Infrastructure protection

  • GridWeak regulation of grid soundness limits efforts to improve system reliability

    Electricity systems in the United States are so haphazardly regulated for reliability, it is nearly impossible for customers to know their true risk of losing service in a major storm, a new analysis found. Though weather-related outages have risen over the last decade, and research shows extreme weather events will occur with more intensity and frequency in the future, power providers do not necessarily have to report storm-related outages, leaving customers with an incomplete picture of the system’s reliability and potentially limiting efforts to improve system reliability, the researchers concluded.

  • ResilienceAssessing climate change vulnerability in Georgia

    New research from the University of Georgia assesses the communities in the state most vulnerable to changes in temperature and precipitation. The study examines not only the sensitivity and susceptibility of populations that are vulnerable to flooding along the coast, but also the social vulnerability of inland populations in Georgia. The research presents a vulnerability assessment of Georgia based on county-level statistics from 1975 to 2012.

  • EarthquakesEarthquake preparations in the Pacific Northwest need to start now: Experts

    Developing the resilience to withstand a massive earthquake along the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia Subduction Zone is the responsibility of public agencies, private businesses, and individuals, and that work should be under way now, an OSU expert advised Congressional leaders last week in Washington, D.C.“It will take fifty years for us to prepare for this impending earthquake. The time to act is before you have the earthquake. Everybody needs to take some responsibility and start preparing now.” Earthquake preparation, or lack thereof, is not an issue unique to Oregon: Forty-two U.S. states have significant earthquake faults.

  • GridDrought, heat to affect U.S. West's power grid

    Expected increases in extreme heat and drought will bring changes in precipitation, air and water temperatures, air density and humidity, scientists say. These changing conditions could significantly constrain the energy generation capacity of power plants — unless steps are taken to upgrade systems and technologies to withstand the effects of a generally hotter and drier climate. Power providers should invest in more resilient renewable energy sources and consider local climate constraints when selecting sites for new generation facilities, the researchers say.

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  • ResilienceLimiting climate change to 1.5°C

    Limiting temperature rise by 2100 to less than 1.5°C is feasible, at least from a purely technological standpoint, according to a new study. The study examines scenarios for the energy, economy, and environment that are consistent with limiting climate change to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and compares them to scenarios for limiting climate change to 2°C. Limiting temperature rise to1.5°C over pre-industrial levels is supported by more than 100 countries worldwide, including those most vulnerable to climate change, as a safer goal than the currently agreed international aim of 2°C.

  • Coastal resilienceRethinking coastal planning approaches

    The sound of waves, an ocean view, a beach at your doorstep — these might define the ultimate lifestyle choice. But who will pay for the sea wall to keep those seaside mansions and holiday homes safe as sea levels rise? What about public beach access? And how long would it provide protection anyway? Are there other options we can explore to realize the many benefits of our coasts in an era of climate change? Rising sea levels and other climate change effects are forcing a major re-think of coastal planning approaches, says a natural hazards planning expert.

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  • Coastal resilienceAntarctica’s ice shelf disintegrating, accelerating sea level rise

    Ice shelves are the gatekeepers for glaciers flowing from Antarctica toward the ocean. Without them, glacial ice enters the ocean faster and accelerates the pace of global sea level rise. A new NASA study finds the last remaining section of Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf, which partially collapsed in 2002, is quickly weakening and likely to disintegrate completely before the end of the decade. “Although it’s fascinating scientifically to have a front-row seat to watch the ice shelf becoming unstable and breaking up, it’s bad news for our planet. This ice shelf has existed for at least 10,000 years, and soon it will be gone,” says one scientist.

  • GridU.S. West's power grid must be “climate-proofed” to lessen risks of power disruption

    Electricity generation and distribution infrastructure in the Western United States must be “climate-proofed” to diminish the risk of future power shortages, according to researchers. Expected increases in extreme heat and drought events will bring changes in precipitation, air and water temperatures, air density, and humidity. the changing conditions could significantly constrain the energy-generation capacity of power plants — unless steps are taken to upgrade systems and technologies to withstand the effects of a generally hotter and drier climate.

  • China syndromeMassive cyberattack by Chinese government hackers on Penn State College of Engineering

    The Penn State College of Engineering has been the target of two sophisticated cyberattacks conducted by so-called “advanced persistent threat” actors. The FireEye cybersecurity forensic unit Mandiant, which was hired by Penn State after the breach was discovered, has confirmed that at least one of the two attacks was carried out by a threat actor based in China, using advanced malware to attack systems in the college. In a coordinated response by Penn State, the College of Engineering’s computer network has been disconnected from the Internet and a large-scale operation to securely recover all systems has been launched. On 21 November 2014 Penn State was alerted by the FBI to a cyberattack of unknown origin and scope on the school’s College of Engineering.

  • Water75 percent of L.A. County water systems vulnerable to drought, other challenges

    Despite the importance of potable water to the quality of life, economy, and ecosystems in Los Angeles County, surprisingly little is known about the 228 government and private entities which deliver water, and how vulnerable or resilient they are to withstanding pressures from droughts and climate change. Innovative maps in a Water Atlas compiled by UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation show which areas are most threatened. The Water Atlas finds that 75 percent of community drinking water systems in Los Angeles County exhibit at least one indicator of supply vulnerability due either to dependency on a single type of water source, local groundwater contamination, small size, or a projected increase in extreme heat days over the coming decades.

  • Coastal resilienceSouth Africa must start managing its retreat from the coast

    By Phoebe Barnard

    In 2015 there may remain some small uncertainties about the pace and intensity of climate change, but the inevitability of storm surges and sea level rise is not one of them. Due to the warming ocean’s thermal mass, thermal expansion, melting ice, and other complex interactions between air, land, and water, the sea level will rise significantly over the next few centuries. Even if we stopped using fossil fuels today, this is inevitable. African cities and coastlines, like the rest of the world, absolutely need natural coastal defenses: dunes, estuaries, mangroves, reefs, and coastal plains – but in many areas these defense would not be sufficient. In those areas, another approach should be considered: A managed retreat from the coast. In many places along the African coast such retreat is essential to minimize risk to coastal societies and maximize social and economic stability. And if planned properly, it can generate significant economic growth rather than chaos. The alternative is a grim scenario of treacherous coastline littered with rusting hulks of drowned and broken buildings, displaced coastal communities, and attendant impacts on health, food security, disaster risk management, and social and economic stability.

  • Seismic standardsLA to require seismic standards for new cellphone towers

    Last Friday Los Angeles became the first U.S. city to approve seismic standards for new cellphone towers, part of an effort to reduce communications vulnerabilities in case a large earthquake should strike. The Los Angeles plan requires new freestanding cellphone towers to be built to the same seismic standards as public safety facilities. Cellphone towers are currently built only strong enough not to collapse during a major earthquake. There are not required to be strong enough to continue working.

  • Man-made earthquakesWhy is oil and gas activity causing earthquakes? And can we reduce the risk?

    By Matthew Hornbach

    If you’ve been following the news lately, chances are you’ve heard about — or even felt — earthquakes in the central United States. During the past five years, there has been an unprecedented increase in earthquakes in the North American mid-continent, a region previously considered one of the most stable on Earth. Oklahoma has gone from experiencing fewer than two magnitude-three earthquakes per year to greater than two per day, the report found. Similarly, Texas has experienced a near 10-fold increase in magnitude-three earthquakes or greater in the past five years. Many studies indicate that human activities, including activities related to oil and gas extraction, are beginning to play a significant role in triggering earthquakes in the central United States. History dictates that the advent of new technology often leads to new and unforeseen challenges. The printing press, the automobile, and splitting the atom have provided incalculable benefits to humanity but also incredible responsibility. What is recognized as the Texas-led “Shale Revolution,” arguably one of the most significant innovations of the modern era, is no different.

  • Coastal resilienceMarshes, reefs, beaches can bolster coastal resilience: NOAA

    Coastal erosion, storms, and flooding can reshape the shoreline and threaten coastal property. With approximately 350,000 houses, business, bridges, and other structures located within 500 feet of the U.S. shoreline, erosion is a problem many U.S. coastal communities are addressing. Coastal flooding caused by extreme weather events and sea level rise is of growing global concern. In 2012, just two coastal extreme weather events caused $68 billion in damages — Sandy accounted for $65 billions, and Hurricane Isaac for $3 billion. The resilience of U.S. coastal communities to storms, flooding, erosion, and other threats can be strengthened when they are protected by natural infrastructure such as marshes, reefs, and beaches, or with hybrid approaches, such as a “living shoreline” — a combination of natural habitat and built infrastructure, according to a new NOAA study.

  • Nuclear plantsSeismic safety of nuclear power plants in Scandinavia to improve

    Since the Fukushima accident, Nordic nuclear power plant areas have given greater priority to understanding the safety implications of seismic events. The Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT) and various Nordic players are co-developing new methods of making seismic hazard estimates of anticipated earthquakes in Fennoscandia — the region comprising the Scandinavian Peninsula, Finland, Karelia, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia.