• Latest science on sea level rise projections: In support of California policy guidance

    An estimated 75 percent of California’s population lives in coastal counties. Sea-level rise, already underway, threatens hundreds of miles of roads and railways, harbors, airports, power plants, wastewater treatment plants, coastal wetlands, beaches, dunes, bluffs, and thousands of businesses and homes. In a comprehensive analysis of the factors that affect how much the ocean will rise along California’s coast in coming decades, a seven-member team of experts has provided the state with a report on the best-available sea-level rise science — including recent scientific advances on the role of polar ice loss.

  • Cities inland could be reshaped by migration from sea-level rise

    When Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005, cities inland saw an influx of evacuees escaping the storm and its aftermath. Now, a new study predicts that this could happen again as a result of sea-level rise. Researchers estimate that approximately 13.1 million people could be displaced by rising ocean waters, with Atlanta, Houston, and Phoenix as top destinations for those forced to relocate. The study is the first attempt to model the destination of millions of potentially displaced migrants from heavily populated coastal communities.

  • Lessons from the Oroville Dam incident

    U.S. dams and levees received a grade of “D” in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 report card on national infrastructure, meaning they are in poor to fair condition and mostly below standard, with many components near the end of their service life. Experts examining the recent Oroville dam incident in California, say that the massive hole in the dam’s primary spillway and excessive erosion in the emergency spillway, along with a levee breach near Manteca, “clearly demonstrate how extreme events, land-cover and land-use changes, and the emerging climatic changes can threaten the integrity of our aging dams and levees.”

  • New resilience study helps governments prevent disaster-related loss

    Hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, and other disasters cannot be stopped, but countries can plan for them — something some areas of the world seem to do better than others, according to a new study. In the study, thirty-eight factors that affect a country’s resilience were derived from national and international databases, and the researchers used these databases to grade the resilience of each country and continent and develop a comprehensive index that includes indicators such as the number of disasters and their death tolls, as well as an area’s population, infrastructure, economy and educational system.

  • Urgent action needed to bolster cybersecurity for critical infrastructure

    There has never been a more crucial time to examine cybersecurity for critical infrastructure, most of which is privately owned. According to MIT experts, over the last twenty-five years, presidents from both parties have paid lip service to the topic while doing little about it, leading to a series of short-term fixes they liken to a losing game of “Whac-a-Mole.” This scattershot approach, they say, endangers national security. A new report warns of hacking risk to electric grid, oil pipelines, and other critical infrastructure. “The nation will require a coordinated, multi-year effort to address deep strategic weaknesses in the architecture of critical systems, in how those systems are operated, and in the devices that connect to them,” the authors write. “But we must begin now. Our goal is action, both immediate and long-term.”

  • Bolstering security in urban centers

    The terrorist attack in Stockholm on Friday mimicked previous attacks in Europe, in which terrorists used vehicles to kill civilians. Among the cities in which such attacks were carried out are London, Nice, Glasgow, Berlin, and more. More and more cities are considering the use of bollards to protect not only buildings – but other, “softer” urban areas. The Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) program of the National Institute of Building Sciences offers a detailed Resource Page with useful analysis of and information about crash- and attack-resistant bollards.

  • Earthquake early warning vital for city transit

    Although no one can reliably predict earthquakes, today’s technology is advanced enough to rapidly detect seismic waves as an earthquake begins, calculate the maximum expected shaking, and send alerts to surrounding areas before damage can occur. This technology is known as “earthquake early warning” (EEW). An EEW system called “ShakeAlert” is being developed and tested for the West Coast of the United States.

  • Monitoring critical minerals to ensure national preparedness

    In 2014, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) came to a startling conclusion: The United States needed to increase its stockpile of a basic manufacturing material with military applications — yttrium oxide, a material used in laser rangefinders. This shortfall meant that in 2014, the DLA had to submit a request to Congress to acquire new material for the National Defense Stockpile. The DLA has a watch list of about 160 materials, and economists at the agency have developed an early warning system that let them concentrate on high-priority materials.

  • U.K. airports, nuclear power stations on terror alert following “credible” threat

    Airports and nuclear power stations in the United Kingdom have been instructed to bolster their defenses against terrorist attacks in the face of intensified threats to electronic security systems. Security services have issued a series of alerts over the weekend, warning that terrorists may have developed ways of bypassing safety checks. U.S. and British security services are concerned that terrorists will use the techniques they developed to bypass screening devices at European and U.S. airports, against other critical infrastructure facilities such as nuclear power stations.

  • Managed retreat: Relocating communities to get them out of harm’s way

    More frequent extreme weather events put certain regions in the cross hairs of risks such as coastal flooding, heavy rain, and erosion. There is an obvious, but controversial, solution: relocating communities from vulnerable to safer areas. Based on examples from around the world, researchers chart the landscape for whether and how to implement the strategy of managed retreat – and how, with the minimum disruption possible, relocate or abandon development in the face of extreme weather risks.

  • Sea level rise makes much of Honolulu and Waikiki groundwater vulnerable to inundation

    Researchers found that a large part of the heavily urbanized area of Honolulu and Waikīkī is at risk of groundwater inundation — flooding that occurs as groundwater is lifted above the ground surface due to sea level rise. “Our findings suggest that coastal communities in Hawai’i and globally are exposed to complex groundwater flooding hazards associated with sea level rise in addition to the typical concerns of coastal erosion and wave overtopping,” said one researchers. “Groundwater inundation will require entirely unique adaptation methods if we are to continue to live in and develop the coastal zone. Coastal planners and community stakeholders will need to work with architects, engineers, geologists, ecologists, economists, hydrologists and other innovative thinkers in order to manage these problems.”

  • Past quakes at Calif. fault portend abrupt sinking of Seal Beach wetlands

    A new study shows evidence of abrupt sinking of the wetlands near Seal Beach caused by ancient earthquakes that shook the area at least three times in the past 2,000 years — and it could happen again, the researchers say. The paleoseismology study reveals that the wetlands at the National Wildlife Refuge Seal Beach, a nearly 500-acre area located within the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach and next to the communities of Seal Beach and Huntington Harbor, are susceptible to rapid lowering in elevation during large — over 7.0 magnitude earthquakes.

  • The old, dirty, creaky U.S. electric grid would cost $5 trillion to replace. Where should infrastructure spending go?

    The electric grid is an amazing integrated system of machines spanning an entire continent. The National Academy of Engineering has called it one of the greatest engineering achievements of the twentieth century. But it is also expensive. By my analysis, the current (depreciated) value of the U.S. electric grid, comprising power plants, wires, transformers and poles, is roughly $1.5 to $2 trillion. To replace it would cost almost $5 trillion. That means the U.S. electric infrastructure, which already contains trillions of dollars of sunk capital, will soon need significant ongoing investment just to keep things the way they are. There is no path toward shoring up or upgrading the U.S. electric grid that does not require investment – even just maintaining what we have will cost hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars over the next decade. The bigger question is: As we continue to replace and rebuild this amazing grid, what technologies should we focus on?

  • Extreme sea levels could endanger European coastal communities

    Massive coastal flooding in northern Europe that now occurs once every century could happen every year if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, according to a new study. New projections considering changes in sea level rise, tides, waves and storm surge over the twenty-first century find global warming could cause extreme sea levels to increase significantly along Europe’s coasts by 2100. Extreme sea levels are the maximum levels of the sea that occur during a major storm and produce massive flooding.

  • Offshore fault system could produce onshore magnitude 7.3 quake in southern California

    A fault system that runs from San Diego to Los Angeles is capable of producing up to magnitude 7.3 earthquakes if the offshore segments rupture and a 7.4 if the southern onshore segment also ruptures, according to a new analysis. “This system is mostly offshore but never more than four miles from the San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles County coast,” says the lead author. “Even if you have a high 5- or low 6-magnitude earthquake, it can still have a major impact on those regions which are some of the most densely populated in California.”