Environment

  • $110 billion in damages makes 2012 second only to 2005 in terms of weather-related disasters

    The U.S. National Climatic Data Center’s (NCDC) says that 2012 saw eleven weather and climate disaster events each with losses exceeding $1 billion in damages. This makes 2012 the second costliest year since 1980, with a total of more than $110 billion in damages throughout the year. The 2012 total damages rank only behind 2005, which incurred $160 billion in damages due in part to four devastating land-falling hurricanes.

  • USDA announces additional emergency watershed protection funding

    USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will send an additional $66.8 million in Emergency Watershed Protection Program funds to help disaster recovery efforts in fifteen states.

  • Storm predictions for Navy, civilian planners

    With the arrival of the Atlantic hurricane and Pacific typhoon season, and the often dangerous storms that can accompany it, new technology sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) will be used to help Navy and civilian officials alike plan for stormy weather, officials announced the other day.

  • Weather reports aid life-or-death decisions in Africa

    The people living in sub-Saharan Africa have a life-or-death dependency on information about the weather. Knowing when, where, and what to grow or graze animals can be the difference between a bumper harvest and facing starvation. Although sub-Saharan Africa depends more directly on rainfall than any other region on Earth, the region has the fewest number of rain monitoring stations. There are also significant delays in the time between measurements being made and the resulting data being made available.

  • Risk assessment of shale gas fracking to biodiversity

    Fracking, the controversial method of mining shale gas, is widespread across Pennsylvania, covering up to 280,000 km² of the Appalachian Basin. New research explores the risks posed to biodiversity including pollution from toxic chemicals, the building of well pads and pipelines, and changes to wetlands.

  • New Jersey faces costly water infrastructure upgrades

    Before Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, state officials knew they had much work ahead of them to update the state’s water infrastructure. The damage Sandy inflicted only highlighted the inadequacies of New Jersey’s outdated wastewater, stormwater, and drinking water infrastructure. Upgrading the system will be costly, but not doing so will be costlier.

  • Environmental group sues State Department for Keystone XL-related files

    The Sierra Club has announced it is suing the State Department for files related to an environmental review draft of the Keystone XL pipeline. The group tried to gain access to the files through the Freedom of Information Act, but the request was denied, so the group filed the suit on Monday in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.

  • Making jet fuel from switchgrass

    The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is partnering with Cobalt Technologies, U.S. Navy, and Show Me Energy Cooperative to demonstrate that jet fuel can be made economically and in large quantities from a renewable biomass feedstock such as switch grass. The project could spur jobs in rural America, lead to less reliance of foreign oil.

  • Better weather predictions for the U.S. Navy

    In a development that should significantly affect fleet operations, the U.S. Navy has adopted a new global weather forecasting model. The Naval Global Environmental Model (NAVGEM)could inform Navy operations for years to come. It is particularly important as U.S. fleet presence increases throughout the Asia-Pacific region, known for intense weather events like typhoons.

  • Protecting and climate proofing Europe’s coast

    The coastline of EU member states extends over 17,000 kilometers. It is home to seventy million inhabitants. The estimated value of the assets within 500 meters from the coast rises to a staggering 1,000 billion Euros. An EU-funded science and engineering initiative is gathering all relevant scientific knowledge to develop a systematic approach to deliver a safe, natural, and climate-proof European coast.

  • U.S. unlikely to meet its biofuel goals

    The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) mandates that by 2022 the United States derive fifteen billion gallons per year of ethanol from corn to blend with conventional motor fuels. A new study says that if the climate continues to evolve as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United States stands little to no chance of satisfying its biofuel goals.

  • Wildfires in west, southwest forcing hundreds from their homes

    The arrival of summer has typically been accompanied by an increase in the number and intensity of wild fires in the U.S. southwest, and this year is no exception.

  • California Democratic lawmakers want a go-slow approach to fracking

    California may be on the verge of an oil rush. It is estimated that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, at the Monterey Shale formation may tap reserves of fifteen billion barrels of oil. Democratic lawmakers do not see it that way, and have proposed numerous anti-fracking bills aiming to control the use of the controversial technology. Ten bills have been tabled so far, and more are on the way.

  • As wildfires increase, scientists call for more study of terrestrial, atmospheric effects

    Wildfire is a disturbance of ecosystems, and concerns continue to grow about the terrestrial and atmospheric effects of wildfires. Wildfires are expected to increase 50 percent across the United States under a changing climate, over 100 percent in areas of the West by 2050 as projected by some studies.

  • GOP lawmakers urge Obama not to link Keystone decision to climate policies

    Democrats who are uncomfortable with the Keystone XL pipeline have urged President Obama to consider attaching policies requiring cuts in greenhouse gases emissions to his approval of the project. Republican lawmakers are urging the president not to link approval of Keystone to climate change policies.