• U.S. fracking uses less than 1 percent of total industrial water use nationwide

    Energy companies used nearly 250 billion gallons of water to extract unconventional shale gas and oil from hydraulically fractured wells in the United States between 2005 and 2014, a new study finds. During the same period, the fracked wells generated about 210 billion gallons of wastewater. Large though those numbers seem, the study calculates that the water used in fracking makes up less than 1 percent of total industrial water use nationwide.

  • Flood risk for New York City, New Jersey coast rising

    Flood risk for New York City and the New Jersey coast has increased significantly during the last 1,000 years due to hurricanes and accompanying storm surges. For the first time, researchers compared both sea-level rise rates and storm surge heights in prehistoric and modern eras and found that the combined increases of each have raised the likelihood of a devastating 500-year flood occurring as often as every twenty-five years. “A storm that occurred once in seven generations is now occurring twice in a generation,” says one of the researchers. What does that mean for residents along the New York/New Jersey coast? “An extra 100,000 people flooded in the region during Hurricane Sandy who would not have flooded if sea level had not been rising,” the researcher says of the 2012 storm.

  • Partnering to build climate change resiliency

    South Florida ranks as the world’s most vulnerable urban region because of the large number of assets exposed to the effects of sea level rise. To build climate change resiliency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) partnered with Florida International University (FIU) to provide local community leaders with the knowledge and tools to assess and improve their capabilities to prevent, mitigate, respond to, and recover from climate impacts, including sea level rise, drought and wildfires, heatwaves, floods, powerful storms, and other hazards.

  • Small-scale nuclear fusion may be a new energy source

    Nuclear fusion is a process whereby atomic nuclei melt together and release energy. Because of the low binding energy of the tiny atomic nuclei, energy can be released by combining two small nuclei with a heavier one. Fusion energy may soon be used in small-scale power stations. This means producing environmentally friendly heating and electricity at a low cost from fuel found in water. Both heating generators and generators for electricity could be developed within a few years, according to researchers.

  • Wastewater to irrigate, fertilize, and generate energy

    To meet the requirements of Asian cities, researchers are adapting an idea they have already applied in Germany for comprehensive water management: They are developing a concept for reducing water use, treating wastewater and extracting fertilizer for a strip of coastline in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang.

  • Fukushima disaster was preventable: Study

    The worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown never should have happened, according to a new study. Researchers distilled thousands of pages of government and industry reports and hundreds of news stories, focusing on the run-up to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011. They found that “arrogance and ignorance,” design flaws, regulatory failures, and improper hazard analyses doomed the coastal nuclear power plant even before the tsunami hit.

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  • Successful tests may lead to faster creation of new nuclear fuels

    Idaho National Laboratory recently completed the first successful test of fabrication equipment in the Experimental Fuels Facility (EFF) at INL’s Materials and Fuels Complex. Specifically, they finished the first extrusions of depleted uranium — a process of shaping material by forcing it through a die. The test serves to restore a metallic fuel fabrication capability that has not been used in the United States since the 1980s.

  • Helping replenish groundwater by flooding farms in the winter

    California is in chronic groundwater overdraft: There is more water being pumped from the ground than filtering in, and the state’s aquifers are shrinking as more growers pump groundwater to keep crops alive. But that fertile farmland may also provide the means for replenishing groundwater to benefit everyone in the drought-stricken state. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, are encouraged by early results from tests to see whether deliberately flooding farmland in winter can replenish aquifers without harming crops or affecting drinking water.

  • Rising seas, bigger storms may greatly magnify U.S. East Coast floods

    Over the past century, the East Coast has seen sea-level rise far above the 8-inch global average — up to a foot in much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including New York City. Many studies predict that future sea-level rise along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts will increase flooding. Others suggest that the human-caused warming driving this rise will also boost the intensity and frequency of big coastal storms. Up to now, though, these two hazards have been assessed mostly in isolation from each other. Now, a new study quantifies how they could interact to produce alarming spikes in the combined height and duration of flooding. It projects that coastal flooding could possibly shoot up several hundredfold by 2100, from the Northeast to Texas.

  • El Niño, La Niña will exacerbate coastal hazards across entire Pacific

    The projected upsurge of severe El Niño and La Niña events will cause an increase in storm events leading to extreme coastal flooding and erosion in populated regions across the Pacific Ocean, according to a multi-agency study. The impact of these storms is not presently included in most studies on future coastal vulnerability, which look primarily at sea level rise. New research data, from forty-eight beaches across three continents and five countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, suggest the predicted increase will exacerbate coastal erosion irrespective of sea level rise affecting the region.

  • Grid Game teaches students about electric grid complexity, resilience

    Outages caused by severe weather cost the U.S. economy an average of $18 billion to $33 billion a year. The hits come from lost output and wages, spoiled inventory, delayed production, and damage to the electric grid. Engineers and teachers have developed a Grid Games — desktop simulation which allows players to keep load and generation in balance. “Red Team” participants can even mount financial and cyberattacks in real time, making the game even more interesting.

  • Cost of coal greater than it seems

    The cost of coal use is greater than it seems and policies geared toward subsidizing its use must be reformed quickly, before countries invest in coal-fired plants, a new study says. Governments around the world heavily subsidize fossil fuels, and in 2013 pretax subsidies amounted to about $550 billion worldwide. These substantial subsidies not only drain funds that could be used for other purposes, such as sanitation and poverty reduction, but discourage investments in low-carbon alternatives.

  • Rather food versus fuel, think in terms of both food and fuel

    Whether you have taken a side or a backseat in the discussion, the “food versus fuel” debate affects us all. Some say growing more biofuel crops today will decrease greenhouse gas emissions, but will make it harder to produce food tomorrow, which has prevented the United States from maximizing the potential of environmentally beneficial biofuels. Scientists argue that farmers can sustainably, and affordably, meet humanity’s growing demand for food and fuel.

  • Snowpack of Sierra Nevada lowest in 500 years, worsening California water woes

    Snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada in 2015 was at the lowest level in the past 500 years, according to a new report. “Our study really points to the extreme character of the 2014-15 winter. This is not just unprecedented over 80 years — it’s unprecedented over 500 years,” said the lead author of the report. On 1 April of this year, California Governor Jerry Brown declared the first-ever mandatory water restrictions throughout the state while standing on dry ground at 6,800-foot elevation in the Sierra Nevada. The historical average snowpack on that site is more than five feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

  • Burning world’s remaining fossil fuel could cause 60-meter sea level rise

    New work from an international team including Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira demonstrates that the planet’s remaining fossil fuel resources would be sufficient to melt nearly all of Antarctica if burned, leading to a 50- or 60-meter (160- to 200-foot) rise in sea level. Because so many major cities are at or near sea level, this would put many highly populated areas where more than a billion people live under water, including New York City and Washington, D.C. The researchers found that if global warming did not exceed the 2 degree Celsius target often cited by climate policymakers, Antarctic melting would cause sea levels to rise only a few meters and remain manageable. But greater warming could reshape the East and West ice sheets irreparably, with every additional tenth of a degree increasing the risk of total and irreversible Antarctic ice loss.