Environment

  • FrackingBetter solutions for recycle fracking water

    Scientists have performed a detailed analysis of water produced by hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) of three gas reservoirs and suggested environmentally friendly remedies are needed to treat and reuse it. More advanced recycling rather than disposal of “produced” water pumped back out of wells could calm fears of accidental spillage and save millions of gallons of fresh water a year.

  • EnergyExisting power plants will emit 300 billion more tons of carbon dioxide during use

    Existing power plants around the world will pump out more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over their expected lifetimes, significantly adding to atmospheric levels of the climate-warming gas, according to a new study. The study is the first to quantify how quickly these “committed” emissions are growing — by about 4 percent per year — as more fossil fuel-burning power plants are built. Assuming these stations will operate for forty years, the power plants constructed globally in 2012 alone will produce about nineteen billion tons of CO2 during their existence, the researchers project.

  • Food securitySouthwest may face “megadrought” within century: Study

    Due to global warming, scientists say, the chances of the southwestern United States experiencing a decade-long drought is at least 50 percent, and the chances of a “megadrought” — one that lasts up to thirty-five years — ranges from 20 to 50 percent over the next century. While the 1930s Dust Bowl in the Midwest lasted four to eight years, depending upon location, a megadrought can last more than three decades, which could lead to mass population migration on a scale never before seen in this country.

  • Infrastructure protectionAntarctica to become major contributor to sea level rise faster than previously thought

    While Antarctica currently contributes less than 10 percent to global sea level rise and is a minor contributor compared to the thermal expansion of the warming oceans and melting mountain glaciers, it is Greenland and especially the Antarctic ice sheets with their huge volume of ice that are expected to be the major contributors to future long-term sea level rise.

  • Infrastructure protectionSolar super-storms “inevitable”: Scientists

    Solar storms are caused by violent eruptions on the surface of the Sun and are accompanied by coronal mass ejections (CME). The largest ever solar super-storm on record occurred in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event: This massive CME released about 1,022 kJ of energy — the equivalent to ten billion Hiroshima bombs exploding at the same time — and hurled around a trillion kilograms of charged particles towards the Earth at speeds of up to 3,000 km/s. These types of events are not just a threat, but inevitable. NASA scientists have predicted that the Earth is in the path of a Carrington-level event every 150 years on average — which means that we are currently five years overdue — and that the likelihood of one occurring in the next decade is as high as 12 percent.

  • TornadoesTornado strength, frequency linked to climate change

    New research shows that climate change may be playing a key role in the strength and frequency of tornadoes hitting the United States. Though tornadoes are forming fewer days per year, they are forming at a greater density and strength than ever before. “We may be less threatened by tornadoes on a day-to-day basis, but when they do come, they come like there’s no tomorrow,” one of the researchers said.

  • Coastal infrastructure protectionKey U.S. coastal areas bracing for greater sea level rise challenges

    While climate change-related sea level rise is predicted to impact much of the country — whether directly or indirectly — over the next several decades, certain parts of the nation’s coasts are expecting to deal with more unique and intensive challenges.

  • Coastal infrastructure N.C. science panel begins updating sea level rise report

    North Carolina officials announced last week that the state-appointed science panel supported by the Coastal Resources Commission(CRC) has begun updating a controversial 2010 sea-level rise report. The CRC oversees development in North Carolina’s twenty coastal counties. In May, the CRC votedto narrow the scope of the pending report to reflect the effects of sea-level rise for the next thirty-years, as opposed to the original timeframe of 100 years in the 2010 report. “I think the concept of doing it for 30 years will add credibility to the study,” Frank Gorham, the CRC’s chairman, said last Thursday. “People can think in 30-year timeframes.”

  • Coastal infrastructureNational vision needed to achieve comprehensive risk reduction along Atlantic, Gulf coasts

    A national vision for coastal risk management that includes a long-term view, regional solutions, and recognition of the full array of economic, social, environmental, and safety benefits that come from risk management is needed to reduce the impacts of natural disasters along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, says a new report. To support this vision, a national coastal risk assessment is needed to identify coastal areas that face the greatest threats and are high priorities for risk-reduction efforts.

  • Infrastructure protectionUsing natural, engineering solutions to help U.K. address extreme weather events

    The United Kingdom is seeing increased seasonal flood damage not only from coastal and river surges, but from rising groundwater as well. The scale and unpredictability of these events in recent years, while devastating, can also serve as a helpful mirror of future climate change and its predicted effects in the longer term. Experts say that natural solutions, such as reforestation, to improve flood defenses and attempts to keep water in place may provide both short and long term solutions.

  • WaterDrought-driven use of underground water threatens water supply of western U.S.

    Scientists find that more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The Colorado River is the only major river in the southwest part of the United States. Its basin supplies water to about forty million people in seven states, as well as irrigating roughly four million acres of farmland. Monthly measurements in the change in water mass from December 2004 to November 2013 revealed the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, almost double the volume of the nation’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead. More than three-quarters of the total — about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers) — was from groundwater. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.

  • Industrial pollutionExtensive corrosion found at chemical tanks of W.Va. site which contaminated region

    Investigators by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) have reported that they detected significant corrosion in MCHM chemical storage tanks at the Freedom Industries site responsible for a 9 January contamination of the Elk River which has impacted over 300,000 residents of the area.

  • EarthquakesUpdating information about U.S. regional earthquake hazards

    The USGS recently updated their U.S. National Seismic Hazard Maps, which reflect the best and most current understanding of where future earthquakes will occur, how often they will occur, and how hard the ground will likely shake as a result. While all states have some potential for earthquakes, 42 of the 50 states have a reasonable chance of experiencing damaging ground shaking from an earthquake in fifty years (the typical lifetime of a building). Scientists also conclude that sixteen states have a relatively high likelihood of experiencing damaging ground shaking. These states have historically experienced earthquakes with a magnitude 6 or greater. To help make the best decisions to protect communities from earthquakes, new USGS maps display how intense ground shaking could be across the nation.

  • WaterGroundwater reservoirs are being depleted at an increasing rate

    The rate at which the Earth’s groundwater reservoirs are being depleted is constantly increasing. Annual groundwater depletion during the first decade of this century was twice as high as it was between 1960 and 2000. India, the USA, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China are the countries with the highest rates of groundwater depletion. About 15 percent of global groundwater consumption is not sustainable, meaning that it comes from non-renewable groundwater resources. The increased use of groundwater for irrigation also results in a rise in sea levels, with roughly one tenth of the total sea level rise during the period from 2000 to 2009 due to groundwater depletion.

  • Infrastructure protectionDebate in Texas over fossil fuel-based economic growth

    Texas officials tout the state’s economic growth, which is due in part to the state’s energy sector. That same energy sector puts Texas’ economy at risk in decades to come, with scientists saying that this economic growth comes at a high cost.State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, who was appointed by then-Governor George W. Bush, notes that the state is projected to be several degrees warmer and experience longer and more severe droughts. The see along portions of the state’s 367-mile Gulf Coast has already risen up to one foot in the past century.