• Russian hackers likely behind cyberattacks on U.S. nuclear operators: Experts

    Russian government hackers are suspected to be behind a series of cyberattacks on U.S. nuclear operators. The attacks were similar to recent Russian attacks on Ukraine’s power infrastructure. Experts say that rhe attacks in Ukraine and the United States show that Russian hackers appear to be testing increasingly advanced tools to disrupt power supplies. “If you think about a typical war, some of the acts that have been taken against critical infrastructure in Ukraine and even in the U.S., those would be considered crossing red lines,” says one security expert.

  • Maintaining the safety of California’s natural gas system

    California has 14 underground storage facilities in 12 fields with a capacity of 385 billion cubic feet of natural gas. There are about 350 active wells at those fields, many of which are used currently for natural gas but were designed for oil and gas production and constructed prior to 1970. The massive natural gas leak at Aliso Canyon shined a light on California’s aging natural gas infrastructure. And five years of extreme drought also exacted its toll on transmission pipelines.

  • Hybrid structures combining concrete and wood increasingly popular

    Houses can be made of wood, as they were in the past – or of concrete, as they are today. To build for tomorrow, the two building methods are being combined: these hybrid structures, which contain both wood and concrete elements, are becoming increasingly popular in contemporary architecture. The building material offers the construction industry new possibilities and is based in large part on renewable resources.

  • Could a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire happen in the U.S.?

    The Grenfell Tower fire in London has triggered questions about how the tragedy could have happened, whether it could happen elsewhere, and what might be learned from it to prevent future disasters. The Grenfell Tower fire spread much faster and more intensely than anyone expected. From what we know so far, there are physical, cultural and legal reasons dozens of people died. Addressing each of them will help British authorities, and fire protection and fire prevention professionals around the world, improve their efforts to reduce the chance of future tragedies like the one at Grenfell Tower.

  • New bracing for durable structures in earthquake-prone regions

    Across the world, severe earthquakes regularly shake entire regions. More than two billion people live in danger zones – many of them in structures not built to withstand an earthquake. Together with partners from industry, researchers are developing building materials designed to prevent buildings from collapsing in a natural disaster.

     

  • Simulating asteroid impacts to help identify life-threatening events

    When an asteroid struck the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013, the blast from the asteroid’s shock wave broke windows and damaged buildings as far away as 58 miles (93 kilometers), injuring more than 1,200 people. To help first responders and other agencies to identify and make better informed decisions for how best to defend against life-threatening asteroid events, NASA researchers are creating 3-D models and using one of NASA’s most powerful supercomputers to produce simulations of hypothetical asteroid impact scenarios.

  • New USGS plan contributes to making subduction zone areas more resilient

    Subduction zone events pose significant threats to lives, property, economic vitality, cultural and natural resources and quality of life. The tremendous magnitudes of these events are unique to subduction zones, and they can have cascading consequences that reverberate around the globe. USGS has developed a blueprint for advancing science and resilience from subduction zone hazards.

  • Rising seas could create 2 billion refugees by 2100

    In the year 2100, 2 billion people – about one-fifth of the world’s population – could become climate change refugees due to rising ocean levels. Those who once lived on coastlines will face displacement and resettlement bottlenecks as they seek habitable places inland, according to new research. Feeding that population will require more arable land even as swelling oceans consume fertile coastal zones and river deltas, driving people to seek new places to dwell.

  • Fact Check: is the type of cladding used on Grenfell Tower actually banned in Britain?

    Cladding was added on tower blocks built in the 1960s and 1970s such as Grenfell Tower to improve the thermal performance of the flats and in some cases prevent material deteriorating and falling from the existing facades. These flats are often homes to some of the poorest in society and improving the facades may cut their energy bills to less than a half. This also means that they can adequately heat their homes to avoid condensation and mold growth inside. After the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, the Metropolitan Police is considering whether to bring manslaughter (or other) charges relating to the tower block’s insulation, which it says failed safety tests.

  • New subsidence map highlights sinking Louisiana coast

    Researchers at Tulane University have developed a subsidence map of coastal Louisiana, putting the rate at which this region is sinking at just over one third of an inch per year. The map, published in GSA Today, has long been considered the “holy grail” by researchers and policy makers as they look for solutions to the coastal wetland loss crisis, the researchers said.

  • Decision to defund the Earthquake Early Warning system criticized

    The Trump administration’s decision to defund the Earthquake Early Warning system is being criticized by experts. The “administration’s failure to fund the Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system threatens this vital program and potentially the lives of hundreds or even thousands of people on the West Coast from California to Alaska,” says one expert.

  • At least 600 U.K high-rises have combustible cladding installed

    British Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons on Thursday that investigators have found combustible cladding on “a number” of publicly owned tower blocks similar to Grenfell Tower. “Shortly before I came to the chamber, I was informed that a number of these tests have come back as combustible,” she said. The prime minister’s said her office estimated that 600 high-rise buildings in England have cladding similar to Grenfell Tower.

  • Dissipating earthquakes to provide earthquake protection

    Earthquakes and explosions damage thousands of structures worldwide each year, destroying countless lives in their wake, but a team of researchers at Penn State is examining a completely new way of safeguarding key infrastructure.“The structural design for earthquakes now requires the whole building to shake, which you can design for, but it’s quite an expensive proposition. Our idea is that if you can dissipate the earthquake before it gets to the structure, then you don’t have to design it to resist that ground motion,” says one researcher.

  • Feeling the impact of fracking

    Fracking involves drilling holes deep into layers of subterranean shale and then pumping in millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals to release oil and natural gas trapped in the rock. In some shale formations, a large volume of toxic water comes up along with the hydrocarbons. The injection of the wastewater from the process back into the earth can trigger seismic activity, scientists say. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there were approximately 26,000 hydraulically fractured wells for natural gas in the United States in 2000. By 2015, the number had grown to 300,000. Researchers are studying the link between fracking and earthquakes

  • Grenfell fire aftermath: how 20th-century buildings can be made safer, not more dangerous

    Despite the horror of the fire at Grenfell Tower, UK regulations for tall buildings are ahead of the curve in comparison with other countries. There have been huge improvements in construction materials and technological solutions throughout the modern era. And testing and certification methods have became even more rigorous, to ensure the quality of new products. Of course, many people are now asking what more could have been done to prevent the tragic loss of life in the Grenfell blaze. The truth is, while architects and engineers can work to mitigate the risk of fire, it cannot be completely eliminated. The addition of some materials to buildings, such as cladding, will obviously now come under scrutiny. But there are several improvements that can be made to old 20th-century tower blocks like Grenfell, to make them safer places to live.