• CybersecurityNSF awards $74.5 million to 257 interdisciplinary cybersecurity research projects

    The NSF the other day announced the awarding $74.5 million in research grants through the NSF Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program. In total, the SaTC investments include a portfolio of 257 new projects to researchers in thirty-seven states. The largest, multi-institutional awards include research better to understand and offer reliability to new forms of digital currency known as cryptocurrencies, which use encryption for security; invent new technology to broadly scan large swaths of the Internet and automate the detection and patching of vulnerabilities; and establish the “science of censorship resistance” by developing accurate models of the capabilities of censors.

  • Nuclear powerCyber vulnerability of civil nuclear facilities underestimated

    The risk of a serious cyberattack on civil nuclear infrastructure is growing, as facilities become ever more reliant on digital systems and make increasing use of commercial off-the-shelf software, according to a new report. The report finds that the trend to digitization, when combined with a lack of executive-level awareness of the risks involved, means that nuclear plant personnel may not realize the full extent of their cyber vulnerability and are thus inadequately prepared to deal with potential attacks.

  • Water securityWater security test bed to focus on bolstering municipal water security

    Water is the foundation for life. People use water every single day to meet their domestic, industrial, agricultural, medical, and recreational needs. After the September 2001 terrorist attacks, water system security became a higher priority in the United States. The Water Security Test Bed (WSTB) at Idaho national Laboratory can be used for research related to detecting and decontaminating chemical, biological, or radiological agents following an intentional or natural disaster. The WSTB will focus on improving America’s ability to safeguard the nation’s water systems, and respond to contamination incidents and to natural disasters.

  • Coastal resilienceClimate change will soon make atolls in the Pacific, Indian oceans uninhabitable

    More than half a million people live on atolls throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans. A new study shows that the combined effect of storm-induced wave-driven flooding and sea level rise on island atolls may be more severe and happen sooner than previous estimates of inundation predicted by passive “bathtub” modeling for low-lying atoll islands, and especially at higher sea levels forecasted for the future due to climate change.

  • FloodsEight dead, thousands stranded as South Carolina hit by “once in a millennium” floods

    In what Governor Nikki Haley described as a “once-in-a-millennium” flood, a downpour has inundated large parts of South Carolina, causing at least eight deaths. By early Sunday, the storm had dumped more than eighteen inches of rain in parts of central South Carolina, and the state climatologist forecast another 2 to 6 inches through Monday as the rainfall began to weaken. After state police and emergency crews had to rescue hundreds of motorists and passengers from vehicles which stalled in high water, Haley announced all interstate highways in and around Columbia would be closed, and ordered to deployment of 600 national guardsmen to help with rescues and evacuations.

  • Coastal resilienceFlood risk for New York City, New Jersey coast rising

    Flood risk for New York City and the New Jersey coast has increased significantly during the last 1,000 years due to hurricanes and accompanying storm surges. For the first time, researchers compared both sea-level rise rates and storm surge heights in prehistoric and modern eras and found that the combined increases of each have raised the likelihood of a devastating 500-year flood occurring as often as every twenty-five years. “A storm that occurred once in seven generations is now occurring twice in a generation,” says one of the researchers. What does that mean for residents along the New York/New Jersey coast? “An extra 100,000 people flooded in the region during Hurricane Sandy who would not have flooded if sea level had not been rising,” the researcher says of the 2012 storm.

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  • ResiliencePartnering to build climate change resiliency

    South Florida ranks as the world’s most vulnerable urban region because of the large number of assets exposed to the effects of sea level rise. To build climate change resiliency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) partnered with Florida International University (FIU) to provide local community leaders with the knowledge and tools to assess and improve their capabilities to prevent, mitigate, respond to, and recover from climate impacts, including sea level rise, drought and wildfires, heatwaves, floods, powerful storms, and other hazards.

  • Coastal resilienceRising seas, bigger storms may greatly magnify U.S. East Coast floods

    Over the past century, the East Coast has seen sea-level rise far above the 8-inch global average — up to a foot in much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including New York City. Many studies predict that future sea-level rise along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts will increase flooding. Others suggest that the human-caused warming driving this rise will also boost the intensity and frequency of big coastal storms. Up to now, though, these two hazards have been assessed mostly in isolation from each other. Now, a new study quantifies how they could interact to produce alarming spikes in the combined height and duration of flooding. It projects that coastal flooding could possibly shoot up several hundredfold by 2100, from the Northeast to Texas.

  • Coastal resilienceEl Niño, La Niña will exacerbate coastal hazards across entire Pacific

    The projected upsurge of severe El Niño and La Niña events will cause an increase in storm events leading to extreme coastal flooding and erosion in populated regions across the Pacific Ocean, according to a multi-agency study. The impact of these storms is not presently included in most studies on future coastal vulnerability, which look primarily at sea level rise. New research data, from forty-eight beaches across three continents and five countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, suggest the predicted increase will exacerbate coastal erosion irrespective of sea level rise affecting the region.

  • Grid GamesGrid Game teaches students about electric grid complexity, resilience

    Outages caused by severe weather cost the U.S. economy an average of $18 billion to $33 billion a year. The hits come from lost output and wages, spoiled inventory, delayed production, and damage to the electric grid. Engineers and teachers have developed a Grid Games — desktop simulation which allows players to keep load and generation in balance. “Red Team” participants can even mount financial and cyberattacks in real time, making the game even more interesting.

  • Coastal resilienceBurning world’s remaining fossil fuel could cause 60-meter sea level rise

    New work from an international team including Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira demonstrates that the planet’s remaining fossil fuel resources would be sufficient to melt nearly all of Antarctica if burned, leading to a 50- or 60-meter (160- to 200-foot) rise in sea level. Because so many major cities are at or near sea level, this would put many highly populated areas where more than a billion people live under water, including New York City and Washington, D.C. The researchers found that if global warming did not exceed the 2 degree Celsius target often cited by climate policymakers, Antarctic melting would cause sea levels to rise only a few meters and remain manageable. But greater warming could reshape the East and West ice sheets irreparably, with every additional tenth of a degree increasing the risk of total and irreversible Antarctic ice loss.

  • CybersecurityBeyond data theft: Next phase of cyber intrusions will include destruction, manipulation of data

    James Clapper, director of U.S. intelligence, and other senior intelligence officers, have warned Congress that the next phase of escalating online data theft will likely involve the manipulation of digital information. Clapper on Wednesday told lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee that a “cyber Armageddon,” in which a digitally triggered damage to physical infrastructure results in a series of catastrophic events, is less likely than “cyber operations that will change or manipulate data.” Leaders of the U.S. intelligence community told lawmakers that the manipulation or destruction of data would undermine confidence in data stored on or accessible through U.S. networks, engendering an uncertainty which could jeopardize U.S. military situational awareness and undermine business activity.

  • InfrastructurePipeline replacement programs are effective

    Aging infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and natural gas and water mains, is an increasing concern. In 2011 the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a call to action to accelerate the repair, rehabilitation, and replacement of the highest-risk pipeline infrastructure. Invisible gas leaks from aging or damaged pipelines cost U.S. consumers billions of dollars every year, contribute to global warming and, in rare cases, cause dangerous explosions. Pipeline replacement programs in cities, however, can cut natural gas leaks by 90 percent, a new study finds. “The surprise wasn’t that replacement programs worked,” said the study’s lead author. “It was that they worked so well.”

  • FloodsNOAA: El Niño may accelerate nuisance flooding

    Nuisance flooding causes public inconveniences such as frequent road closures, overwhelmed storm water systems, and compromised infrastructure. The extent of nuisance flooding depends on multiple factors, including topography and land cover. According to a new NOAA report issued yesterday, many mid-Atlantic and West Coast communities could see the highest number of nuisance flooding days on record through April due to higher sea levels and more frequent storm surge, compounded by the strengthening El Niño, which is likely to continue into the spring. These communities may experience a 33 to 125 percent increase in the number of nuisance flooding days, the report said.

  • FloodsArmy Corps of Engineers risk reduction projects prevent $13.3 billion in flood damages

    May 2015 was the wettest month on record for both Texas and Oklahoma, and set numerous records throughout the region. Continuing rains from Tropical Storm Bill in June resulted in Army Corps of Engineers flood risk reduction reservoirs and other systems put through a rigorous test to hold the floodwaters and protect local communities and downstream areas. According to recent calculations by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials with the Southwestern Division in Dallas, the Corps flood risk reduction projects in the south central and southwestern United States prevented an estimated $13.3 billion in damages to local communities and infrastructure during the May-June 2015 flood event.