• U.S. Congress holds hearings on geoengineering

    Geoengineering — the effort to design systems which would change the world’s climate — was once a fringe phenomenon; it has been moving into the mainstream, though, as more and more scientists are growing increasingly concerned that, even if we commit to cutting emissions drastically, we have already waited too long, and that by the time we actually reduce emissions, enough greenhouse gases will have accumulated to cause serious climate disasters

  • Using technology to prepare vulnerable communities for earthquakes

    Satellite photographs and remotely measured surface heights from NASA will be used for assessing the vulnerability of natural slopes to earthquake-induced landslides; a team of U.K. scientists will also build up a database of slopes that failed in earthquakes; the information collected will include local geology, vegetation, slope angle, distance from the fault, and the amount of ground shaking

  • African desert rift confirmed as new ocean is forming

    Geologists show that seafloor dynamics are at work in splitting African continent; scientists from several countries have confirmed that the volcanic processes at work beneath the Ethiopian rift are nearly identical to those at the bottom of the world’s oceans, and the rift is indeed likely the beginning of a new sea

  • Nuclear energy central to climate debate

    There are 104 power reactors in 31 states, providing one-fifth of the U.S. electricity; they are also producing 70 percent of essentially carbon-free power and are devoid of greenhouse gas emissions; a study by the industry-supported Electric Power Research Institute says 45 new reactors are needed by 2030; the Energy Information Administration puts the number at 70; an analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assumes 180 new reactors by 2050 for an 80 percent decline in greenhouse gas emissions

  • Louisiana levee to use stabilizing fabric

    The 1,600-foot earthen levee, which runs south from the Old Estelle Pump Station, has failed twice, once in the early 1990s and again in 2007 when two sections totaling 600 feet long slumped badly; Army Corps of Engineers will use geotextile fabric to stabilize known trouble spots before raising the levee from 10 feet to 14.5 feet

  • Despite concerns, development still heads to the coast

    Many scientists predict that by 2100, sea levels would rise more than one meter; still, Florida has opened more vulnerable areas along the Atlantic coast to construction — and has done so more than any other state

  • Aussies worry about rising sea levels

    About 80 percent of Australians live in coastal areas, and a new parliamentary report recommends new laws banning further development in coastal regions

  • A new Amsterdam neighborhood floats on a lake

    The Dutch experiment with a new concept for addressing over-crowding, flooding, and rising sea-level problems: floating neighborhoods

  • Cosmic entropy could be 100 times greater than previously thought

    Entropy increases as the number of ways the system can be arranged microscopically without changing the external appearance increases; new study shows that cosmic entropy is a 100 times greater than earlier estimates; the entropy of the universe must be below the maximum theoretical value or life and other complex phenomena will cease to exist; as the entropy gradually increases it will eventually approach the theoretical maximum, a state many physicists have called the heat death of the universe; the new study thus shows that our universe is closer to its death than previously thought

  • Tornado threat increases as Gulf hurricanes get larger

    New study predicted exactly the number of hurricanes seen for Hurricane Ike: 33; tornadoes that occur from hurricanes moving inland from the Gulf Coast are increasing in frequency

  • Without water reform Asia will face food shortage by 2050

    There are three options for meeting the food needs of Asia’s population, which will expand by one-and-a-half billion people over the next forty years: The first is to import large quantities of cereals from other regions; the second to improve and expand rainfed agriculture; and the third to focus on irrigated farmlands

  • China ponders: Are a few big hydropower projects better than many small ones?

    China is moving aggressively to build dams along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, in part to protect the Three Gorges Dam, but can such hydropower development be done better? “It’s not just dams versus no dams,” one expert says; “It’s about elegant dams”

  • Asteroid collision: How to defend Earth, II

    Asteroid impacts are much rarer than hurricanes and earthquakes, but they have the potential to do much greater damage; moreover, what if an asteroid hits Earth in the Middle East or the Asian subcontinent? Such an event could be misinterpreted as a nuclear attack — both produce a bright flash, a blast wave, and raging winds; the result may be a nuclear war

  • Developing enzymes to clean up pollution by explosives

    Demolitions used in war, or on testing grounds, contaminate the soil; Canadian researchers develop an enzyme that cleans up such pollution

  • How high is the risk of civilization-killing asteroids?

    Planetary bombardments: scientists at a planets meeting discuss the risks of an asteroid colliding with Earth; researchers are worried about asteroid Apophis, which will come uncomfortably close to Earth on 13 April 2029; one scientist said that “It’s 10 times more likely that an unknown asteroid will slam into us from behind while you’re looking at Apophis”