• Improving methods to assess earthquake-caused soil liquefaction

    Several strong earthquakes around the world have resulted in a phenomenon called soil liquefaction, the seismic generation of excess porewater pressures and softening of granular soils, often to the point that they may not be able to support the foundations of buildings and other infrastructure. Effectively engineering infrastructure to protect life and to mitigate the economic, environmental, and social impacts of liquefaction requires the ability to accurately assess the likelihood of liquefaction and its consequences.

  • Accelerating sea level rise requires collaborative response: Experts

    Recent estimates suggest that global mean sea level rise could exceed two meters by 2100. The projections pose a challenge for scientists and policymakers alike, requiring far-reaching decisions about coastal policies to be made based on rapidly evolving projections with large, persistent uncertainties. Policymakers and scientists must thus act quickly and collaboratively to help coastal areas better prepare for rising sea levels globally, say climate change experts.

  • “Nightmare scenario”: Nuclear power plants vulnerable to hacking by terrorists

    Security experts fear Fukushima-like disaster as terrorists use new technology to attempt attacks. The frequency and scope of cyberattacks on nuclear plants have increased dramatically, and experts say that a successful hack is now all but inevitable. They say that nuclear plant operators should focus more on preparing to contain and limit the damage when it does occur.

  • Safer, long-life nuclear reactors: Metal design may raise radiation resistance by 100 times

    The big problem faced by metals bombarded with radiation at high temperatures—such as the metals that make up nuclear fuel cladding—is that they have a tendency to swell up significantly. They can even double in size. In findings that could change the way industries like nuclear energy and aerospace look for materials that can stand up to radiation exposure, researchers have discovered that metal alloys with three or more elements in equal concentrations can be remarkably resistant to radiation-induced swelling.

  • How much water do we use? New interactive maps tells us

    Wash. Rinse. Repeat. With every shampoo or load of laundry you may wonder, how much water did I just use? Now multiply that thought across the nation and add other types of ways to use water, from irrigating crops to sustaining thermoelectric power generation. The USGS National Water-Use Science project has documented sixty years of water-use from 1950 to 2010 in an interactive map. You may choose a year and pick a category to see how much water your state uses.

  • Helping shape safer coastal communities

    Higher dunes can help protect communities from damaging waves and surge; they can also impede natural coastal processes. Scientists need better to understand how dunes’ effectiveness in protecting developed areas will be affected by long-term coastal change, or by extreme events such as hurricanes. Coastal zone research projects will fill in some of those knowledge gaps, heling managers protect developed areas’ beach dunes, which are vital to resilient communities, ecosystems, and economies.

  • Accelerating sea level rise threatens communities, infrastructure in NY, NJ, Conn.

    Parts of the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut metropolitan area are at risk of being permanently flooded by sea level rise. A new study details the severe threats posed to the region’s bay areas, coastal urban centers, beach communities, and airports and seaports by as little as one foot of sea level rise, a possibility as soon as the 2030s. Sea level rise already has begun to affect communities and critical infrastructure in the region, and presents tough decisions for vulnerable areas.

  • Future of nuclear energy unclear

    Despite a turbulent history, the allure of nuclear energy — electricity production on a massive scale with minimal emissions — remains attractive. Its low emission rate is why the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change recommends doubling the world’s nuclear capacity by 2050. Yet the bulk of the 100 nuclear reactors currently operating in the U.S., which continue to produce about 20 percent of the nation’s energy, are reaching retirement age, and energy market forces don’t always favor nuclear.

  • Syrian crisis altered region’s land and water resources

    The Syrian civil war and subsequent refugee migration caused sudden changes in the area’s land use and freshwater resources. Using satellite imagery processed in Google Earth Engine, researchers determined the conflict in Syria caused agricultural irrigation and reservoir storage to decrease by nearly 50 percent compared to prewar conditions.

  • Advancing the science of cybersecurity

    Cyberattacks on corporations, agencies, national infrastructure and individuals have exposed the fragility and vulnerability of the internet and networked systems. Achieving truly secure cyberspace requires addressing both the technical vulnerabilities in systems, as well as those that arise from human behaviors and choices. NSF awards $70 million to support interdisciplinary cybersecurity research.

  • New wastewater system design guidelines help protect aquatic life

    New wastewater system design guidelines can help municipal governments better protect aquatic life and save millions of dollars a year. Engineers developed guidelines that can tailor the design of specialized filters, called fluidized bed reactors, to local conditions and help prevent phosphorous deposits from forming in wastewater systems.

  • Better way for coastal communities to prepare for devastating storms

    As of 2010, approximately 52 percent of the United States’ population lived in vulnerable coastal watershed counties, and that number is expected to grow. Globally, almost half of the world’s population lives along or near coastal areas. Coastal communities’ ability to plan for, absorb, recover, and adapt from destructive hurricanes is becoming more urgent.

  • Restoring power to a grid facing a cyberattack

    Currently, utility companies in North America have procedures and capacity to handle localized power outages caused by events such as extreme weather and high usage on hot days. However, there are not any tools available to resolve the type of widespread outages that can be caused using malware. Researchers from SRI International are leading a collaborative team to develop cutting-edge technology that can be used by utilities and cyber first responders to restore power to an electric grid that has come under a cyberattack.

  • Satellite confirmation: San Francisco's Millennium Tower is sinking

    The Sentinel-1 satellites have shown that the Millennium Tower skyscraper in the center of San Francisco is sinking by a few centimeters a year. Studying the city is helping scientists to improve the monitoring of urban ground movements, particularly for subsidence hotspots in Europe. Completed in 2009, the 58-storey Millennium Tower has recently been showing signs of sinking and tilting. Although the cause has not been pinpointed, it is believed that the movements are connected to the supporting piles not firmly resting on bedrock.

  • Mood ring materials offer a new way to detect damage in failing infrastructure

    The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that more than $3.6 trillion in investment is needed by 2020 to rehabilitate and modernize the nation’s failing infrastructure. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to establish a $1 trillion infrastructure improvement program when he takes office. An important element in any modernization effort will be the development of new and improved methods for detecting damage in these structures before it becomes critical. This is where “mood ring materials’ comes in. “Mood ring materials” could play an important role in minimizing and mitigating damage to the U.S. failing infrastructure.