• The bonus effects of California's water saving

    Measures to cut water use by 25 percent across California were implemented in 2015, following a four-year drought in the state that caused the fallowing of 542,000 acres of land, total economic costs of $2.74 billion, and the loss of approximately 21,000 jobs. The UC Davis researchers found that, while the 25 percent target had not quite been reached over the one-year period — with 524,000 million gallons of water saved — the measures’ impact had positive knock-on effects for other environmental objectives, leading to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and electricity consumption in the state.

  • 2017 saw the highest ever sea level on the Dutch coast

    The average sea level measured on the Dutch coast was higher than ever before in 2017. The Dutch sea level, the averaged measurements from six tide stations, rose to 11 cm above Normal Amsterdam Water Level (NAP in Dutch). The last highest measurement was in 2007, when the average sea level was 9 cm above NAP. The fact that the sea level was higher last year does not mean that the sea level is now rising faster. At present, the sea level on the Dutch coast is rising by 20 cm every century.

  • Quantum speed limit may put brakes on quantum computers

    Over the past five decades, standard computer processors have gotten increasingly faster. In recent years, however, the limits to that technology have become clear: Chip components can only get so small, and be packed only so closely together, before they overlap or short-circuit. If companies are to continue building ever-faster computers, something will need to change. One key hope for the future of increasingly fast computing is my own field, quantum physics. Quantum computers are expected to be much faster than anything the information age has developed so far. But my recent research has revealed that quantum computers will have limits of their own – and has suggested ways to figure out what those limits are.

  • Balloon-borne infrasound sensor array detects explosions

    Infrasound is sound of very low frequencies, below 20 hertz, which is lower than humans can hear. African elephants produce infrasound for long-distance communication at around 15 hertz. For comparison, a bumblebee’s buzz is typically 150 hertz and humans hear in the range of 20 to 20,000 hertz. Infrasound is important because it’s one of the verification technologies the U.S. and the international community use to monitor explosions, including those caused by nuclear tests. Traditionally, infrasound is detected by ground-based sensor arrays, which don’t cover the open ocean and can be muddled by other noises, such as the wind. Sandia Lab scientists is using sheets of plastic, packing tape, some string, a little charcoal dust, and a white shoebox-size box to build a solar-powered hot air balloon for detecting infrasound.

  • Detect illicit drone video filming

    Researchers have demonstrated the first technique to detect a drone camera illicitly capturing video. Their study addresses increasing concerns about the proliferation of drone use for personal and business applications and how it is impinging on privacy and safety.

  • River flood risks increase around the globe under future warming

    Rainfall changes caused by global warming will increase river flood risks across the globe. Already today, fluvial floods are among the most common and devastating natural disasters. Scientists have now calculated the required increase in flood protection until the 2040s worldwide, breaking it down to single regions and cities. They find that the need for adaptation is greatest in the United States, parts of India and Africa, Indonesia, and in Central Europe including Germany. Inaction would expose many millions of people to severe flooding.

  • Climate change changing Earth’s landscape

    Climate change will replace land use change as the major driver of changes in Earth’s biosphere in the twenty-first century if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed, new research suggests. Historically, human land use change, like urban development and agricultural expansion, has been the primary cause of anthropogenic ecosystem change. But now, due to rising greenhouse gas levels, climate change has become a growing threat to ecosystems. The rapid pace of climate change is making it difficult for species to adapt to changes in temperature, water cycles, and other environmental conditions that affect life on Earth.

  • Smart sensor could revolutionize crime, terrorism prevention

    Crime, terrorism prevention, environmental monitoring, reusable electronics, medical diagnostics and food safety, are just a few of the far-reaching areas where a new chemical sensor could revolutionize progress. Engineers at the University of Oxford have used material compounds, known as Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs), to develop technology that senses and responds to light and chemicals. The material visibly changes color depending on the substance detected.

  • Rejection of subsidies for coal and nuclear power is a win for fact-based policymaking

    Energy Secretary Rick Perry has repeatedly expressed concern over the past year about the reliability of our national electric power grid. On 28 September 2017, Perry ordered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to revise wholesale electricity market rules, implicitly suggesting that the federal government would give subsidies to owners of coal and nuclear power plants, to compensate them for keeping a 90-day fuel supply on-site in the event of a disruption to the grid. On Monday, the independent five-member commission – four of whose members have been appointed by President Trump — unanimously rejected Perry’s proposal. FERC’s 5-0 decision shows that policymaking based on evidence won the day. Perry’s proposal, which critics said was aiming to prop up nuclear and coal power plants struggling in competitive electricity markets, had the potential to affect millions of electricity customers, as well as power markets and the environment. FERC deserves congratulations for putting evidence before action.

  • 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.

  • Studying climate effects on California water systems from headwaters to groundwater

    To address future climate change effects on water resources, scientists at five UC campuses, and Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories, will study California’s water systems, from the headwaters in the Sierra Nevada, through rivers, reservoirs and groundwater in the Central Valley. The project will allow scientists to examine hydrologic sensitivities of California headwaters and agricultural demand to changing climate and will consider plausible societal adaptations.

  • Multi-channel, nonlinear-optical processing devices to reduce cost of high-speed internet connections

    Breakthrough research could lead to a dramatic reduction in the cost and energy consumption of high-speed internet connections. Nonlinear-optical effects, such as intensity-dependent refractive index, can be used to process data thousands of times faster than what can be achieved electronically. Such processing has, until now, worked only for one optical beam at a time because the nonlinear-optical effects also cause unwanted inter-beam interaction, or crosstalk, when multiple light beams are present.

  • 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.

  • Innovative smart grid technology solves decades-old problematic power grid phenomenon

    Picture a teeter-totter gently rocking back and forth, one side going up while the other goes down. When electricity travels long distances, it starts to behave in a similar fashion: the standard frequency of 60 cycles per second increases on the utility side of the transmission line while the frequency on the customer side decreases, switching back and forth every second or two. This phenomenon — called inter-area oscillations — can be a problem on hot summer days when the demand for power is high. Sandia National Laboratories and partners have demonstrated a control system that smooths out these oscillations using new smart grid technology. Sandia’s controls use real-time data to reduce inter-area oscillations on western grid.

  • Geopolitical risks to U.S. oil supply lowest since the early 1970s

    The geopolitical risks to the U.S. oil supply are the lowest since the early 1970s, due to fracking, climate action and a more diverse global supply, according to a new study. America’s energy prosperity contrasts with a more fraught period for energy-exporting countries where geopolitical challenges have been compounded by fiscal stress and rising domestic energy demand, the authors said.