• Stronger buildings could delay wildfire destruction, but not stop it

    Low humidity and strong winds in California mean that this month’s wildfires could strike again. Unfortunately, better building materials and planning can only offer so much protection, says an engineering expert.

  • New sea-level rise and flood alert network launches

    The City of Imperial Beach is a low-lying coastal community south of San Diego that is one of the most vulnerable in California to sea-level rise. During periods of extreme high tides and winter swell, Imperial Beach experiences flooding that impacts residents, businesses and infrastructure. A new program, called Resilient Futures, will significantly upgrade its flood alert capabilities and better prepare for sea-level rise.

  • Houston's urban sprawl dramatically increased rainfall, flooding damage during Hurricane Harvey

    Houston’s urban landscape directly contributed to the torrential rainfall and deadly flooding experienced during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, according to Princeton and University of Iowa researchers. The researchers report that Houston’s risk for extreme flooding during the hurricane — a category 4 storm that caused an estimated $125 billion in damage and killed 68 people — was 21 times greater due to urbanization.

  • Technology assesses bridge safety after powerful storms

    Hurricanes and heavy rains often cause strong, overflowing river currents that can damage critical infrastructure, such as bridges. For example, after Hurricane Katrina, many National Guard convoys loaded with aid did not drive on bridges for fear the bridges could not support the heavy trucks. To safely transport, they had to use roundabout roads or boats to reach Katrina survivors. Loose or loosening soil is often the culprit in weakening bridge stability. Thus, an instrument that can quickly assess the soil conditions around bridge pillars is a top priority.

  • Methods for protecting England’s coastal communities “not fit for purpose”

    In October 2018, a stark report suggested that current methods being used to protect England’s coastal communities are “not fit for purpose.” The Committee on Climate Change’s Managing the coast in a changing climate report showed that between 2005 and 2014, over 15,000 new buildings were built in coastal areas at significant risk of coastal flooding and/or erosion. Experts say that evidence suggests there should be far stricter controls on coastal developments.

  • After the next Big One: How will San Francisco’s skyscrapers fare?

    When Stanford civil engineers look at San Francisco’s skyline, they wonder: Will the city be ready if a major earthquake shakes those skyscrapers? It’s not primarily a question of whether all the towers will remain standing, though there are some concerns about the ones built more than 30 years ago. The more complicated question is this: If one or more high-rises suffers serious damage, how badly could that disrupt the rest of the city?

  • Bolstering resilience to withstand floods

    Historically, flooding is the most destructive natural disaster in this country. Facing this ever-growing threat, many wonder, “What can be done to protect life and property, reduce insurance claims, as well as help communities become more resilient?” DHS S&T has initiated multiple projects across the nation through its Flood Apex Program to offer an answer to this question.

  • A dry future? New interactive map highlights water scarcity around the globe

    The average person in Europe uses 3,000−5,000 liters of water per day, of which the lion’s share is spent on food production. The world’s limited water resources are becoming an even more pressing issue as populations grow and climate change causes droughts in both south and north. Studies have already provided a number of ways to reduce our consumption of water, but this valuable information is often left unused.

  • Protecting the national electrical grid from space weather

    It’s not often geology and national security wind up in the same sentence. Most people don’t think about electrical power in connection to either the ground under their feet or solar flares overhead, but one researcher says that connection presents a clear and present risk that power utilities need to consider.

  • Fracking-related water storage tied to earthquake risk

    In addition to producing oil and gas, the energy industry produces a lot of water, about 10 barrels of water per barrel of oil on average. New research has found that where the produced water is stored underground influences the risk of induced earthquakes.

  • Safeguarding the U.S. energy infrastructure

    Nearly every aspect of our daily lives — from shopping for groceries through a smartphone app to keeping up with friends and family on social media, or relying on smart grid technology to power homes and businesses – is connected to the vast world of the internet. Because of this, it might seem as if there’s nothing we can do to protect ourselves from a cyberattack. Experts disagree. “Even though computer systems are complex, the network-connected physical components that operate the power grid – such as the transformers, tap changers, and power inverters, for example – have characteristics about their operation that may make cybersecurity more tractable. Specifically, these physical components obey the laws of physics,” says LBL’s Sean Peisert.

  • The Hayward Fault -- is it due for a repeat of the powerful 1868 earthquake?

    On October 21, 1868, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay area. Although the region was sparsely populated, the quake on the Hayward Fault was one of the most destructive in California’s history. The 150th anniversary of the 1868 earthquake, and all historical earthquake anniversaries, are opportunities to remind people that we live in earthquake country and we should all be prepared for the next big quake.

  • World heritage sites under threat from climate change

    UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Mediterranean such as Venice, the Piazza del Duomo, Pisa, and the Medieval City of Rhodes are under threat of coastal erosion and flooding due to rising sea levels. The authors have identified areas with urgent need for adaptation planning and suggest the iconic nature of such sites can be used to promote awareness of the need to take action to mitigate climate change.

  • After historic Texas flooding, officials will likely open more floodgates on Central Texas dam

    Across Central Texas and the Hill Country, heavy rain has led to catastrophic flooding in the past week. With more rainfall in the forecast, state and local officials are working to manage floodwaters before they move downstream. After the wettest September in Texas history, multiple Central Texas reservoirs are completely full. That has forced officials to consider releasing a historic amount of water down the Colorado River.

  • Global hotspots for potential water conflicts

    Scientists at the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission have identified the hotspots where competition over the use of shared water resources could lead to disagreements between countries. The scientists determined that the Nile, Ganges-Brahmaputra, Indus, Tigris-Euphrates and Colorado rivers are “water hotspots”, where “hydro-political interactions” are most likely to occur. These areas are already under water stress, and future demographic and climatic conditions are expected to exert further pressure on scarce water resources.