Environment

  • Coastal resilienceSea level rise unevenly, which is bad news for some coastal regions

    When you fill a sink, the water rises at the same rate to the same height in every corner. This is not the way it works with our rising seas. Tides, winds, and ocean currents play a role in these regional differences, but an increasingly important mover and shaker is the solid Earth itself. Global warming is not just affecting the surface of our world; it is making the Earth move under our feet. These regional differences in sea level change will become even more apparent in the future, as ice sheets melt. For instance, when the Amundsen Sea sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is totally gone, the average global sea level will rise four feet. The East Coast of the United States, however, will see an additional fourteen to fifteen inches above that average.

  • Coastal resilienceSea-level rise handbook to help land managers, coastal planners, and policy makers

    Coastal managers and planners now have access to a new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) handbook which, for the first time, comprehensively describes the various models used to study and predict sea-level rise and its potential impacts on coasts. The handbook, designed for the benefit of land managers, coastal planners, and policy makers in the United States and around the world, explains many of the contributing factors that account for sea-level change.

  • WaterExperts urge negotiators to include water in climate agreement

    The impact of climate change is felt through water, with flooding, erratic rain patterns, prolonged droughts, and other extreme weather events. Water is also critical for successful climate change mitigation, as many efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions depend on reliable access to water resources. World Water Week closed on Friday in Stockholm, with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) urging climate negotiators to ensure that water is integrated in the global 2015 climate agreement.

  • ClimateSubjecting countries to “targeted punishments” could tackle climate change

    Targeted punishments could provide a path to international climate change cooperation, new research in game theory has found. The research suggests that in situations such as climate change, in which everyone would be better off if everyone cooperated but it may not be individually advantageous to do so, the use of a strategy called “targeted punishment” could help shift society toward global cooperation.

  • Coastal resilienceU.S. coastal communities face increasing risk of compound floods

    In 2010, 39 percent of the U.S. population lived in coastal communities — a number which is expected to continue to increase in the next five years. The confluence of storm surges and heavy precipitation can bring dangerous flooding to low-lying coastal regions, including major metropolitan areas. A new study of the United States coastline has found the risk of such flooding is higher on the Atlantic coast than the Pacific, and the number of these compound events has increased significantly in many major cities in the past century.

  • Food safetyEU-funded research: Climate change and food safety

    The global fresh produce supply chain must take into account climate change in order to ensure food safety, warn EU-funded researchers. This was the key recommendation of the EU-funded VEG-I-TRADE project, which was launched in 2010 to assess the safety of fresh produce in a rapidly evolving context of climate change and expanding international trade.

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  • ResilienceClimate change and Hurricane Katrina: what have we learned?

    By Kerry Emanuel

    Theory and computer models show that the incidence of the strongest hurricanes — those that come closest to achieving their potential intensity — will increase as the climate warms, and there is some indication that this is happening. Global warming, however, is occurring far too fast for effective human adaptation. Adapting to the myriad changes expected over the next 100 years is such a daunting prospect that otherwise intelligent people rebel against the idea even to the extent of denying the very existence of the risk. This recalcitrance, coupled with rising sea levels, subsiding land, and increased incidence of strong hurricanes, all but guarantees that New Orleans will have moved or have been abandoned by the next century.

  • DisastersJuly 2015 the hottest month on record since measurements began in 1880

    Global warming continues unabated. The latest NOAA report notes that July 2015 was warmest month ever recorded for the globe – that is, the warmest month since 1880, when temperature measurements were taken in a systematic fashion for the first time. The July globally averaged land surface temperature was 1.73°F (0.96°C) above the twentieth century average. The year-to-date temperature combined across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.53°F (0.85°C) above the twentieth century average. This was the highest for January–July in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.16°F (0.09°C).

  • InfrastructureDrought causing California’s San Joaquin Valley land to sink, damaging infrastructure

    Californians continue pumping groundwater in response to the historic drought, and as a result, land in the San Joaquin Valley is sinking faster than ever before, nearly two inches per month in some locations. Sinking land, known as subsidence, has been occurring for decades in California because of excessive groundwater pumping during drought conditions, but the sinking is happening faster. The increased subsidence rates can damage local, state, and federal infrastructure, including aqueducts, bridges, roads, and flood control structures. Long-term subsidence has already destroyed thousands of public and private groundwater well casings in the San Joaquin Valley. Over time, subsidence can permanently reduce the underground aquifer’s water storage capacity.

  • DroughtWarming climate exacerbating California drought

    A new study says that global warming has measurably worsened the ongoing California drought. Scientists largely agree that natural weather variations have caused a lack of rain, but an emerging consensus says that rising temperatures may be making things worse by driving moisture from plants and soil into the air. The new study is the first to estimate how much worse: as much as a quarter. The findings suggest that within a few decades, continually increasing temperatures and resulting moisture losses will push California into even more persistent aridity.

  • Coastal resilienceU.S. coastal flood risk on the rise ten years after Hurricane Katrina

    A decade after Hurricane Katrina caused $41 billion in property and casualty insurance losses, the most expensive catastrophe ever experienced by the global insurance industry, rising sea levels are driving up expected economic and insurance losses from hurricane-driven storm surge in coastal cities across the United States. Rising sea levels contributing to increased risk of severe economic damage from flood following a hurricane – and Miami, New York, and Tampa now face greater risk than New Orleans.

  • Coastal resilienceWorld’s most at-risk coastal regions should adopt Louisiana’s post-Katrina protection plans

    A decade after Hurricane Katrina hammered America’s Gulf Coast, measures are being taken there to protect against similar devastation from natural disasters — as well as against long-term, gradual impacts resulting from climate change. Other coastal regions across the world, however, remain vulnerable to damaging storms, and providing similar protection for the tens of millions of people living in those areas — around 38 percent of the global population, or 2.5 billion people, lives within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the coast — will require international action. Experts say that the world’s most at-risk nations should implement coastal protection plans like those adopted by Louisiana.

  • Water contaminationTwo major U.S. aquifers contaminated with high levels of natural uranium

    Nearly two million people throughout the Great Plains and California live above aquifer sites contaminated with natural uranium which is mobilized by human-contributed nitrate. Data from roughly 275,000 groundwater samples in the High Plains and Central Valley aquifers show that many Americans live less than two-thirds of a mile from wells that often far exceed the uranium guideline set by the Environmental Protection Agency. A new study reports that 78 percent of the uranium-contaminated sites were linked to the presence of nitrate, a common groundwater contaminant that originates mainly from chemical fertilizers and animal waste.

  • EnergyStudying the impact of removing brine from under- sea carbon dioxide stores

    The Birmingham, U.K.-based Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is seeking partners for a project to study the impact of removing brine from under-sea stores that could be used to store captured carbon. A previous ETI project in its Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology program led to the development of the U.K. principal storage screening database, CO2Stored, which made a number of assumptions to estimate capacity and injectivity for each of the 550 stores off the U.K. coast. One of these was that brine can potentially be removed through a purpose built well or wells from the store to depressurize it, and can still retain the operation and integrity of the store.

  • GeoengineeringGeoengineering technique would not stop sea level rise

    Researchers used computer model experiments to test how the Greenland Ice Sheet would react to albedo modification, also called solar radiation management geoengineering, a proposed technology to cool down the Earth’s temperature by reflecting some sunlight away from the planet. They found the ice sheet might contribute to sea-level rise for decades to centuries after albedo modification began. The researchers say that albedo modification should not be counted on as a short-term solution to stop rising global sea levels.