• U.K. winter 2015-16 floods: One of the century’s most extreme and severe flood episodes

    A new scientific review of the winter floods of 2015-2016 confirms that the event was one of the most extreme and severe hydrological events of the last century. The new hydrological appraisal brings together both river flow and meteorological data in an analysis of the events that led to extensive river flooding in northern England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and parts of Wales over a three-month period.

  • Climate change likely caused deadly 2016 avalanche in Tibet

    On 17 July, more than 70 million tons of ice broke off from the Aru glacier in the mountains of western Tibet and tumbled into a valley below, taking the lives of nine nomadic yak herders living there. With the deadly avalanche, it appears climate change may now be affecting a once stable region of the Tibetan Plateau, researchers have concluded, as two glaciers collapse within two months in once-stable region.

  • Swarming robots to help small urban ground units

    Urban canyons — with their high vertical structures, tight spaces, and limited lines of sight — constrain military communications, mobility, and tactics in the best of times. These challenges become even more daunting when U.S. forces are in areas they do not control — where they can’t rely on supply chains, infrastructure, and previous knowledge of local conditions and potential threats. to help overcome these challenges and increase the effectiveness of small-unit combat forces operating in urban environments, DARPA has launched its new OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program. OFFSET seeks to develop and demonstrate 100+ operationally relevant swarm tactics that could be used by groups of unmanned air and/or ground systems numbering more than 100 robots.

  • Purdue launches Institute for Global Security and Defense Innovation

    Purdue University president Mitch Daniels announced last Thursday that the university is opening a new Institute for Global Security and Defense Innovation in Discovery Park. In the 2016 fiscal year, the university was awarded more than $50 million for advanced defense-related research projects. The new institute will centralize defense and security research efforts across campus, and, it is hoped, will make Purdue the pre-eminent university in national defense and security. “We can no longer rely on decades of military superiority via so-called technology ‘off-sets,’” said Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, chief scientist and executive director of Purdue’s Discovery Park. “In the future we must out-invent, out-discover, and out-innovate our adversaries every day.”

  • Common grass to help boost food security

    Common Panic grasses could hold the secret to increasing the yields of cereal crops and help feed the world with increasing temperature extremes and a population of nearly ten billion people by 2050. The grasses have the potential to improve crop yields for staple foods such as wheat and rice by transplanting enzymes from Panic grasses.

  • A license to print: how real is the risk posed by 3D printed guns?

    3D printed guns are back in the news after Queensland Police reported last week that they had discovered a 3D printer in a raid on what appeared to be a “large-scale” weapons production facility as a part of Operation Oscar Quantum. But the fact is that 3D printing technology is not yet at the stage where it can readily produce weapons. Although it can be used to help rogue gunsmiths work their shady trade. And we should remember that it’s not only 3D printing that enables people to build illicit firearms. With the right tools, a skilled gunsmith can make a weapon in their back shed. However, 3D printing can make that process easier and more accessible to less skilled individuals.

  • Warming-driven loss of soil carbon might equal U.S. emissions

    For decades scientists have speculated that rising global temperatures might alter the ability of soils to store carbon, potentially releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and triggering runaway climate change. Yet thousands of studies worldwide have produced mixed signals on whether this storage capacity will actually decrease — or even increase — as the planet warms. It turns out scientists might have been looking in the wrong places. A new study finds that warming will drive the loss of at least 55 trillion kilograms of carbon from the soil by mid-century, or about 17 percent more than the projected emissions due to human-related activities during that period. That would be roughly the equivalent of adding to the planet another industrialized country the size of the United States.

  • U.S. to face five-fold increase in extreme downpours across parts of the country

    At century’s end, the number of summertime storms that produce extreme downpours could increase by more than 400 percent across parts of the United States — including sections of the Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast, and the Southwest. The intensity of individual extreme rainfall events could increase by as much as 70 percent in some areas. That would mean that a storm that drops about 2 inches of rainfall today would be likely to drop nearly 3.5 inches in the future.

  • Climate change to drive stronger, smaller storms in U.S.

    The effects of climate change will likely cause smaller but stronger storms in the United States, according to a new framework for modeling storm behavior. Though storm intensity is expected to increase over today’s levels, the predicted reduction in storm size may alleviate some fears of widespread severe flooding in the future. The new approach uses new statistical methods to identify and track storm features in both observational weather data and new high-resolution climate modeling simulations.

  • Improve trace detection of explosives by sniffing like a dog

    By mimicking how dogs get their whiffs, a team of government and university researchers have demonstrated that “active sniffing” can improve by more than ten times the performance of current technologies that rely on continuous suction to detect trace amounts of explosives and other contraband.

  • Is climate change responsible for increasing tornado outbreaks?

    Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms kill people and damage property every year. Estimated U.S. insured losses due to severe thunderstorms in the first half of 2016 were $8.5 billion. The largest U.S. impacts of tornadoes result from tornado outbreaks, sequences of tornadoes that occur in close succession. New research shows that the average number of tornadoes during outbreaks—large-scale weather events that can last one to three days and span huge regions—has risen since 1954. But the researchers were not sure why.

  • NSF awards $61 million to enhance understanding of STEM education, workforce development

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) has invested $61 million in new awards in order to continue to achieve nationwide excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce development. The awards focus on projects that help the educational community understand, explain, and address challenges in STEM learning and participation.

  • Abbott vows to cut funding for "sanctuary campus" schools

    Rebuking a growing movement aimed at protecting undocumented students under incoming President Donald Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott vowed Thursday to cut funding for any Texas school that declares itself a “sanctuary campus.” The definition of a “sanctuary campus” is murky, but Abbott  made it clear they are not welcome in Texas.

  • Better way for coastal communities to prepare for devastating storms

    As of 2010, approximately 52 percent of the United States’ population lived in vulnerable coastal watershed counties, and that number is expected to grow. Globally, almost half of the world’s population lives along or near coastal areas. Coastal communities’ ability to plan for, absorb, recover, and adapt from destructive hurricanes is becoming more urgent.

  • Record-breaking hot days ahead

    If society continues to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the current rate, Americans later this century will have to endure, on average, about fifteen daily maximum temperature records for every time that the mercury notches a record low, new research indicates. That ratio of record highs to record lows could also turn out to be much higher if the pace of emissions increases and produces even more warming.