• Floods“Natural” Flood Management Would Be Overwhelmed by Britain’s Winter Super-Floods

    By Robert Wilby and Simon Dadson

    As large swathes of the U.K. endure the worst floods in living memory, hearts and minds are rightly focused on protecting people and property. Once the floods recede, there will doubtless be a period of reflection on what could have been done better. It may be tempting to point the finger of blame or to promote a particular solution. But the hard truth is that there is no silver bullet for “preventing” floods.

  • Flood buyoutsFlood Buyouts Benefit the Whitest At-Risk Neighborhoods

    The federal flood buyout program disproportionally benefits at-risk homes in the whitest communities of America’s largest cities, according to a new study. The study provides the first nationwide, peer-reviewed analysis of racial inequalities in the implementation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood buyout program. The researchers examined data in 500 municipalities across the U.S. between 1990 and 2015.

  • InfrastructureBrazil: Court Accepts Homicide Charges over Dam Collapse Which Killed 270

    In January 2019, more than 270 were killed, thousands of homes destroyed, and large tracts of agricultural land poisoned when Brazil’s Brumadinho dam collapsed, releasing tons of toxic sludge. Last week, a Brazilian judge accepted the prosecution’s argument that 16 employees of Brazilian mining giant Vale the company’s German safety auditor should stand trial for intentional homicide. Documents show that Vale’s former CEO and the German auditors colluded to falsify engineering reports which warned about the dam’s structural weakness. Separately, German prosecutors said that they would file charged of negligent homicide and bribery against the German safety auditors.

  • Election securityResearchers Identify Security Vulnerabilities in Voting App

    By Abby Abazorius

    In recent years, there has been a growing interest in using internet and mobile technology to increase access to the voting process. At the same time, computer security experts caution that paper ballots are the only secure means of voting. Mobile voting application could allow hackers to alter individual votes and may pose privacy issues for users.

  • Water securityArid American West is Moving East as Groundwater Depletes

    Loss of groundwater may accelerate drying trends in the eastern United States, according to research that applied supercomputing to create an in-depth model of how groundwater will respond to warming. Even under modest climate warming scenarios, the continental United States faces a significant loss of groundwater – about 119 million cubic meters, or roughly enough to fill Lake Powell four times or one quarter of Lake Erie.

  • Coastal challengesSea Level Rise to Cause Major Economic Impact If No Climate Action Is Taken

    Rising sea levels, a direct impact of the Earth’s warming climate, is intensifying coastal flooding. The findings of a new study show that the projected negative economy-wide effects of coastal flooding are already significant until 2050, but are then predicted to increase substantially towards the end of the century if no further climate action on mitigation and adaptation is taken.

  • Nuclear clean-upNew Materials Could Help Clean-Up Chernobyl and Fukushima

    Engineers have developed materials that could be used to help decommission the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear power stations. The materials, created in collaboration with colleagues in Ukraine, simulate Lava-like Fuel Containing Materials (LFCMs) – hazardous substances left behind by a nuclear meltdown. The development paves the way for the safe analysis of hazardous materials left behind at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

  • Coastal challengeCoastal Risks, Land Use Policy in the Face of Sea Level Rise

    An Oregon land use policy creates a large economic value for some private homeowners who are allowed to protect their shoreline against erosion, according to a new study. The study highlights the tradeoff between a homeowner’s ability to protect their private property and public access to Oregon’s beaches. The study comes at a time when the future of coastal management in Oregon is up for discussion given the threats of sea-level rise due to climate change.

  • Nuclear wasteMaterials Currently Used to Store Nuclear Waste Accelerate Corrosion

    The materials the United States and other countries plan to use to store high-level nuclear waste will likely degrade faster than anyone previously knew because of the way those materials interact, new research shows. The findings show that corrosion of nuclear waste storage materials accelerates because of changes in the chemistry of the nuclear waste solution, and because of the way the materials interact with one another.

  • Climate adaptationAdapting to Climate Change: Policymakers Are Thinking Too Small

    When it comes to adapting to the effects of climate change, scientists and policymakers are thinking too small, according to a new research review. The authors argue that society should focus less on how individuals respond to such climate issues as flooding and wildfires and instead figure out what it takes to inspire collective action that will protect humans from climate catastrophes on a much grander scale.

  • Nuclear wasteGlaciers May Offer Safe Sites for Nuclear Waste Storage

    New insights into rates of bedrock erosion by glaciers around the world will help to identify better sites for the safe storage of nuclear waste. The findings of a new research overturn earlier research, showing that erosion rates do not increase with the speed of glacier flow as quickly as previously anticipated.

  • FloodsBuilding a Flood-Resilient Future

    By Tom Almeroth-Williams

    Seven of the U.K. ten wettest years on record have occurred since 1998. Its wettest winter in history came in 2013, and the next wettest in 2015. In a single week in November 2019, 400 homes were flooded and 1,200 properties evacuated in northern England. The frequency and severity of these events is expected to increase as a result of climate change, meaning that many more communities will suffer their devastating effects. A new book shows how we can adapt the built and natural environment to be more flood resilient in the face of climate change.

  • Urban drainageExtreme weather Conditions Tax Urban Drainage Systems to the Max

    During a typical Canadian winter, snow accumulation and melt—combined with sudden rainfalls—can lead to bottlenecks in storm drains that can cause flooding. Researchers have been examining urban stormwater drainage systems, and they too have concerns about the resilience of many urban drainage systems.

  • Coastal challengesWarming Oceans Could Drive Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapse, Sea Level Rise

    In the U.S., four out of ten people live in populous coastal areas, making them vulnerable to the effects of rising seas. Seventy percent of the world’s largest cities are located near a coast. Globally, by 2010, seas had already risen about 10 inches above their average levels in pre-industrial times. A new study suggests the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is less stable than researchers once thought, and that its collapse would accelerate sea level rise.

  • Fire risksBuilding Standards Give Us False Hope. There's No Such Thing as a Fireproof House

    By Geoff Hanmer

    Bushfires have killed 33 people and destroyed nearly 3,000 houses across Australia so far this fire season. Canberra is under threat right now. It isn’t only houses. Significant commercial buildings have been destroyed, among them Kangaroo Island’s iconic Southern Ocean Lodge. In New South Wales alone, 140 schools have been hit. Many require extensive work. Trouble is, Australia’s National Construction Code provides false, and dangerous, hope. The sad truth is that any practical building that is exposed to an intense bushfire will probably burn down, whether it complies with Australia’s National Construction Code or not.