• Emerging threatsBetter Greenland, Antarctica sheet modeling helps predict sea-level rise

    The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will make a dominant contribution to twenty-first century sea-level rise if current climate trends continue. However, predicting the expected loss of ice sheet mass is difficult due to the complexity of modeling ice sheet behavior. Better to understand this loss, a team of Sandia National Laboratories researchers has been improving the reliability and efficiency of computational models that describe ice sheet behavior and dynamics.

  • GRIDHelping to optimize grid

    The nation’s electric power grid is becoming more complex. As the system incorporates more sources of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, utilities need new ways to manage it more efficiently, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory says it is responding to that need.

  • Public healthFBI launches investigation of lead poisoning of Flint’s drinking water

    The FBI has launched an investigation into the contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan, which has left Flint children and other residents poisoned by lead. In a hearings on the Hill yesterday, lawmakers from both parties described what is happening in Flint as a “a man-made public health catastrophe.” Flint’s drinking water became contaminated with lead in April 2014 after a state-appointed emergency manager ordered city officials temporarily to switch the city’s water source from Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to water from the Flint River, treated at the Flint water treatment plant. The order by the state-appointed emergency manager was part of the state’s cost-cutting measures.

  • Public healthIn kids, even low lead levels can cause lasting harm

    By Robert L. Fischer and Elizabeth Anthony

    Until a few years ago, the federal standard for action was 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood, and in 2012 it was lowered by half in recognition of evidence showing a lower threshold of concern. But the truth is there is no known safe level of blood lead for children, and the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said as much. The medical research community has documented negative impacts on children with even lower levels of lead exposure than the current 5 micrograms per deciliters standard. With that view, we might consider every child with a confirmed nonzero lead test as at-risk. Testing lead blood levels in children is simply too late. This is akin to the TSA searching for lethal weapons after the passengers have boarded the flight and the plan has taken off. Once the lead is in the bloodstream, the damage is real and lasting for these children, and the options for response are far fewer and less effective. Children living in low-income neighborhoods, children of color, and children whose families live in rental housing are statistically at the greatest risk of exposure to lead. That means the children most at risk of lead exposure also disproportionately face the effects of poverty, low-resource communities, and trauma.

  • GridRealistic data needed to develop the 21st century power grid

    Say you have a great new theory or technology to improve the nation’s energy backbone — the electric grid. Would it not be great to test it against a model complete with details that would tell you how your ideas would work? But it is a challenge, because existing sets of data are too small or outdated; and you do not have access to real data from the grid because of security and privacy issues. To overcome this problem, is helping to create open-access power grid datasets for researchers and industry.

  • InfrastructureLA, Calif. file criminal charges against SoCalGas over massive methane leak

    Criminal charges were filed on Tuesday against Southern California Gas, the utility company whose blown-out natural gas well forced thousands of people in the Los Angeles area to evacuate their homes. The charges claim that the company failed to report the massive leak to the authorities, as it operating license requires.Papers filed in court yesterday claim that the company allowed the release of 80,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere.

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  • ResilienceMaking slums more resilient to climate change

    In our rapidly urbanizing world, access to sanitation, transportation, and other essential services remains a challenge for more than a billion people. In the world’s poorest and most vulnerable urban communities, finding new ways to meet these day-to-day human needs not only leads to sustainable development, it also fortifies them against the effects of climate-induced disasters.

  • Grid protectionBuilding cyber security testbed to help protect the power grid

    It is easy to think of the electrical grid as the power plants, the high voltage lines, the transmission towers, the substations, and all the low-voltage distribution lines that bring power to our homes and businesses. An attack on that grid would involve getting out and cutting lines or dropping towers. But there is another, less visible piece to the grid — all the computers and communication networks that make it work. Attackers can go after the cyber grid, too. They can do it from a desktop. At no real cost. Potentially from anywhere in the world. With few if any clues left behind.

  • Toxic infrastructureFlint Water Study research team to present findings on Thursday

    Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards and his team of research scientists and students will give a presentation on Thursday, 28 January, in Blacksburg to outline their work — done in collaboration with Flint, Michigan, residents — which exposed widespread lead-in-water contamination. The presentation will provide an overview of the Flint Water Study team’s efforts combining ethics engineering, citizen science, laboratory experiments, investigative science, and social media to confirm the high lead levels in Flint’s water.

  • Toxic infrastructurePiping as poison: the Flint water crisis and America’s toxic infrastructure

    By Chris Sellers

    As the crisis over the water in Flint, Michigan, rolls on, we’re learning more and more about the irresponsibility and callousness of officials and politicians in charge. The mix of austerity politics, environmental racism, and sheer ineptitude makes for a shocking brew, yet the physical conditions that have made it literally toxic for Flint residents are neither as exceptional nor as recent as much of the media coverage suggests. An estimated three to six million miles of lead pipes across the United States still carry water, and most all of them are vulnerable to similar dangers, whether at the hands of short-sighted and prejudicial bureaucrats or politicians whose ideology or opportunism leads them to blithely dismiss well-established science. The best solution would be to replace our lead lines systematically and proactively, not just one crisis-beset city at a time. Until we do so, it’s a safe bet that more Flints lie on our horizon.

  • InfrastructureDe-icing concrete to improve roadway safety

    Researchers have developed a concrete which de-ices itself by adding a pinch of steel shavings and a dash of carbon particles to a traditional concrete recipe. Though the newest ingredients constitute just 20 percent of the otherwise standard concrete mixture, they conduct enough electricity to melt ice and snow in the worst winter storms while remaining safe to the touch.

  • Grid securityCyberattack on Ukraine grid: here’s how it worked and perhaps why it was done

    By Michael McElfresh

    On 23 December 2015, two days before Christmas, the power grid in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine went down for a reported six hours, leaving about half the homes in the region with a population of 1.4 million without power. Because of its success, the incident has sent shock waves through cybersecurity circles. Could this happen in the West? In short, yes. This incident underscores the need for diligence and the increased effort in cybersecurity that we are seeing in the government and private sectors. The continuously increasing dependence on the power grid is driving the need for cybersecurity to be part of the design of all new systems.

  • GridSandia Labs playing a leading role in grid modernization

    Sandia National Laboratories is leading the Security and Resilience area of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC), saying it is bringing its research capability in grid modernization to help the nation modernize its power grid. The consortium includes scientists and engineers from across fourteen DOE national labs and dozens of industry, academic, and state and local government partners, aligned into six technical areas.

  • GridU.S. assisting Ukraine investigate 23 December cyberattack on power grid

    The United States is helping Ukraine investigate last month’s cyberattack last month which disrupted the country’s power grid and left some 80,000 customers without power. Experts say that the 23 December attack against western Ukraine’s Prykarpattyaoblenergo utility was the first known power outage caused by a cyberattack.

  • EarthquakesNepal’s destructive post-earthquake landslides raise parallels for Pacific Northwest

    Following the Nepal earthquake — even during the dry season when soils were the most stable — there were tens of thousands of landslides in the region. These landslides caused pervasive damage as they buried towns and people, blocked rivers, and closed roads. Expert estimate that the Nepal earthquake might have caused between 25,000 and 60,000 landslides. The subduction zone earthquake likely to occur in the future of the Pacific Northwest is expected to be larger than the event in Nepal.