• As the climate warms, New Jersey “primed” for worse storms than Sandy

    With the climate warming and the sea level rising, conditions are ripe for storms deadlier and more devastating than Sandy that put more people at risk. Experts say that Sandy was not the worst possible storm in the region and they warn that as the sea rises, much weaker storms than Sandy may pack big punches. The atmosphere will hold nearly 4 percent more moisture for every 1 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature, and the increased warmth and moisture will lead to a more energetic atmosphere.

  • A military view on climate change: It’s eroding our national security and we should prepare for it

    U.S. military leaders and defense planners have been studying climate change for years from a perspective that rarely is mentioned in the news: as a national security threat. And they agree that it poses serious risks. Here is how military planners see this issue: We know that the climate is changing, we know why it’s changing, and we understand that change will have large impacts on our national security. Yet as a nation we still only begrudgingly take precautions. The next president will have a choice to make. One option is to continue down the path that the Obama administration has defined and develop policies, budgets, plans, and programs that flesh out the institutional framework now in place. Alternatively, he or she can call climate change a hoax manufactured by foreign governments and ignore the flashing red lights of increasing risk. The world’s ice caps will not care who is elected or what is said. They will simply continue to melt, as dictated by laws of physics. But Americans will care deeply about our policy response. Our nation’s security is at stake.

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  • Megadrought lasting three decades likely for Southwest U.S., Midwest

    The consequences of climate change paint a bleak picture for the Southwest and much of America’s breadbasket, the Great Plains. The role of climate change in causing extreme heat waves, drastic rainfall, negative impacts on human health, and threatened food security have received more attention recently than megadrought, but scientists view prolonged drought risk as yet another natural hazard that becomes more likely from human activity.

  • Relentless rise of CO2 passes troubling milestone, locking in a warmer future

    Carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere passed a troubling milestone for good this summer and locked in levels of the heat-trapping gas not seen for millions of years. Every year, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) rises during winter and then falls slightly during the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season, as plants take up the greenhouse gas during photosynthesis. But this year, for the first time since before the Ice Age, CO2 will not fall below 400 ppm.

  • Global warming could hit 2°C threshold by 2050

    Without additional action and advanced technologies, global emissions are expected to be 33 percent above the 2°C pathway in 2030, according to a new report. The 2°C target was formally agreed upon at the Paris climate talks in 2015, as an international target to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

  • Slowing the spread of infectious diseases

    Outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Zika increasingly threaten global public health. Scientists expect five such new diseases to emerge each year. To find out whether our interaction with the environment is somehow responsible, the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) program — a joint effort of the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) — has awarded $16.6 million in new grants. The scientists receiving the grants will study disease transmission among humans, other animals, and environment.

  • Game theory research highlights fragility of common resources

    New research in game theory shows that people are naturally predisposed to over-use “common-pool resources” such as transportation systems and fisheries even if it risks failure of the system, to the detriment of society as a whole. The research could have implications for the management of engineered systems such as the power grid, communications systems, distribution systems, and online file sharing systems, along with natural systems such as fisheries.

  • Optimal strategies to cope with climate change depend on the pace of change

    What would we do differently if sea level were to rise one foot per century versus one foot per decade? Until now, most policy and research has focused on adapting to specific amounts of climate change and not on how fast that climate change might happen. Researchers, using sea-level rise as a case study, have developed a quantitative model that considers different rates of sea-level rise, in addition to economic factors, and shows how consideration of rates of change affect optimal adaptation strategies.

  • Recent history of U.S. floods shows regional trends, but no national pattern

    A new study examined the recent history of floods in the United States for the time period 1940-2013. The scientists found some regional trends, but no widespread national pattern of flood change. “An important prerequisite for effective flood risk management is to have an accurate assessment of how flooding is changing over time,” said one researcher. “Of course, changes in climate as well as land- and water-use management are each potential sources of change in flooding frequency or magnitude. But the relative influence of these factors across broad areas has been difficult to discern.”

  • California's almond boom ramped up water use, consumed wetlands

    Converting land in California to grow water-hungry almonds between 2007 and 2014 has led to a 27 percent annual increase in irrigation demands — despite the state’s historic drought. The expansion of almonds has also consumed 16,000 acres of wetlands and will likely put additional pressure on already stressed honeybee populations.

  • Detecting sea-level rise acceleration to improve U.K. coastal flood defenses

    Accelerations in the rate of sea-level rise and the time required to upgrade coastal flood defense infrastructure, such as the Thames Barrier, will be investigated as part of a new research initiative. The E-Rise project will aim to better understand the likely lead times for upgrading or replacing coastal defense infrastructure around the United Kingdom during the twenty-first century. It will also assess whether we could detect sea-level accelerations earlier to provide sufficient lead time for action.

  • Damaging, costly extreme-weather winters are becoming more common in U.S.

    The simultaneous occurrence of warm winters in the West and cold winters in the East has significantly increased in recent decades. The damaging and costly phenomenon is very likely attributable to human-caused climate change, according to a new study. In the past three years alone the combination of heat-related drought in the West and Arctic conditions in the East have pinched the national economy, costing several billion dollars in insured losses, government aid and lost productivity. When such weather extremes occur at the same time, they threaten to stretch emergency responders’ disaster assistance abilities, strain resources such as interregional transportation, and burden taxpayer-funded disaster relief.

  • Insights on Deepwater Horizon disaster

    The soon-to-be-released thriller “Deepwater Horizon,” which opens in theaters 30 September, promises moviegoers a chilling reenactment of one of history’s worst oil rig disasters. One scholar of societal collapse will enter the theater with a big-picture view of the perfect storm of factors that led to the explosion and oil spill that killed eleven people and sent more than 200 million gallons of crude oil spewing toward the nation’s southern coastline for eighty-seven days.

  • Climate change means land use will need to change to keep up with global food demand

    Researchers warn that without significant improvements in technology, global crop yields are likely to fall in the areas currently used for production of the world’s three major cereal crops — wheat, maize, and rice — forcing production to move to new areas. This could lead to a major drop in productivity of these areas by 2050, along with a corresponding increase in potential productivity of many previously unused areas, pointing to a major shift in the map of global food production.

  • Level of northern Indian Ocean rose twice as fast as global average since 2003

    Many of the world’s most vulnerable populations to sea level rise live in areas along the northern Indian Ocean. New study shows that sea level rise in the northern Indian Ocean rose twice as fast as the global average since 2003. The reason for the rapid rise in sea level is that winds blowing over the ocean amplify sea level rise by increasing the amount of ocean heat brought into the region.