• Climate threats: MitigationClimate change will soon hit billions of people, and many cities are taking action

    By mid-century, billions of people in thousands of cities around the world will be at risk from climate-related heat waves, droughts, flooding, food shortages and energy blackouts, but many cities are already taking action to blunt such effects, says a new report from a consortium of international organizations.

  • Coastal perilAs coastal communities face more frequent, severe disruptions, costly choices loom

    Sea levels are rising. Tides are inching higher. High-tide floods are becoming more frequent and reaching farther inland. And hundreds of U.S. coastal communities will soon face chronic, disruptive flooding that directly affects people’s homes, lives, and properties. Long before rising seas permanently submerge properties, millions of Americans living in coastal communities will face more frequent and more severe disruptions from high-tide flooding. As this flooding increases, it will reach a threshold where normal routines become impossible and coastal residents, communities, and businesses are forced to make difficult, often costly choices.

  • Climate threatsHow will people move as climate changes?

    In coming decades, climate change is expected to displace millions of people through sea level rise, crop failures, more frequent extreme weather and other impacts. But scientists are still struggling to accurately predict how many climate migrants there will be, and where they are likely to go. A new study seeks to address these questions by incorporating climate impacts into a universal model of human mobility. The model also seeks to predict the effects migrants might have on the places to which they move.

  • ResilienceHow microgrids could boost resilience in New Orleans

    During Hurricane Katrina and other severe storms that have hit New Orleans, power outages, flooding and wind damage combined to cut off people from clean drinking water, food, medical care, shelter, prescriptions and other vital services. Researchers at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories teamed up with the City of New Orleans to analyze ways to increase community resilience and improve the availability of critical lifeline services during and after severe weather.

  • Rising seasGlobal warming accelerating rise in sea levels

    A new study discovered that rising sea levels could be accelerated by vulnerable ice shelves in the Antarctic. The study discovered that the process of warmer ocean water destabilizing ice shelves from below is also cracking them apart from above, increasing the chance they’ll break off. “This study is more evidence that the warming effects of climate change are impacting our planet in ways that are often more dangerous than we perhaps had thought,” said one researcher.

  • Coastal floodingCoastal communities: Record number of high tide flooding days last year

    People living on the coast may see flooded sidewalks and streets more frequently this year due, in part, to El Nino conditions that are predicted to develop later this year, and from long-term sea level rise trends. Increased flooding trend is likely to continue: The projected increase in high tide flooding in 2018 may be as much as 60 percent higher across U.S. coastlines as compared to typical flooding about 20 years ago, according to NOAA scientists.

  • Water securityNext-generation water harvester delivers fresh water from air

    Last October, researchers headed down to the Arizona desert, plopped their newest prototype water harvester into the backyard of a tract home and started sucking water out of the air without any power other than sunlight. The successful field test of their larger, next-generation harvester proved what the team had predicted earlier in 2017: that the water harvester can extract drinkable water every day/night cycle at very low humidity and at low cost, making it ideal for people living in arid, water-starved areas of the world.

  • Nuclear powerThe nuclear industry is making a big bet on small power plants

    By Scott L. Montgomery

    Until now, generating nuclear power has required massive facilities surrounded by acres of buildings, electrical infrastructure, roads, parking lots and more. The nuclear industry is trying to change that picture – by going small. Efforts to build the nation’s first “advanced small modular reactor,” or SMR, in Idaho, are on track for it to become operational by the mid-2020s. The debate continues over whether this technology is worth pursuing, but the nuclear industry isn’t waiting for a verdict. Nor, as an energy scholar, do I think it should. This new generation of smaller and more technologically advanced reactors offer many advantages, including an assembly-line approach to production, vastly reduced meltdown risks and greater flexibility in terms of where they can be located, among others.

  • Energy securityHere’s why Trump’s new strategy to keep ailing coal and nuclear plants open makes no sense

    By James Van Nostrand

    President Donald Trump recently ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take “immediate steps” to stop the closure of coal and nuclear power plants. The proposal is premised on these power plants being essential to national security. To be sure, the coal and nuclear industries are in trouble. Thirty-six coal plants have retired since Trump was elected, and another 30 will close in the coming months. More than 1 in 10 of the nation’s nuclear reactors are likely to be decommissioned by 2025. But experts are not worried about any electricity shortages or outages between now and 2025. The Energy Department’s own assessment of whether the ongoing wave of coal and nuclear plant retirements are threatening grid reliability, found no cause for alarm. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejected an earlier proposal for the tax-payers to subsidize these declining industries. In short, there is no emergency that justifies this unprecedented intrusion into the electricity markets that would warrant forcing taxpayers and utilities to pay a premium to keep coal and nuclear plants online. The only “emergencies” are the financial woes of the plant owners caused by the rapid decline coal consumption and the nuclear industry’s weak outlook.

  • DenuclearizationPhasing out nuclear energy could affect safety: Psychologists

    The way in which the phase-out of nuclear power plants in Germany is currently planned could negatively influence the safety of the facilities. Those involved could increasingly favor their own interests as the shutdown date approaches, a new study argues. They base their argument on the possibility of endgame behavior from game theory.

  • EarthquakesQuestions raised about the predictive value of earthquake foreshocks

    No one can predict when or where an earthquake will strike, but in 2011 scientists thought they had evidence that tiny underground tremors called foreshocks could provide important clues. If true, it suggested seismologists could one day warn people of impending temblors. A new study has cast doubt on those earlier findings and on the predictive value of foreshocks, and instead found them to be indistinguishable from ordinary earthquakes.

  • Nuclear wasteThe federal government has long treated Nevada as a dumping ground, and it’s not just Yucca Mountain

    By Michael Green

    Nevadans can be forgiven for thinking they are in an endless loop of “The Walking Dead” TV series. Their least favorite zombie federal project refuses to die. In 2010, Congress had abandoned plans to turn Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, into the nation’s only federal dump for nuclear waste so radioactive it requires permanent isolation. And the House recently voted by a wide margin to resume these efforts. While teaching and writing about the state’s history for more than 30 years, I have followed the Yucca Mountain fight from the beginning – as well as how Nevadans’ views have evolved on all things nuclear. The project could well go forward, but I believe that it probably won’t as long as there are political benefits to stopping it.

  • DamsMonitoring dams to protect waterfront communities

    Out of the approximately 90,000 dams in the United States, roughly 90 percent are state, municipal, or privately owned. Because the likelihood of a dam failure is expected to be minimal, communities and property owners surrounding dams might easily embrace their land as any other lake-side or ocean-side residence. The truth, however, is that if these dams were to fail, the volume and force of water could compare to a small tsunami affecting nearby towns and residences.

  • DamsSaving billions by removing dams rather than repairing them

    A new study finds billions of dollars could be saved if the nation’s aging dams are removed rather than repaired, but also suggests that better data and analysis is needed on the factors driving dam-removal efforts. Experts say that repairing and upgrading the 2,170 most high-hazard dams would cost $45 billion, and that shoring up all of the U.S. dams which need repairing would cost $64 billion. But removing the 36,000 most decrepit dams would cost only $25.1 billion.

  • Radiation risksFukushima-Daiichi radioactive particle release was significant: Study

    Scientists say there was a significant release of radioactive particles during the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident. The researchers identified the contamination using a new method and say if the particles are inhaled they could pose long-term health risks to humans.