• Using AI to prevent, minimize electric grid failures

    A project led by the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory will combine artificial intelligence with massive amounts of data and industry experience from a dozen U.S. partners to identify places where the electric grid is vulnerable to disruption, reinforce those spots in advance, and recover faster when failures do occur. It is the first project to employ AI to help the grid manage power fluctuations, resist damage and bounce back faster from storms, solar eclipses, cyberattacks, and other disruptions.

  • Safety of controlling critical infrastructures via mobile phone networks questioned

    Critical infrastructures such as wind power stations are partially controlled via mobile phone networks. Using state-of-the-art tests, researchers are investigating how well protected that form of communication is from external attacks.

  • Houston’s anything-goes business model under siege after Harvey

    Last month, Harvey destroyed or damaged about 136,000 homes in Harris County. Now the city of Houston must determine whether to rebuild or repair, how to distribute billions of dollars in federal assistance, and whether or not the essence of America’s fourth-largest city will survive. The next storm could be even more destructive — but protection means rules, and rules go against the ethos of Houston.

  • Rethinking where/whether to rebuild after Hurricanes Irma, Harvey

    Though our natural instinct is to put everything back exactly where it was before a disaster, Mark Abkowitz, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Environmental Management Studies said people need to seriously rethink where and how to rebuild. “We’re talking hurricanes now, but it could be inland flooding, tornadoes, drought, wildfires, earthquakes. The question really comes up: If we had things the way they were and they suffered the level of catastrophic impact that they did, what’s the reasoning behind putting it back exactly the way it was before?” asks Abkowitz.

  • Houston's “flood czar” says Harvey has brought the city to a decision point on flood control

    In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s record floods, the city of Houston is poised to receive billions — maybe even tens of billions — of recovery dollars in the coming years that may cover significant improvements to the city’s woefully inadequate drainage system as well as other projects to reduce flooding. Stephen Costello, Houston’s chief resilience officer, expects to play a big role in how Houston spends it Hurricane Harvey recovery dollars.

  • FEMA flood maps missed 3-in-4 claims

    An analysis of flood claims in several southeast Houston suburbs from 1999 to 2009 found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 100-year flood plain maps — the tool that U.S. officials use to determine both flood risk and insurance premiums — failed to capture 75 percent of flood damages from five serious floods, none of which reached the threshold of a 100-year event.

  • U.S. East Coast slowly sinks into the sea, faces more frequent flooding

    The East Coast of the United States is threatened by more frequent flooding in the future. The states of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina are most at risk. Their coastal regions are being immersed by up to three millimeters per year – among other things, due to human intervention.

  • Are catastrophic disasters striking more often?

    Two major storms — Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma – in as many weeks raise this question: Is the number of major natural disasters striking the United States actually increasing, or does the media’s natural tendency to overhype conflict only make it seem so? Since 1980 there have been 212 disasters, which NOAA calculates resulted in over $1.2 trillion in damage. My analysis of the NOAA data shows that the number of billion-dollar disasters has indeed been increasing over time. A typical year in the 1980s experienced on average 2.7 such disasters in the U.S. In the 1990s and 2000s, that average had climbed to 4.6 and 5.4 a year, respectively. Since then, the frequency of costly disasters has soared. In this decade so far, each year has seen an average of 10.5 disasters. The scale of this increase amounts to one additional billion-dollar disaster every four years.

  • Western energy sector target of sophisticated attack by Russian-linked group Dragonfly

    The energy sector in Europe and North America is being targeted by a new wave of cyberattacks that could provide attackers with the means to severely disrupt affected operations. The group behind these attacks is known as Dragonfly. The group has been in operation since at least 2011 but has re-emerged over the past two years from a quiet period following exposure by Symantec and a number of other researchers in 2014. This “Dragonfly 2.0” campaign, which appears to have begun in late 2015, shares tactics and tools used in earlier campaigns by the group.

  • Water supply, quality in U.S. West affected by increased wildfire-caused erosion

    A growing number of wildfire-burned areas throughout the western United States are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs. The area burned annually by wildfires has increased in recent decades and is expected to continue to increase this century. Many growing cities and towns rely on water from rivers and reservoirs that originates in watersheds where wildfire and sedimentation are projected to increase. Increased sedimentation could negatively impact water supply and quality for some communities.

  • Hurricane Irma to cause significant erosion along U.S. east coast

    Large and powerful Hurricane Irma is likely to cause significant erosion along U.S. east coast beaches from Florida through South Carolina, according to a new projection from the U.S. Geological Survey. Strong waves and storm surge are likely to erode all sandy beaches in the three states, overtop sand dunes over three-quarters of the coast, and, in some areas, inundate areas behind the dunes. Water levels three to four meters, or 10 to 12 feet, above normal tide levels are likely for open coast shorelines along Florida’s Atlantic coast if Irma continues to track along the east coast.

  • 6 rules for rebuilding infrastructure in an era of “unprecedented” weather events

    Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall on 25 August, there was little doubt that its impact would be devastating and wide-ranging. Unfortunately, Harvey delivered and then some with early estimates of the damage at over $190 billion, which would make it the costliest storm in U.S. history. As the Houston region turns its attention to rebuilding and other cities consider ramping up efforts to make their infrastructure more resilient, it is the complicated story behind the devastation in Houston – a story involving decades of land use planning and poor urban design that has generated impervious surfaces at a fantastic pace – that can provide valuable lessons for policymakers, planners, engineers, developers and the public. These lessons are all the more important against the backdrop of a Trump administration that has stripped requirements for infrastructure projects to consider climate impacts and may try to offer an infrastructure investment package.

  • North Korea threatens EMP attack on U.S.

    North Korea’s relentless march toward acquiring the capability to place a hydrogen bomb on top of an ICBM will soon pose a threat to all major U.S. cities. There is another threat that marrying of a hydrogen bomb to a powerful rocket poses: An EMP threat. The North Koreans could launch a missile into the upper atmosphere, then detonate a high-yield hydrogen bomb in space in order to generate an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, which would shut down the U.S. power grid and damage electrical devices. Experts testifying before the Congressional EMP Commission said that in the event of a massive EMP attack on the United States using multiple high-yield warheads, around 90 percent of the American population would be dead after eighteen months due to famine, disease, and societal breakdown.

  • Keeping the trains running on time in the face of climate change

    There are many railway bridges around the world. In the United Kingdom alone there are more than 40,000 railway bridges. Each nation has employed its own methodology for maintenance and repairs of this essential infrastructure, but new, daunting challenges created by climate change — extreme heat, extreme cold, and severe flooding — require yet more rigorous solutions.

  • Montreal: The infrastructure cost of climate change

    Montreal’s climate is changing and will continue to do so at a rapidly increasing rate and with much more spatial variability in the future. “Climate plays a key role in the design and operation of urban infrastructure and to a large extent determines water and energy demands. As a result, changes in climate conditions will have direct impacts on how we design almost any aspect of the city, from its drainage system to its energy use,” explains one expert.