisions on preparedness and adaptation may cost human lives, destroy critical infrastructures, and damage economies; the importance of adaptation and preparedness in this context cannot be overstated

  • California worried about its own extreme weather

    California will not see a superstorm like Hurricane Sandy because the Pacific Ocean is too cold to feed that kind of weather system, but researchers monitoring precipitation and snowpack say weather can have comparable effects

  • Sandy in perspective

    Hurricane Sandy has left death and destruction in its path, and it broke a few records, but there were worse hurricanes; since 1900, 242 hurricanes have hit the United States; if Sandy causes $20 billion in damage, in 2012 dollars, it would rank as the seventeenth most damaging hurricane or tropical storm out of these 242; the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 tops the list; Hurricane Katrina ranks fourth; from August 1954 through August 1955, the East Coast saw three different storms make landfall — Carol, Hazel, and Diane; each, in 2012, would have caused about twice as much damage as Sandy

  • Sea levels are rising ahead of predictions; scientists explain why

    The last official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2007 projected a global sea level rise between 0.2 and 0.5 meters by the year 2100; current sea-level rise measurements meet or exceed the high end of that range and suggest a rise of one meter or more by the end of the century; scientists meeting next week at the Geological Society of America annual meeting will discuss whether estimates of the rate of future sea-level rise are too low

  • Flying robot avoids obstacles

    Researchers have created an autonomous flying robot which is as smart as a bird when it comes to maneuvering around obstacles; able to guide itself through forests, tunnels, or damaged buildings, the machine could have tremendous value in search-and-rescue operations

  • Experts: German nuclear exit offers economic, environmental benefits

    Following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in 2011, the German government took the nation’s eight oldest reactors offline immediately and passed legislation which will close the last nuclear power plant by 2022; this nuclear phase-out had overwhelming political support in Germany; elsewhere, many saw it as “panic politics”; a new collection of studies shows that the nuclear shutdown and an accompanying move toward renewable energy are already yielding measurable economic and environmental benefits

  • Quick-cook method turns algae into oil

    It looks like Mother Nature was wasting her time with a multimillion-year process to produce crude oil; University of Michigan engineering researchers can “pressure-cook” algae for as little as a minute and transform an unprecedented 65 percent of the green slime into biocrude

  • Rising sea levels make NYC vulnerable to more frequent, more intense floods

    Scientists say that Hurricane Sandy has forced a recognition on New York City and on other coastal communities: the steady rise in sea levels means not only more floods, but more frequent and more devastating floods; three of the top 10 highest floods at the Battery since 1900 happened in the last two and a half years; after rising roughly an inch per decade in the last century, coastal waters in New York are expected to climb as fast as six inches per decade, or two feet by midcentury; the city is exploring a $10 billion system of surge barriers and huge sea gates

  • Study connects burning fossil fuels to sea level rise

    A study has found that burning all the Earth’s reserves of fossil fuels could cause sea levels to rise by as much as five meters — with levels continuing to rise for typically 500 years after carbon dioxide emissions ceased

  • "Stutter jump" could improve performance of search and rescue robots

    A new study shows that jumping can be much more complicated than it might seem; in research that could extend the range of future rescue and exploration robots, scientists have found that hopping robots could dramatically reduce the amount of energy they use by adopting a unique two-part “stutter jump”

  • DOD faces shortfall in quality STEM workers; overhaul of recruitment policies needed

    The principal challenge for the U.S. Department of Defense’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) work force is recruiting and retaining top quality professionals for critical positions, says a new report; the agency must become — and be perceived as — an appealing career destination for the most capable scientists, engineers, and technicians, all of whom are in great demand in the global marketplace