• Sierra snowpack could drop by nearly 80% by end of century

    A future warmer world will almost certainly feature a decline in fresh water from the Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack. Now a new study that analyzed the headwater regions of California’s 10 major reservoirs, representing nearly half of the state’s surface storage, found they could see on average a 79 percent drop in peak snowpack water volume by 2100.

  • Preparing for extreme weather

    From high winds and heavy rainfall to droughts and plummeting temperatures, people in Europe have already begun to feel the effects of extreme weather. As we get used to this new reality, scientists are investigating how it will affect how we get around and whether our infrastructure can cope.

  • Coastal wetlands need to move inland in fight against climate change

    Up to 30 percent of coastal wetlands could be lost globally as a result of rising sea levels, with a dramatic effect on global warming and coastal flooding, if action is not taken to protect them, new research warns. The global study suggests that the future of global coastal wetlands, including tidal marshes and mangroves, could be secured if they were able to migrate further inland.

  • How Russia hacked U.S. power grid

    In an aptly titled investigative report — “America’s Electric Grid Has a Vulnerable Back Door—and Russia Walked Through It” — the Wall Street Journal has used “documents, computer records and interviews” to reconstruct exactly how Russian hackers accessed the U.S. electric grid in the spring of 2016, an attack that continued through 2017 and possibly 2018.

  • New geopolitical power dynamics created by renewables

    Political and business leaders from around the world have outlined the far-reaching geopolitical implications of an energy transformation driven by the rapid growth of renewable energy. In a new report, experts say the geopolitical and socio-economic consequences of a new energy age may be as profound as those which accompanied the shift from biomass to fossil fuels two centuries ago.

  • Drinking water safety guidelines in the U.S. vary widely from state to state

    Analysis of existing state and federal guidelines shows discrepancies in recommended safe levels of toxic contaminants PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. The findings of a new study highlight the need for enforceable federal standards and more health protective limits on these contaminants in drinking water to safeguard the health of millions of people whose water supplies have been contaminated.

  • U.S. Interstate highways need overhaul, requiring government’s commitment, funding

    The future of the U.S. Interstate Highway System is threatened by a persistent and growing backlog of structural and operational deficiencies and by various looming challenges, such as the progress of automated vehicles, developments in electric vehicles, and vulnerabilities due to climate change. Unless a commitment is made to remedy the system’s deficiencies and prepare for these oncoming challenges, there is a real risk that the nation’s interstates will become increasingly unreliable and congested, far more costly to maintain, less safe, incompatible with evolving technology, and vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences.

  • Droughts boost emissions as hydropower dries up

    Recent droughts caused increases in emissions of carbon dioxide and harmful air pollutants from power generation in several western states as fossil fuels came online to replace hampered hydroelectric power. A new study quantifies the impact.

  • Clean water for Africa

    Over 100 million people in Southern Africa have no access to clean water – many sources in rural areas are contaminated. In the SafeWaterAfrica project, African and European partners are working closely together to develop a decentralized system solution for water purification that can be operated and maintained autonomously by rural inhabitants. The system covers the clean water needs of several hundred people. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films IST are coordinating the project.

  • Using the National Climate Assessment to prepare for climate change

    Every four years, the National Climate Assessment evaluates the state of climate science and the impact of climate change in the U.S., now and into the future. The most recent NCA was released on Black Friday, and many cities, states, businesses, and local communities are ready to take action on climate change—and they’re wondering how to go about it.

  • Guyana at risk: Ethnic politics, oil, Venezuelan opportunism and why it should matter to Washington

    On Friday, 21 December, the government of Guyana, a strategically important but often overlooked country, imploded. A member of parliament from a small centrist partner in the governing coalition, supported an opposition no-confidence motion against his own party’s leadership. His move ended the government’s fragile 33-32 majority in the 65 seat National Assembly, setting the stage for new national elections within 90 days. The collapse of the government is the first shot in a destabilizing fight between Guyana’s ethnically Indian and African communities to control the spoils from a tidal wave of oil money as production from the offshore Liza field begins in 2020. To exacerbate the situation, the collapsing socialist regime of neighboring Venezuela continues to assert claims on part of that oil and a third of Guyana’s national territory.

  • Fault displacement “fingerprints” helps forecast magnitude of rupture

    Machine-learning research helps detect seismic signals accurately, allowing them to predict the Cascadia fault’s slow slippage, a type of failure observed to precede large earthquakes in other subduction zones.

  • Water resources in Western U.S. threatened by declining snow mass

    Since 1982, some parts of the West have had a 41 percent reduction in the yearly maximum mass of snow. In Western U.S., winter snows and subsequent snow melt contribute substantially to water resources. Snow melt contributes to groundwater and to surface water sources such as the Colorado River.

  • U.S. must start from scratch with a new nuclear waste strategy: Experts

    The U.S. government has worked for decades and spent tens of billions of dollars in search of a permanent resting place for the nation’s nuclear waste. Some 80,000 tons of highly radioactive spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants and millions of gallons of high-level nuclear waste from defense programs are stored in pools, dry casks and large tanks at more than seventy-five sites throughout the country. “No single group, institution or governmental organization is incentivized to find a solution,” says one expert.

  • What should we do with nuclear waste?

    The failure to develop a strategy for permanent storage and disposal of this fuel costs Americans billions of dollars a year and jeopardizes the future of nuclear power as a carbon-free source of energy, according to nuclear security expert Rodney C. Ewing. He recommends a new not for profit independent corporation that’s owned and supported by the utilities that operate nuclear power plants. The new organization would deal only with spent fuel from commercial reactors. Defense waste is an entirely different issue and should, at this time, remain the responsibility of the federal government.