Infrastructure

  • N.C. scientific panel completes sea-level rise forecast draft

    In January, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission advisory science panel completed its draft copy of sea-level rise forecasts for five regions along the North Carolina coast over the next thirty years. That draft copy has now been released for a public comment period that will last through 31 December, before being finalized in early 2016 and delivered to the state’s General Assembly by 1 March 2016.According to the 43-page draft report, by 2045, the seas will rise between 6.5 and 12.1 inches at Duck, between 4.8 and 11.6 inches at the Oregon Inlet Marina, between 4.9 and 9.3 inches at Beaufort, between 4.1 and 8.5 inches at Wilmington, and between 4.0 and 8.5 inches at Southport.

  • $500 million, 5-year plan to help Miami Beach withstand sea-level rise

    Miami Beach is investing up to $500 million in a new five-year plan to fortify its coastline against flooding caused by sea-level rise. Between seventy to eighty pumps that will be installed to drain the streets of water as it comes in. Additionally, the city is planning to raise roadways and sidewalks by 1.5 to 2 feet along the western side, which faces the Biscayne Bay. Florida is already seen as one of the most vulnerable states to climate change. Over the past 100 years, sea levels along the coast have risen 8 to 9 inches and are expected to rise by between three and seven inches within the next fifteen years, according to federal government projections.

  • Forecasting future flooding in the Pacific Northwest

    Unlike the South or East coast of the United States, coastal flooding in the Pacific Northwest comes primarily from large waves generated by major storms instead of hurricanes. The Pacific Northwest is dotted by small, low-lying, coastal cities where populations tend to cluster. These communities can be isolated and are susceptible to devastation from major storms that bring substantial wind, waves, and storm surge. With climate change, it is anticipated that storms will only become more frequent and intense, signifying a need to understand how the areas will be affected.

  • California imposes first mandatory water restrictions in state history

    Standing on a patch of brown grass in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which is usually covered with several feet of snow at this time of the year, California governor Jerry Brown announced the first mandatory water restrictions in state history. “Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow,” Brown said yesterday. “It’s a different world… we have to act differently.”About 30 percent of California’s water supply comes from the Sierra Nevada snowpack, so less snow means less snowmelt, which means less water.

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  • Extended Oregon drought raises concern over state’s water security

    Facing the fourth straight year of drought, Oregon officials are worried that the state’s water security may be in jeopardy, as is already the case in California, which has just announced its first-ever mandatory water restrictions. a historically warm winter this season has continued to shrink snowpack throughout the Oregon Cascades, including the usual five-foot levels which accumulate on Mt. Hood, leading experts to suggest that even bigger problems lie ahead. Without the usual snowfall, Oregonians can expect fewer healthy fish in the rivers, fewer seed sprouts, and more wild fires. Moreover, the need for more irrigation could hamper the state’s already hobbled farming economy.

  • Over 61,000 U.S. bridges need structural repair

    An analysis of the recently released 2014 U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) National Bridge Inventory database finds good news and bad news when it comes to the most heavily traveled U.S. bridges. The good news is that there are over 2,000 fewer structurally deficient structures than there were in 2013. The bad news is that it means more than 61,000 structurally deficient bridges are still in need of significant repair. Cars, trucks, and school buses cross the nation’s 61,064 structurally compromised bridges 215 million times every day.

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  • Water scarcity a contributing cause of wars, terrorism in Middle East, North Africa

    The UN defines a region as water stressed if the amount of renewable fresh water available per person per year is below 1,700 cubic meters. A region is experiencing water scarcity if the figure is below 1,000 cubic meters, and below 500 amounts to “absolute water scarcity.” Water scarcity driven by overuse, poor land management, and climate change, is one of the causes of wars and terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa. If governments fail to respond, shortages of major resources, including food and energy, will cause greater insecurity and conflict.

  • U.S. grid vulnerable to cyber, physical attacks

    The U.S. electric grid remains vulnerable to cyber and physical attacks, putting millions of households at risk from outages that could last a few days or weeks. Attacks on the grid occur once every four days, and though no great harm has been caused, some experts are warning that the series of small-scale incidents may point to broader security problems. “It’s one of those things: One is too many, so that’s why we have to pay attention,” says one expert. “The threats continue to evolve, and we have to continue to evolve as well.”

  • Bridge repair method cuts amount of time, money for bridge maintenance

    According to American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, one in nine of the U.S. 607,380 bridges is rated as structurally deficient, and $76 billion is needed to address the issue. The high cost is partly due to the fact that traditional repair methods are time consuming and labor intensive. Researchers, however, say that they have validated a new approach that could significantly reduce the amount of time and money needed to repair bridge components damaged by corrosion: Applying ultrahigh-performance concrete to the ends of corroded bridge beams could restore bearing capacity in a fraction of the time possible with traditional repair techniques.

  • NASA asteroid hunter spacecraft data available to public

    Millions of images of celestial objects, including asteroids, observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft now are available online to the public. The data was collected following the restart of the asteroid-seeking spacecraft in December 2013 after a lengthy hibernation. NEOWISE is a space telescope that scans the skies for asteroids and comets. The telescope sees infrared light, which allows it to pick up the heat signature of asteroids and obtain better estimates of their true sizes. As a result, NEOWISE can see dark asteroids that are harder for visible-light surveys to find.

  • Head of Chemical Safety Board resigns under WH pressure, lawmakers’ criticism

    Rafael Moure-Eraso, the chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board(CSB), resigned after increased pressure from lawmakers and at the White House’s request. Under Moure-Eraso, complaints have risen regarding poor management, his use of a personal e-mail account for agency work, “abuse of power, employee retaliation, and lack of honesty in his communications with Congress,” according to an 18 March letter from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.C

  • Half of U.S. lacks network backup systems to withstand outages

    About half of the rural United States lacks access to high-speed Internet service, and since 2009, the U.S. Agriculture and Commerce departments have provided roughly $10 billion in grants and loans to expand broadband Internet access. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also plans to distribute about $20 billion in funds over the next five years to support rural broadband, but the federal government does not require recipients to build network backup systems against outages.While most major cities have backup systems to withstand outages, in most rural areas, damage to a fiber-optic cable will lead to a temporary loss of Internet and phone service.

  • U.S. economy imperiled by crumbling infrastructure

    The U.S. economy remains strong, but the nation’s dated, crumbling public infrastructure may threaten its future dominance, according to experts. The World Economic Forum (WEF) placed the United States 25th in infrastructure investment and 30th in air transportation, a field previously dominated by the United States. Since the 1960s, public spending on infrastructure, as a share of GDP, has dropped to around half the European average and, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) reckons, $3.6trn will have to be spent if the U.S. is to catch up.

  • States seek to protect grid from solar flare damage

    Citing warnings from scientists about the threat of major solar storms — or EMPs, intense bursts of radiation from the sun — and their potential to disrupt the nation’s electrical grid, many state lawmakers are introducing legislation that seeks to protect their region’s infrastructure. Congress has commissioned reports and held hearings about the dangers of solar storm events, but little action has been taken, prompting many state legislators to take matters in their own hands.

  • Why rooftop solar is disruptive to utilities – and the grid

    Electric utilities have a unique role in society and the economy, one that is rooted in a set of arrangements with state regulators that goes back nearly a century. In exchange for being granted a geographic monopoly on the distribution of electric power, the utility is responsible for ensuring that its transmission and distribution systems operate reliably. In other words, it is the utility’s responsibility to ensure that blackouts occur infrequently and with short duration. Power-generating panels, called solar photovoltaics (PV), represent the fastest-growing source of electric power in the United States – but the proliferation of roof-top PVs poses a problem for the business model of electric utilities, a problem similar to that telephone companies have been facing: The rise of “cord cutters” — people with a cell phone but no land-line — places land-line phone companies in a quandary. They must continue to maintain their network infrastructure with fewer customers to pay for it. Roof-top solar technology will eventually force a conversation about the fundamental role of the electric utility and who should have ultimate responsibility for providing reliable electricity, if anyone. Going off the grid has a certain appeal to an increasing segment of the population, but it is far from clear that such a distributed system can deliver the same level of reliability at such a low cost.