• Historic drought complicates firefighting in California

    The twenty-one wild fires which have erupted in different parts of the state have already cost lives, dozens of homes, and millions of dollars in damages. To fight fires, firefighters need water – and although state water and fire officials say that, so far, there is no danger of running out of water, they are conscious of the state’s water predicament and they are trying to be more careful in the use of water. The persistent drought has forced crews to get creative, using more dirt and retardant on wildfires. Firefighting response to several blazes has been slowed down by the drought, because firefighting helicopters found it impossible to siphon water from lakes and ponds where water levels were lower than in previous years. In the past, property owners whose properties were threatened by fire, would allow firefighting crews to tap water on their property, and would then be compensated by cash reimbursements from the state. Now, many property owners demand instead that the state replenish the water used by firefighters to protect the owners’ property.

  • Pentagon: Climate change aggravates U.S. security risks

    Global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries, according to a report the Defense Department sent to Congress last week. The report finds that climate change is a security risk, Pentagon officials said, because it degrades living conditions, human security, and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations.

  • Confronting weather extremes by making infrastructure more resilient

    South Florida’s predisposition to weather extremes renders the region’s infrastructure acutely vulnerable. But weather extremes are not exclusive to South Florida. The Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather-Related Events Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN), a newly formed team of researchers, is addressing these challenges on an international scale.

  • Coral reefs could protect Pacific islands from rising seas – but only if global warming slows

    The coral reefs that have protected Pacific Islanders from storm waves for thousands of years could grow rapidly enough to keep up with escalating sea levels if ocean temperatures do not rise too quickly, according to a new study. If global temperatures continue to rise and thus retard the growth of these natural storm barriers, the homelands of millions of people on lands throughout the Pacific Ocean will be in jeopardy.

  • More extreme heat coming to the Southeast

    The Southeastern United States and Texas are uniquely at risk from climate change, according to a new report release the other day by the Risky Business Project. The Southeast region also faces the highest risks of coastal property losses in the nation as seas rise and storms surge. Between $48.2 billion and $68.7 billion worth of existing coastal property in the Southeast will likely be below sea level by 2050. Cities like Miami and New Orleans will likely be severely affected. The dramatic increase in the number of days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will have a deleterious effect on people’s health, agricultural yields.

  • Strengthening urban infrastructure to withstand extreme weather-related events

    A multi-disciplinary team of about fifty researchers from fifteen universities and other institutions will address the vulnerability of urban infrastructure to extreme weather related events, and ways of reducing that vulnerability. Funded under a $12 million research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the researchers will conduct their extensive work over the coming five years. In light of weather related extremes, such as increasing storm frequency and intensity, as well as climate uncertainties, this network will evaluate threats to transportation, electricity, water, and other services in major urban areas, and the social, ecological, and technical systems to protect infrastructure and increase its flexibility and adaptability, using new designs and technologies.

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  • Israel shares its approach, solutions to drought with California

    Israel has developed expertise in coping with droughts, and a delegation from Israeli water companies recently visited California, meeting with state officials and corporations to propose solutions to the drought, now in its fourth year. It was the latest in a series of consultations and symposiums highlighting Israeli water expertise and its potential to help California.

  • Where does solar energy stand, where does it need to go to fulfill its potential?

    Most experts agree that to have a shot at curbing the worst impacts of climate change, we need to extricate our society from fossil fuels and ramp up our use of renewable energy. The sun’s energy is unlimited, free and clean, and the amount that hits Earth in one hour is equal to the amount of energy used in one year by the entire planet. Yet, although installed global photovoltaic capacity increased almost nine-fold and the price of solar panels dropped by two-thirds between 2008 and 2013, only 1 percent of U.S. and global electricity generation come from solar energy. Where does solar energy stand today, and where does it need to go in order for us to make the transition to renewable energy?

  • 2014 was Earth’s warmest year on record; climate markers show global warming trend

    In 2014, the most essential indicators of Earth’s changing climate continued to reflect trends of a warming planet, with several markers such as rising land and ocean temperature, sea levels, and greenhouse gases — setting new records. The report’s climate indicators show patterns, changes, and trends of the global climate system. Examples of the indicators include various types of greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. “The variety of indicators shows us how our climate is changing, not just in temperature but from the depths of the oceans to the outer atmosphere,” said Thomas Karl, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information.

  • Millions displaced as a result of climate-related disasters, building in hazard-prone areas

    In the last seven years, an estimated one person every second has been displaced by a disaster, with 19.3 million people forced to flee their homes in 2014 alone. In 2014, 17.5 million people were forced to flee their homes by disasters brought on by weather-related hazards such as floods and storms, and 1.7 million by geophysical hazards such as earthquakes. Climate change is expected to exacerbate the situation in the future, as severe weather hazards become more frequent and intense. Man-made factors — such as rapid economic development, urbanization, and population growth in hazard-prone areas – have also contributed to the the overall increase in disaster displacement.

  • IAEA uses nuclear detection techniques to help measure climate change effects

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is responsible for monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) – but the detection technologies it uses to detect illicit nuclear activities are also helpful in tracking and quantifying the effects of climate change. Nuclear techniques offer substantial advantages over conventional techniques for measuring climate change impact. “Stable isotope analyzers let us monitor agricultural processes as they happen. They allow us to quantify carbon capture and emission patterns of farming practices, enabling us to find ways to improve them,” explained one expert.

  • Climate change a security risk second only to terrorism: Aussie defense report

    The Australian government’s energy White Paper made headlines for its reluctance to mention the term “climate change” — but a forthcoming defense White Paper does not share these reservations. A report on community consultations conducted by the authors of the defense White Paper highlights the consequences of climate change, extreme weather events, and environmental pressures as a significant security risk for Australia – second only to the risks posed by terrorism.

  • We could find aliens any day now: SETI scientists discuss extraterrestrial life hunting

    ET phone Earth! We could be on the verge of answering one of the essential questions of humanity that has captivated our minds for centuries. As we advance in technology the search for extraterrestrial life becomes more sophisticated and promising. But the real frosting on the cake would be finding any signs of an intelligent alien civilization. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project is looking carefully for these signs, listening to the universe that may be full of potential ET signals. Key figures of alien life hunting discuss the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life.

  • NASA balances water budget with new estimates of liquid assets

    Many pressing questions about Earth’s climate revolve around water. With droughts and flooding an ongoing concern, people want to know how much water is on the move and where it is going. To help answer those questions, a new NASA study provides estimates for the global water cycle budget for the first decade of the twenty-first century, taking the pulse of the planet and setting a baseline for future comparisons.

  • Producing fuel from Canada oil sands emits 20 percent more CO2 than from U.S. crude

    In 2013, the oil industry was producing nearly two million barrels per day from Canadian oil sands. By 2030, that number is expected to rise to just over 4.8 million barrels per day. As the United States takes stock of its greenhouse gas emissions, scientists report that the current oil sands production of fuels from “well-to-wheels” releases about 20 percent more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than making gasoline and diesel from conventional crudes.