Environment

  • New levee system offers New Orleans better protection

    With the busiest period of the 2013 hurricane season approaching metro New Orleans, the area is ready to face the challenge with a flood control system worth about $14.5 billion. The network of levees, floodwalls, and pumps, its designers say, should nearly eliminate the risk of flooding from most hurricanes, and substantially reduces flooding from hurricanes the size of 2005 Hurricane Katrina.

  • Old concrete helps keep water clean

    Lakes and streams are often receiving so much phosphorous that it could pose a threat to the local aquatic environment. Now, researchers show that there is an easy and inexpensive way to prevent phosphorus from being discharged to aquatic environments. The solution is crushed concrete from demolition sites.

  • Catastrophes cost global insurance industry more than $20 billion in first half of 2013

    Total economic losses from disasters in the first half of 2013 reached $56 billion. Insured losses from natural catastrophes totaled $17 billion, with flooding a main driver. Around 7,000 lives were lost as a result of natural catastrophes and man-made disasters.

  • Cost of flood losses in major coastal cities to exceed $50 billion by 2050

    A new study estimate present and future flood losses — or the global cost of flooding — in 136 of the world’s largest coastal cities, taking into account existing coastal protections. Average global flood losses in 2005, estimated at about $6 billion per year, could increase to $52 billion by 2050 with projected socio-economic change alone. Due to their high wealth and low protection level, three American cities — Miami, New York City, and New Orleans — are responsible for 31 percent of the losses across the 136 cities.

  • 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).