• Developing ‘Smart City’ Floodwater Management

    In a world of smart watches, smart homes and smart appliances that monitor their environments to keep users safe and informed, can whole cities be smarter? Short answer: Probably, using cutting-edge information technologies to keep citizens and property safer.

  • Q&A: How Ridgecrest Earthquakes Helped Scientists with ShakeAlert

    U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Sarah Minson was in the thick of efforts to develop an earthquake warning system in California when a series of major temblors struck the sparsely populated community of Ridgecrest in the Mojave Desert this summer. The largest, a magnitude 7.1 quake on July 5, was the biggest to hit the state in decades. The Mercury News asked her about her work — and how this month’s big quakes is helping scientists refine California’s fledgling earthquake alert system.

  • What If a Hurricane Pushed a Surge up an Already High Mississippi River? No One Is Certain.

    The Mississippi River has always been the lifeblood of New Orleans. It’s the reason for the city’s existence, and an awe-inspiring if sometimes forgotten feature of its landscape. One thing it hasn’t been, at least in recent memory, is a threat. That is, until this month, when wary residents caught a glimpse of the old Mississippi, a face of the river that’s been hidden since it was almost completely caged by man nearly a century ago. The compliant river had become a beast scaling its walls.

  • Americans Focus on Responding to Earthquake Damage, Not Preventing It, Because They’re Unaware of Their Risk

    On July 4 and 5, two major earthquakes, followed by several thousand smaller ones, struck Southern California. Their size and the damage they caused captured attention around the country. What tends to get much less notice from the public is what can be done to prevent catastrophic damage from big quakes.

  • Innovative ways to repair and construct bridges, roadways

    A 2016 American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure assessment reported that more than 9 percent of the nation’s bridges are considered structurally deficient and 1 out of every 5 miles of highway pavement is in poor condition. Researchers will develop innovative techniques to repair and construct bridges and roadways through a new U.S. Department of Transportation-funded research center.

  • New Sensor Improves Earthquake Response Efforts

    The recent massive southern California earthquakes shut down Ridgecrest Regional Hospital throughout the 4 July holiday weekend while the tiny town of Ridgecrest assessed the damages. Researchers developed a new optical sensor which could speed up the time it takes to evaluate whether critical buildings like these are safe to occupy shortly after a major earthquake.

  • Raising Tough Questions about Retreat from Rising Seas

    As the global thermostat climbs and polar ice melts, the oceans are swelling and swallowing up coastlines. By some calculations, rising seas could displace 13 million Americans by 2100. While some communities are attempting to adapt in place with elevated buildings and seawalls to divert water, relocation appears inevitable for many.

  • Preventing West Antarctic Ice Collapse by Snowing Ocean Water onto It

    The ice sheet covering West Antarctica is at risk of sliding off into the ocean. The slow, yet inexorable loss of West Antarctic ice is likely to continue even after climate warming is stabilized. A collapse will raise sea levels worldwide by more than three meters. Researchers are now scrutinizing a daring way of stabilizing the ice sheet: Generating trillions of tons of additional snowfall by pumping ocean water onto the glaciers and distributing it with snow canons.

  • As Flood Risks Increase across the U.S., It’s Time to Recognize the Limits of Levees

    Many U.S. cities rely on levees for protection from floods. There are more than 100,000 miles of levees nationwide, in all 50 states and one of every five counties. Most of them seriously need repair: Levees received a D on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2018 national infrastructure report card. Climate models show that flood risks are increasing, and across the central U.S., rivers are becoming increasingly hard to control. Faith in the idea of engineered flood control is starting to erode.

  • Can the “Masters of the Flood” Help Texas Protect Its Coast from Hurricanes?

    After centuries of fighting back water in a low-lying nation, the Dutch have become the world leaders in flood control. And their expertise is helping Texas design what would become the nation’s most ambitious — and expensive — coastal barrier.

  • Flooding: Britain’s Coastal Towns and Villages Face a Design Challenge to Cope with Climate Emergency

    As an island nation, Britain has vulnerable communities that must be prepared for the impact of the climate emergency. And while much has been said about homes at risk from the sea in coastal regions, or those inland subject to river flooding, the UK Committee on Climate Change’s new progress report for 2019 has laid bare the challenge facing them.

  • Timber Skyscrapers Can Rewind the Carbon Footprint of the Concrete Industry

    Recent innovations in engineered timber have laid the foundations for the world’s first wooden skyscrapers to appear within a decade, a feat that is not only achievable, but one they hope will beckon in an era of sustainable wooden cities, helping reverse historic emissions from the construction industry.

  • Italy’s Risky Realignment

    The Kremlin actively helped two Italian populist parties – The League and the Five Star movement – to reach power in Rome. The goal: Weaken the West and undermine the U.S.-created post-WWII international order. The Italian government is now repaying its supporters, formally endorsing China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is meant to anchor an increasingly proselytizing authoritarian regime as the center of the global economy. Italy is thus helping the world’s most powerful authoritarian state establish a beachhead in southern Europe, threatening European strategic sectors, and publicly distancing itself from the EU’s efforts to respond to a “systemic rival.”

  • California Plans to Better Use Winter Storms to Refill Its Aquifers

    With new rules coming into effect, California farmers and municipalities using groundwater must either find more water to support the aquifers or take cropland out of use. To ease the pain, engineers are looking to harness an unconventional and unwieldy source of water: the torrential storms that sometimes blast across the Pacific Ocean and soak California.

  • U.S. Costal Communities Face More than $400 Billion in Seawall Costs by 2040

    Coastal communities in the contiguous U.S. face more than $400 billion in costs over the next twenty years, much of it sooner, to defend coastal communities from inevitable sea-level rise, according to a new report. This is approaching the cost of the original interstate highway system and will require the construction of more than 50,000 miles of coastal barriers in 22 states by 2040, half the time it took to create the nation’s iconic roadway network.