• Coconut shells inspire design ideas for earth-quake proof buildings

    Coconuts are renowned for their hard shells, which are vital to ensure their seeds successfully germinate. Coconut palms can grow 30-meter high, meaning that when the ripe fruits fall to the ground their walls have to withstand the impact to stop them from splitting open. The specialized structure of coconut walls could help to design buildings that can withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters.

  • Lessons learned from the U.S.-Canada cross-border experiment

    A tornado has just devastated a community on the border between the United States and Canada. Paramedics scramble to bring patients from over-crowded hospitals across the border. Communication blackouts and downed trees force ambulances to weave their way through blowing debris, fallen electrical lines, and car wrecks. The time for a routine trip from the injury site to the hospital has now tripled. While this did not really happen, it was the focus in April when the DHS S&T and several Canadian government agencies collaborated on a cross-border experiment with a focus on preparing emergency responders for this type of scenario.

  • Colorado county adopts NIST community resilience guidelines

    The Boulder County Collaborative, a partnership of Boulder County, Colorado, communities formed in response to the catastrophic floods that struck the region in September 2013, has used the NIST Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems to develop and adopt its own resilience design performance standard for community facilities and infrastructure systems.

  • Modeling program helps efficient water management

    For as long as civilization has existed, river basins have been the lifeblood of human settlement. And who is to say that ancient Babylon might not have benefited from a watershed management plan? Today there are many more people who rely upon water to a much greater degree, which is why a team of researchers has developed a modeling platform called Water and Energy Scenarios Testing — WEST — for integrated resource planning.

  • California droughts caused mostly by changes in wind, not moisture

    Droughts in California are mainly controlled by wind, not by the amount of evaporated moisture in the air, new research has found. Their analysis showed that although moisture evaporated from the Pacific Ocean is the major source for California precipitation, the amount of water evaporated did not strongly influence precipitation in California, except in the cases of very heavy flooding. The research increases the understanding of how the water cycle is related to extreme events and could eventually help in predicting droughts and floods.

  • Understanding California electricity crisis may help prevent future crises

    Between 2000 and 2001, California experienced the biggest electricity crisis in the United States since the Second World War. Exactly how it happened, however, is complex. New research now reveals insights into the market dynamics at play, potentially helping regulators standardize the market and prevent future crises.

  • Huge helium discovery in Tanzania is “a life-saving find”

    Helium does not just make your voice squeaky — it is critical to many things we take for granted, including MRI scanners in medicine, welding, industrial leak detection, and nuclear energy. However, known reserves are quickly running out. Until now helium has never been found intentionally — being accidentally discovered in small quantities during oil and gas drilling. Researchers have developed a new exploration approach, and the first use of this method has resulted in the discovery of a world-class helium gas field in Tanzania.

  • Waterworld: Learning to live with flooding

    Flash floods, burst riverbanks, overflowing drains, contaminants leaching into waterways: some of the disruptive, damaging, and hazardous consequences of having too much rain. But can cities be designed and adapted to live more flexibly with water – to treat it as friend rather than foe?

  • “Water windfall” beneath California’s Central Valley

    New research indicates that California’s Central Valley harbors three times more groundwater than previously estimated, but challenges to using it include pumping costs — much of the water is 1,000 to 3,000 feet underground — ground subsidence, and possible contamination from fracking and other oil and gas activities.

  • Holocaust survivors give historic $400 million gift to Ben-Gurion University

    A couple who survived the Holocaust and made a fortune investing with Warren Buffett left a $400 million bequest to Ben-Gurion University (BGU). The bequest, much of which is earmarked to fund water-related research, is expected to double the size of BGU’s current endowment. The university’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research focuses on sustainability of water resources, desalination techniques, and improving water quality.

  • Cyber Guard 2016 aims to manage complexity in invisible domain

    Between one million and ten million U.S. homes and businesses are without power. An oil spill from a near-shore refinery is gushing into the waters off Texas and Louisiana. The port of Los Angeles is shut down due to a network outage. Visitors to exercise Cyber Guard 2016 here viewed mock newscasts detailing these scenarios as examples of the likely effects of a massive cyberattack.

  • Diablo Canyon nuclear plant to be shut down, replaced by renewables, efficiency, storage

    An historic agreement has been reached between Pacific Gas and Electric, Friends of the Earth (FOE), and other environmental and labor organizations to replace the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors with greenhouse-gas-free renewable energy, efficiency, and energy storage resources. FOE says the agreement provides a blueprint for fighting climate change by replacing nuclear and fossil fuel energy with safe, clean, cost-competitive renewable energy.

  • U.S. court asked to block restart of aging, damaged Indian Point nuclear reactor

    Friends of the Earth and other environmental organizations have filed an emergency petition with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking that the court compel the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to prevent Entergy from restarting an aging Indian Point nuclear reactor which was found to have unprecedented parts failure in its critical core cooling system. Entergy, the owner and operator of Indian Point, has repeatedly stated that it intends to start the reactor within days. The Indian Point reactors’ licenses expired in 2013 and 2015, respectively, and the plant is operating beyond its 40-year life span while the NRC considers whether to extend the license for an additional twenty years.

  • The contribution of human dynamics to coastal communities’ resilience

    The National Academies of Sciences has established a $10 million grants program to fund projects that enhance the science and practice of coastal community resilience in the Gulf of Mexico region. Rather than focus on infrastructure needs or the built environment, as many existing resilience-focused programs do, the new grants program will support the study of the human dynamics that influence a community’s ability to respond to adverse events.

  • Better water management to halve the global food gap

    Improved agricultural water management could halve the global food gap by 2050 and buffer some of the harmful climate change effects on crop yields. For the first time, scientists investigated systematically the worldwide potential to produce more food with the same amount of water by optimizing rain use and irrigation. They found the potential has previously been underestimated.