Environment

  • Louisiana energy companies sued over destruction of New Orleans' wetlands

    The Louisiana oil and gas industry has dredged more than 10,000 miles of canals through the state’s wetlands, causing the destruction of natural buffers and barriers which, in the past, had moderated the impact of hurricanes and protected New Orleans from severe storms. The Army Corps of Engineers has embarked on a $14.6 billion plan to undo some of the damage caused by the energy companies. The plan consists of levee improvement, wetland restoration, and land reclamation to make New Orleans better protected in the face of rising seas and more frequent and severe extreme weather events. The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East (SLFPAE) has filed suit against 94energy companies,asking the court to order the companies to do their part to correct the problem they have caused.

  • Heat waves to become more frequent, severe

    Climate change is set to trigger more frequent and severe heat waves in the next thirty years regardless of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) we emit into the atmosphere, a new study has shown. In the first half of the twenty-first century, these projections will occur regardless of the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. After then, the rise in frequency of extreme heat waves becomes dependent on the emission scenario adopted.

  • Climate change was proximate, not primary, cause of 2012 Great Plains drought: study

    From May to July 2012, the Great Plains region of the western United States faced a powerful and unpredicted drought. Following seven months of normal rainfall, the drought was one of the largest deviations from seasonal precipitation rates seen in the region since observations began in 1895. Researches find that the drought fell within the bounds of natural atmospheric variability. The strength of the drought, they suggest, was a consequence of the multiple complex nonlinear systems that make up the climate system and did not critically depend on the existence of a strong external forcing.

  • Site of proposed Los Angeles skyscrapers may contain active seismic fault

    Officials at New York-based Millennium Partners have agreed to dig a trench on a site proposed for two towers, thirty-nine and thirty-five stories tall, flanking the iconic Capitol Records building in Los Angeles. Opponents of the project say there is an active seismic fault under the planned location for the two towers, and the developer says the trench will allow geologists to see whether or not it would be safe to build the towers on the proposed site. Critics say that a panel of neutral experts, led by state officials, should do the geological investigation.

  • Better approach toward projecting, planning for rising sea levels on a warmer Earth

    More useful projections of sea level are possible despite substantial uncertainty about the future behavior of massive ice sheets, according to Princeton University researchers. The researchers present a probabilistic assessment of the Antarctic contribution to twenty-first century sea-level change. Their methodology folds observed changes and models of different complexity into unified projections that can be updated with new information. This approach provides a consistent means to integrate the potential contribution of both continental ice sheets — Greenland and Antarctica — into sea-level rise projections.

  • Bolstering national grid resilience as extreme weather events intensify

    Between 2003 and 2012, an estimated 679 widespread power outages in the United States occurred due to severe weather. A recent Congressional Research Service study estimates the inflation-adjusted cost of weather-related outages at $25 to $70 billion annually. A new White House report says that grid resilience is increasingly important as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of severe weather.

  • Groundwater in Vietnam threatened by a new source of arsenic

    In Southern Asia, an estimated 100 million people have been exposed to risks from groundwater contaminated with naturally occurring arsenic. The tainted water, used for drinking, agriculture, and industry, has resulted in a variety of serious health risks, including cancer. “Dig deep” to avoid naturally occurring arsenic contamination has been promoted as an answer to obtaining safe water in South Asia, but arsenic has been found in numerous deep wells drilled in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam.

  • A 34-story wooden skyscraper to be built in Stockholm

    A Swedish architectural form is building a 34-story wood skyscraper in downtown Stockholm. Solid wood will be the predominant material in the building’s pillars and beams, while inside the apartments, walls, ceilings, fittings and window frames will be also constructed of wood.The firm says that wood is not only cheaper than either steel or concrete, but is also more fire resistant than both. This is due to 15 percent of wood mass being water, which will evaporate before the wood actually burns. In addition, logs get charred which protects the core.

  • Aging grid limiting exploitation of wind power potential

    Energy firms and utility companies continue to invest in wind power, as evident in the increasing number of wind turbines on the prairies of the Midwest, but the aging infrastructure of the nation’s power grid is limiting the potential of this clean energy source.

  • Global warming threatens South American water supply: study

    Chile and Argentina may face critical water storage issues due to rain-bearing westerly winds over South America’s Patagonian Ice-Field to moving south as a result of global warming.

  • Mapping out an alternative energy future for New York

    New York governor Andrew Cuomo will soon decide whether to approve hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the state. To date, no alternative to expanded gas drilling has been proposed.A new study finds that it is technically and economically feasible to convert New York’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one powered by wind, water, and sunlight (WWS).

  • Making storm warnings more exact, useful

    The College of Staten Island (CSI)is the home of one of the most powerful mainframe computer systems in the country, an outgrowth of the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Decade of Science initiative. Following August 2011 Hurricane Irene, CSI scientistsset out to use that computing horsepower to generate scientific data hard enough to make the warnings something more than abstract. They fed millions of data points into the supercomputers, turning an admixture of geology, oceanography, climatology, and land surveys into a set of highly specific projections. Then, on 25 October 2012, Superstorm Sandy hit, and the actual water surges could be measured against the surge projections of the CSI model. On street after street, the computer model predicted flooding to within a foot of the actual surges.

  • Testing feasibility of deep geological storage of CO2 emissions

    An injection of carbon dioxide, or CO2, has begun at a site in southeastern Washington to test deep geologic storage. Researchers are injecting 1,000 tons of CO2 one-half mile underground to see whether the greenhouse gas can be stored safely and permanently in ancient basalt flows. The United States and portions of Canada have enough potential capacity in geologic formations to store as much as 900 years of CO2 emissions.

  • Climate change threatens world food security

    The last few decades have witnessed a substantial decline in the number of hungry people worldwide. Since 2007, however, progress has slowed and world food supply and demand have been precariously balanced — climate change threatens to tip this balance, most dramatically in the poorer areas of the world.

  • Water reservoirs for hydroelectric dams are sources of greenhouse gas emissions

    The large reservoirs of water behind the world’s 50,000 large dams are a known source of methane. Like carbon dioxide, methane is one of the greenhouse gases which trap heat near Earth’s surface and contribute to global warming.  Methane, however, has a warming effect twenty-five times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The methane comes from organic matter in the sediments that accumulate behind dams.