• Managed retreat: Relocating communities to get them out of harm’s way

    More frequent extreme weather events put certain regions in the cross hairs of risks such as coastal flooding, heavy rain, and erosion. There is an obvious, but controversial, solution: relocating communities from vulnerable to safer areas. Based on examples from around the world, researchers chart the landscape for whether and how to implement the strategy of managed retreat – and how, with the minimum disruption possible, relocate or abandon development in the face of extreme weather risks.

  • Sea level rise makes much of Honolulu and Waikiki groundwater vulnerable to inundation

    Researchers found that a large part of the heavily urbanized area of Honolulu and Waikīkī is at risk of groundwater inundation — flooding that occurs as groundwater is lifted above the ground surface due to sea level rise. “Our findings suggest that coastal communities in Hawai’i and globally are exposed to complex groundwater flooding hazards associated with sea level rise in addition to the typical concerns of coastal erosion and wave overtopping,” said one researchers. “Groundwater inundation will require entirely unique adaptation methods if we are to continue to live in and develop the coastal zone. Coastal planners and community stakeholders will need to work with architects, engineers, geologists, ecologists, economists, hydrologists and other innovative thinkers in order to manage these problems.”

  • Under climate change, farming is becoming riskier

    Climate change will have an impact on agriculture, but a new study puts these changes in terms which are directly applicable to farmers. For Illinois, for example, the corn planting window will be split in two to avoid wet conditions in April and May. Each planting window carries increased risk – the early planting window could be thwarted by frost or heavy precipitation, and the late window cut short by intense late-summer drought. Farmers and crop insurers must evaluate risk to avoid losing profits.

  • Carbon Law, modeled after Moore’s Law, a pathway to halve emissions every decade

    Moore’s Law states that computer processors double in power about every two years. While it is neither a natural nor legal law, this simple rule of thumb or heuristic has been described as a golden rule which has held for fifty years and still drives disruptive innovation. Research say that a carbon roadmap, driven by a simple rule of thumb, or Carbon Law, of halving emissions every decade, could catalyze disruptive innovation. Following a Carbon Law, which is based on published energy scenarios, would give the world a 75 percent chance of keeping Earth below 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures, the target agreed by nations in Paris in 2015.

  • Have humans transformed geological processes to create a new epoch -- the Anthropocene?

    The Anthropocene — the concept that humans have so transformed geological processes at the Earth’s surface that we are living in a new epoch — was formulated by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen in 2000. It has since spread around not just the world of science, but also across the humanities and through the media into public consciousness. An international group of scientists – the Anthropocene Working Group – is now analyzing the Anthropocene as a potential new addition to the Geological Time Scale, which would be a major step in its global scientific recognition. These scientists argue that “irreversible” changes to the Earth provide striking evidence of new epoch.

  • Climate breaks multiple records in 2016, with global impacts

    The year 2016 made history, with a record global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise, and ocean heat, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that the increased power of computing tools and the availability of long term climate data have made it possible today, through attribution studies, to demonstrate clearly the existence of links between man-made climate change and many cases of high impact extreme events in particular heatwaves.

  • Extreme sea levels could endanger European coastal communities

    Massive coastal flooding in northern Europe that now occurs once every century could happen every year if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, according to a new study. New projections considering changes in sea level rise, tides, waves and storm surge over the twenty-first century find global warming could cause extreme sea levels to increase significantly along Europe’s coasts by 2100. Extreme sea levels are the maximum levels of the sea that occur during a major storm and produce massive flooding.

  • Louisiana wetlands threatened by with sea-level rise four times the global average

    Without major efforts to rebuild Louisiana’s wetlands, particularly in the westernmost part of the state, there is little chance that the coast will be able to withstand the accelerating rate of sea-level rise, a new study concludes. The study shows that the rate of sea-level rise in the region over the past six to ten years amounts to half an inch per year on average.

  • Map shows seawater threat to California Central Coast aquifers

    More than half the world’s population lives within 37 miles (60 kilometers) of the coast, and three-quarters of all large cities are located in coastal areas. Many coastal communities rely on groundwater to satisfy their drinking and farming water needs. But removing too much of that groundwater can change the fluid pressure of underground aquifers, drawing seawater into coastal aquifers and corrupting water supplies. Saltwater intrusion is often irreversible. Researchers have transformed pulses of electrical current sent 1,000 feet underground into a picture of where seawater has infiltrated freshwater aquifers along the Monterey Bay coastline.

  • Knowledge gaps on protecting cultural sites from climate change

    Researchers searched worldwide for peer-reviewed studies of cultural resources – archaeological sites, natural landscapes, and historic buildings — at risk due to climate change. About 60 percent of the studies referenced sites in Europe, most commonly in the United Kingdom. Another 17 percent of the research covered sites in North America, a majority of them in the United States. About 11 percent dealt with resources in Australia and the Pacific Islands and 10 percent mentioned Asia, mostly China. All but six of the 124 studies were published in English-language journals, with South America and Africa rarely represented in the research. “We see a significant gap in knowledge of how to adapt to climate change and preserve cultural resources for future generations,” says one researcher.

  • Oroville dam danger shows how Trump could win big on infrastructure

    This near catastrophe at Oroville dam — America’s tallest dam — is just the latest symptom of the chronic ill-health of America’s civil infrastructure, which has suffered from decades of under-investment and neglect. But the Oroville dam crisis could provide an unexpected opportunity for the new Trump administration to take on both problems – and win. The main problem in dealing with U.S. infrastructure is money, as up to $1 trillion would be required to repair or replace ageing dams, bridges, highways, and all the other components that support modern civilization. But there is a way for Trump to harness market forces and persuade corporate investors to invest in U.S. infrastructure. The Oroville dam near catastrophe demonstrates that some of the largest imminent threats to infrastructure will increase through climate change, and provides compelling evidence of the hard economic costs of inaction on infrastructure. If Trump moves away from climate change denial and accepts the strong balance of scientific evidence and opinion about human contribution t climate change, then a pathway to dealing with U.S. infrastructure could open up by appealing to “natural capitalism” – a market-driven economics which centers on the value of natural resources. Accepting man-made climate change could provide Trump with a chance to deliver on one of his major campaign promises, change the face of capitalism, and perhaps even save the world along the way.

  • Calculating climate change losses in major European coastal cities

    A new study that assesses potential future climate damage to major European coastal cities has found that, if, as currently, global carbon emissions continue to track the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s worst emission scenario (RCP8.5), overall annual economic losses may range from $1.2 billion in 2030 to more than $40 billion by 2100. The study focused on nineteen major European coastal cities including Istanbul, Rotterdam, Barcelona, Hamburg, London, Dublin, Marseille, St Petersburg, and Copenhagen.

  • Mountain snowpack melt more slowly in a warming world

    As the world warms, mountain snowpack will not only melt earlier, it will also melt more slowly, according to a new study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The counterintuitive finding could have widespread implications for water supplies, ecosystem health, and flood risk.

  • As climate warms, Colorado River flows will keep shrinking

    Warming in the twenty-first century reduced Colorado River flows by at least 0.5 million acre-feet, about the amount of water used by two million people for one year. From 2000 to 2014, the river’s flows declined to only 81 percent of the twentieth-century average, a reduction of about 2.9 million acre-feet of water per year. One acre-foot of water will serve a family of four for one year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. From one-sixth to one-half of the twenty-first-century reduction in flow can be attributed to the higher temperatures since 2000. As temperature continues to increase with climate change, Colorado River flows will continue to decline.

  • Over time, nuisance flooding can cost more than extreme, infrequent events

    Global climate change is being felt in many coastal communities of the United States, not always in the form of big weather disasters but as a steady drip, drip, drip of nuisance flooding. Rising sea levels will cause these smaller events to become increasingly frequent in the future, and the cumulative effect will be comparable to extreme events such as Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy.