Infrastructure

  • Hydraulic fracturing caused earthquakes in Ohio

    Hydraulic fracturing triggered a series of small earthquakes in 2013 on a previously unmapped fault in Harrison County, Ohio, according to a new study. This series of earthquakes is the first known instance of seismicity in the area. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method for extracting gas and oil from shale rock by injecting a high-pressure water mixture directed at the rock to release the gas inside. The process of hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into the rock under high pressure to create cracks. The process of cracking rocks results in micro- earthquakes.

  • Sections of the San Andreas Fault system in San Francisco Bay Area are locked, overdue

    The earthquake cycle reflects the accumulation of strain on a fault, its release as slip, and its re-accumulation and re-release. Fault creep is the slip and slow release of strain in the uppermost part of the Earth’s crust that occurs on some faults between large earthquakes, when much greater stress is released in only seconds. Where no fault creep occurs, a fault is considered locked and stress will build until it is released by an earthquake. Four urban sections of the San Andreas Fault system in Northern California have stored enough energy to produce major earthquakes, according to a new study that measures fault creep. Three fault sections — Hayward, Rodgers Creek, and Green Valley — are nearing or past their average recurrence interval, according to the study.

  • In worst-case scenario, sea level would rise 1.8 meters

    The climate is getting warmer, the ice sheets are melting and sea levels are rising — but how much? The report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013 was based on the best available estimates of future sea levels, but the panel was not able to come up with an upper limit for sea level rise within this century. Now researchers have calculated the risk for a worst-case scenario. The results indicate that at worst, the sea level would rise a maximum of 1.8 meters – but the much more likely rise in sea level would be around 80 cm.

  • Bay Area’s infrastructure more resilient, but a major tremor would paralyze region’s economy

    Twenty-five years ago, the San Francisco Bay Area suffered the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake, which killed sixty-three people, injured 3,700, destroyed 366 businesses and 11,000 homes, and caused $6 billion in property damage. Since then, bridges and roads have been rebuilt to withstand more powerful quakes, but seismic safety experts say more could be done to protect property and human life. A major earthquake is not likely completely to destroy the Golden Gate Bridge or other major infrastructure developments, but the Bay Area’s $535 billion a year economy will come to a halt for months and even years due to weakened critical infrastructure.

  • U.S. military must be ready for climate change: Hagel

    Climate change is a threat multiplier, and the U.S. Defense Department is taking steps to incorporate this issue into all planning, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in Peru Monday. Climate change has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges the world already confronts, from the spread of infectious diseases to spurring armed conflicts, Hagel said at the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas. Hagel announced a Defense Department Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap during his speech. The roadmap is based on science, he said, and describes the effects of climate change on DoD’s missions and responsibilities.

  • 15 years from now, our impact on regional sea level will be clear

    Coastal communities and industries require information on regional sea-level change to develop strategies for reducing the risk to population, infrastructure and the environment. This requires modeling projections of sea-level rise, estimating the costs and benefits of adaptation options, and understanding the impacts on coastal ecosystems. Inundation maps that can be used to identify areas that are most vulnerable to rising sea levels are particularly valuable. Adaptation measures may include land-use planning such as preventing building in low lying areas, increasing or maintaining a vegetated coastal margin that serves as a buffer zone against extreme sea levels, or using protective sea walls in the long run if certain sea level rise thresholds are exceeded.

  • Simulations reveal California’s resilience to extreme droughts

    The results from a series of several-year-old computer simulations reveal that the state of California may be more resilient to long-term drought conditions than previously believed. “The results were surprising,” said one of the scientists involved in the study. “California has a remarkable ability to weather extreme and prolonged droughts from an economic perspective.”

  • U.S. should emulate allies in pushing for public-private cybersecurity collaboration

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last month the formation of a national cyber defense authority to defend civilian networks under the leadership of the Israel National Cyber Bureau.The “U.S. government has a lot to learn from successful examples in allied nations. With more compromise and reform, there is plenty of reason for hope,” says a cybersecurity expert, adding that “a cybersecurity partnership between government, business, and individuals built on trust is possible, and would promote more resilient networks as well as creative thinking on cybersecurity.”

  • Debate continues over releasing Pennsylvania crude oil shipment information

    Shipment of crude oil by rail in the United States has increased from 800,000 barrels a day in 2012 to 1.4 million in 2014. In western Pennsylvania, over seventy-five million gallons of crude oil are passing through Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to refineries in Philadelphia. Release of the recently classified rail transport records by Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) was a result of a federal mandate ordering railway companies to share information on interstate shipments of crude oil with state emergency management officials.Railway companies claim that releasing the information threatens security and is commercially sensitive.

  • Some states are better prepared than others for climate change challenges

    In recent years, a number of states have started taking action to prepare their communities for climate change. Many have even developed specific adaptation plans to guide their work. Until now, though, no one has been able to define how much progress states are actually making in implementing those plans. The Georgetown Climate Center’s (GCC) online tool, the State Adaptation Progress Tracker, changes that. A GCC release says that now, anyone will be able to quickly determine how much progress their state is making and decision-makers will be able to learn from innovative examples of actions other states are taking.

  • The likelihood of a California Big One “uncomfortably high”: Experts

    Research on the San Andreas fault has shown that the average time between surface-rupturing earthquakes is about a century. Experts say that these findings are a call to action. The last two “big ones” on the San Andreas fault — in 1906 in Northern California and 1857 in Southern California — occurred more than a century ago. There are several ways to calculate the probability of a similar earthquake, but they all give uncomfortably high results. A large earthquake is likely in our lifetime. A magnitude 7.8 earthquake is realistic, one expert says. “Our data show that similar earthquakes happened here in the not-too-distant past. As Shakespeare said, past is prologue. However, past large earthquakes on the San Andreas fault affected very few people. Now millions are at risk.”

  • Reliance on BP, feeble regulations make U.S. partially culpable in Deepwater Horizon oil spill

    A recent ruling by a federal judge that BP was “grossly negligent” in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill in the Gulf of Mexico placed the majority of blame on the multinational oil and gas company. Although not on trial in this case, the federal government was also culpable in the largest oil spill in U.S. history, according to a new paper. Based on reports from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, the Chief Council’s Report and other government documents, the report’s authors determined that the government’s reliance on market-based accountability mechanisms and its failure to implement a regulatory process based on a mutually agreed upon set of robust standards and voluntary information disclosure led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

  • Federally funded cybersecurity center launched

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence(NCCoE) initiative has awarded the first federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) contract for cybersecurity to MITRE Corp., a nonprofit established to operate FFRDCs. Cybersecurity professionals will work with stakeholders in government, the private sector, and academia to develop low cost and scalable cybersecurity solutions.

  • As sea level rises, coastal communities brace for more frequent, destructive tidal flooding

    Today, many coastal communities are seeing more frequent flooding during high tides. As sea level rises higher over the next fifteen to thirty years, tidal flooding is expected to occur more often, cause more disruption, and even render some areas unusable — all within the time frame of a typical home mortgage. An analysis of fifty-two tide gauges in communities stretching from Portland, Maine to Freeport, Texas shows that most of these communities will experience a steep increase in the number and severity of tidal flooding events over the coming decades, with significant implications for property, infrastructure, and daily life in affected areas. The report warns that given the substantial and nearly ubiquitous rise in the frequency of floods at these fifty-two locations, many other communities along the East and Gulf Coasts will need to brace for similar changes.

  • Smart grid needed to shift electrical system to alternative energy: Expert

    Solar, wind, and other alternative sources are easier on the environment but less predictable than coal, gas, or oil-fired plants, demanding a more sophisticated distribution and delivery system. A more resilient, responsive electrical grid – a smart grid – would adjust electrical loads to energy demands, preventing the shutdowns that leave people without air conditioning just when they need it most. A smart grid is thus a flexible grid – it is an infrastructure which allows shifting load and demand around effectively, ultimately balancing the electrical power and delivery system at lower costs.