Environment | Homeland Security Newswire

  • Small differences in the rate of global warming make a big difference in coastal areas

    The risk from extreme events is exacerbated by the rising global sea level, which in turn depends on the trajectory of global mean surface temperature. Even if global temperatures are stabilized, sea levels are expected to continue to rise for centuries, due to the long residence time of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, the thermal inertia of the ocean, and the slow response of large ice sheets to forcing. Higher temperatures will make extreme events much more common. In New York City, for example, they estimate that “100-year floods” will become annual events under a 1.5 degree rise and twice-annual events with a 2.0 degree rise.

  • Sinking ground in San Francisco Bay exacerbates flooding from rising sea levels

    New research shows that sections of the San Francisco Bay shoreline are sinking at rates of nearly half an inch (10 millimeters) a year. But knowledge of where the ground in the Bay Area is sinking, and by how much, is not included in the official planning maps that authorities use to assess the local flooding risk from rising sea levels. The researchers used radar imaging to measure elevations to discover important gap in planning for sea level rise in Bay Area.

  • MIT energy conference speakers say transformation can happen fast

    The pace of advances in key clean energy technologies has been growing faster than many experts have predicted, to the point that solar and wind power, combined with systems for storing their output, can often be the least expensive options for new types of power-generating capacity. In fact, a radical transformation of the world’s energy landscape is well-underway, experts say.

  • Sea level rise requires new forms of decision making

    U.S, cities facing sea level rise need to look beyond traditional strategies for managing issues such as critical erosion and coastal squeeze, according to new research. Civil society initiatives must now play a crucial role in adapting society to climate change, and decision makers must seriously consider the tradeoff among three options: sea wall; beach-nourishment; and relocating coastal infrastructure.

  • Extreme weather tests U.K. gas security to the limit

    The National Grid, which manages the U.K.’s energy network, warned that it might not have enough gas to meet demand on March 1, due to plummeting temperatures and issues with supply. It has since withdrawn the warning, saying the market response has boosted supplies. But Britain’s lack of flexible energy supply is a serious issue. This isn’t the first time such a warning has been issued and it probably won’t be the last.

  • Flood risk for Americans is greatly underestimated

    A new study has found that forty-one million Americans are at risk from flooding rivers, which is more than three times the current estimate—based on regulatory flood maps—of thirteen million people. The study is based on a new high-resolution model that maps flood risk across the entire continental United States, whereas the existing regulatory flood maps produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cover about 60 percent of the continental United States. Avoiding future losses is particularly important as average flood losses in the United States have increased steadily to nearly $10 billion annually.

  • Sea levels rising more than previously expected

    Studying twenty-five years’ worth of satellite data, scientists paint a grim picture of global warming. Sea levels are going up at a faster rate each year, and even sooner than projected. The calculate that at the current pace, the total sea level rise could be twice as high as previous projections by 2100.

  • Risk of extreme weather events higher if Paris Agreement goals are not met

    The Paris Agreement has aspirational goals of limiting temperature rise that will not be met by current commitments but the individual commitments made by parties of the UN Paris Agreement are not enough to fulfill the agreement’s overall goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The difference between the UN goal and the actual country commitments is a mere 1 C, which may seem negligible, but a new study finds that even that 1-degree difference could increase the likelihood of extreme weather.

  • Running out of water: Cape Town, the U.S., and drought

    The recent news that Cape Town, South Africa—a modern city of nearly 4 million residents (plus over 1.5 million tourists yearly)—was on the brink of running out of water, the taps about to run dry, put water back into the headlines. After years of drought in several American states, could this happen closer to home? “The current crisis in Cape Town will almost inevitably repeat itself elsewhere,” says an expert. “Because of geography, many cities in the United States and the world are highly or entirely reliant on local precipitation. In California, for example, most of the Central Coast, including Monterey and Santa Cruz, currently depend on local rainfall. Given climate change, moreover, droughts in the arid regions of the world are likely to become more frequent and more severe. Warmer temperatures, moreover, will raise evapotranspiration rates—increasing agricultural water needs and the amount of stored water lost to evaporation.”

  • Cape Town water crisis highlights a worldwide problem

    The water supply is running dry in Cape Town, South Africa. The city’s reservoirs are shrinking as a three-year drought wears on. If it doesn’t rain soon, the drought could bring South Africa’s second most populous city to its knees. Cape Town residents are adapting as best they can. They are skipping showers and finding new ways to conserve and reuse their meager allowance of 50 liters (13 gallons) per person per day. That allowance may soon be cut in half, too. As soon as April or May, Cape Town could reach “Day Zero,” when the city will shut off the taps in homes and businesses. Residents will need to line up at collection stations to gather their water rations. Only hospitals, schools, and other essential services would still receive piped water. If things continue on in this way, Cape Town is in danger of becoming the world’s first major city to run entirely out of water. How can this happen in a city of four million residents? And what other cities may be at risk?

  • Comparing pollution levels before and after Hurricane Harvey

    Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in late August 2017, brought more than 64 inches of rain to the Houston area, flooding 200,000 homes, 13 Superfund sites, and more than 800 wastewater treatment facilities. As disasters become more frequent and populations living in vulnerable areas increase, interest in the health effects of exposure to the combination of natural and technological disasters has grown. A new study examined concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) before and after Hurricane Harvey in the Houston neighborhood of Manchester. Manchester, which is located near refineries and other industrial sites along the Houston Ship Channel, is a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood where residents face disproportionate health risks due to pollution and other environmental hazards.

  • With glaciers disappearing, will water become scarce?

    There are around 200,000 glaciers worldwide. They play a central role in the water cycle, particularly in the middle and low latitudes, by offsetting runoff fluctuations. Rivers are lifelines on which billions of people depend worldwide, either directly or indirectly. The world’s largest rivers begin in glaciated mountain regions. Climate change may cause many glaciers to disappear. Will water become scarce? Will the Alps, the Himalayas, the Rocky Mountains and the Andes continue to act as water towers? Climate change is a global problem with local consequences. If the international community succeeds in restricting the temperature rise to an acceptable level via contributions from each individual member, the effects may be mitigated. Many glaciers would still shrink significantly even with major climate protection efforts, but the consequences for water resources would be more moderate.

  • Massive reserves of mercury hidden in permafrost hold significant implications for human health

    Researchers have discovered permafrost in the northern hemisphere stores massive amounts of natural mercury, a finding with significant implications for human health and ecosystems worldwide. The scientists measured mercury concentrations in permafrost cores from Alaska and estimated how much mercury has been trapped in permafrost north of the equator since the last Ice Age. Their study reveals northern permafrost soils are the largest reservoir of mercury on the planet, storing nearly twice as much mercury as all other soils, the ocean and the atmosphere combined.

  • Cape Town water crisis should serve as a “wakeup call to all major U.S. cities”: Expert

    Cape Town, South Africa is hurtling towards a water apocalypse with “Day Zero” — when authorities will turn off the taps — pegged for the first half of April. The crisis, which has placed the city in peril, was caused by years of draught, insufficient and aging infrastructure, and population growth. To find out what this means for Cape Town residents and if a similar disaster could strike Phoenix, ASU Now turned to Dave White, a professor in the School of Community Resources and Development, a unit within ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions and director of Decision Center for a Desert City.

  • Sea level rise will make Oregon’s existing flooding problems worse

    The hot spots of sea level rise in the United States tend to be located on the East and Gulf Coasts, where sinking land and changes in ocean circulation are amplifying the global sea level rise rate. But when we take a deeper dive into our interactive maps of chronic flooding due to sea level rise, it’s clear that small but significant areas within many of Oregon’s idyllic coastal towns–Coos Bay and Tillamook, for example–are also at risk of chronic inundation in the coming decades. Because it will take decades for the benefits of emissions reductions to be felt, today’s business owners may not benefit from such reductions themselves. But for the towns of coastal Oregon to continue to be dynamic, thriving places for the next generation of entrepreneurs and residents, the case for building resilience to flooding and reducing carbon emissions is clear.