• Japan lifts Tsunami advisories

    The Japanese authorities have lifted tsunami advisories issued after a powerful earthquake struck the northeast of the country early Tuesday, injuring twenty people. The magnitude 7.4 earthquake occurred at 5:59 a.m., local time, off the coast of Fukushima prefecture. There were no deaths or major damage, but transportation was disrupted and residents of low-lying areas were instructed to leave their homes for higher ground. The quake was felt in Tokyo, about 150 miles away. Nearly 16,000 people were killed and more than 2,500 remain missing from the magnitude 9.1 earthquake that struck Japan’s northeastern regions on 11 March 2011.

  • Japan’s latest tsunami reaction shows lessons learned from previous disasters

    Parts of Japan were on tsunami alert today following a magnitude 6.9 earthquake off the east coast of the country. This was the first real test for Japan since the 2011 earthquake which led to a deadly tsunami. The lessons learned from 2011 saw higher seawalls, more effective public education and evacuation protocols, a beefed-up response from the nuclear industry and so on, but would it pass the test? The good news is that Japan came through this with flying colors. It wasn’t long after the earthquake hit that the tsunami warnings were later downgraded. Undoubtedly there will have been one or two glitches, but the tsunami was managed well by a country that has experienced more of these events that any of us would ever like to contemplate.

  • New lead detector for water

    Engineers have developed what you might think of as a “canary in the coal mine” for lead in water. ). They designed a sensor with a graphene-based nanomaterial that can immediately detect lead and other heavy metals. The new platform technology can be used for one-time testing of lead in tap water through a handheld device.

  • Israel Red Cross affiliate building underground blood bank to ensure supply during crises

    Magen David Adom, the Israeli affiliate of the Red Cross, is building an underground blood bank in order to secure the country’s blood supply in case of attacks or natural disasters. “With all blood transfusions stored in an underground space, the facility will ensure that they remain unharmed even when the building is under a massive barrage of missiles,” Magen David Adom director said. The terror organization Hezbollah has an estimated arsenal of over 130,000 rockets capable of firing at Israel — more than the combined amount of the twenty-seven non-U.S. NATO member states.

  • Feds sue to block acquisition of Dallas radioactive waste company

    The U.S. Justice Department is suing to block a Salt Lake City-based company’s acquisition of Waste Control Specialists, the Dallas-based company that wants to expand the nuclear waste dump it operates in West Texas. If the $367 million merger with proposed buyer EnergySolutions goes through, it would “combine the two most significant competitors for the disposal of low level radioactive waste (LLRW) available to commercial customers in thirty-six states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico,” the Justice Department said.

  • Location matters: Sandy’s tides hit some parts of the N.J. coast harder than others

    USGS researchers ground-truthed Hurricane Sandy’s October 2012 storm tides in New Jersey and found northern coastal communities had significantly higher storm tides than southern ones did, though flood damage was widespread in both areas. The findings suggest that some southern New Jersey communities may be underestimating their future flood risks.

  • Water resources for developing countries

    Water experts believe by 2050 almost half of the world’s population will live in countries with a chronic water shortage. The shortfall is the result of population growth, which leads to a greater demand for food, increased pollution, and climate instability. At the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s (BGU)’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, eighty scientists and 250 graduate students are working on ways to tackle the problem using cutting-edge science in partnership with academics around the world.

  • Mystery of historic 1952 London killer fog, current Chinese haze solved

    Few Americans may be aware of it, but in early December 1952 a killer fog that contained pollutants covered London for five days, causing breathing problems and killing more than 12,000 people of all ages, sending more than 150,000 to hospitals, and killing thousands of animals in the area. It is still considered the worst air pollution event in the European history. The exact chemical processes that led to the deadly mix of fog and pollution have not been fully understood over the past sixty years – until now. Scientists have now established that coal burning was the main culprit: sulfuric acid particles were formed from sulfur dioxide released by coal burning, and this process was facilitated by nitrogen dioxide, another co-product of coal burning. The study shows that similar chemistry occurs frequently in China, which has battled air pollution for decades.

  • Powerful earthquake causes substantial destruction in New Zealand

    A 7.8 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand has killed at least two people and destroyed infrastructure and property. The prime minister said the damage was likely to amount to nearly $1.5 billion. Overnight, aftershocks measuring up to 6.3 magnitude were registered in the area, which in 2011 saw a similar magnitude quake kill 185 people.

  • Improving Pennsylvania bridges

    According to the Federal Highway Administration’s 2015 National Bridge Inventory, of the 22,783 bridges in Pennsylvania, 21 percent are classified as structurally deficient and another 19 percent are classified as functionally obsolete. Researchers conducted a study to identify the key factors that contribute to premature cracking in concrete bridge decks. The team also assessed the effects of the cracks on the long-term durability of the bridges.

  • Meeting global energy demands with nuclear power

    An international team of scientists suggests that we must ramp up energy production by nuclear power if we are to succeed in warding off the worst effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change. The team suggests that beginning in 2020 we could achieve an annual electricity output of 20 terawatts without needing to develop carbon dioxide trapping and storage technology for the tens of billions of tons of emissions that would otherwise drive global warming to catastrophic levels.

  • Bangladesh confronting climate change head on

    Three decades ago, Bangladeshi scientists recognized that global warming would produce more destructive cyclones, heavier rain, and rising sea levels. Combined with the fact that 10 percent of the country is less than two meters above sea level, it was evident that something needed to be done to prevent future catastrophes and protect the lives of Bangladeshi citizens. A new book, which demonstrates how Bangladeshis are confronting climate change head on.

  • Increasing cost of natural hazards as climate changes

    A new comprehensive study of Australian natural hazards paints a picture of increasing heatwaves and extreme bushfires as this century progresses, but with much more uncertainty about the future of storms and rainfall. The study documents the historical record and projected change of seven natural hazards in Australia: flood; storms (including wind and hail); coastal extremes; drought; heatwave; bushfire; and frost.

  • Energy-efficient dyke-inspection robots

    There are many dykes in the Netherlands, and their structural health must be continuously monitored. Inspecting the condition of dykes and other sea defense structures is typically a task for robots, working in a team and in a highly autonomous way. But if they move around across the dykes, perform tests, and communicate the results for six hours a day, they use a lot of energy. Introducing charging stations is not a realistic scenario. A Dutch researcher had a better idea: an innovative automatic gearbox or the robots, which uses two metal hemispheres instead of a belt drive.

  • Sensors monitor bridges’ health – and tweet the information they gather

    While bridge collapses are rare, there have been enough of them to raise concerns in some parts of the world that their condition is not sufficiently monitored. Sweden is taking a hi-tech approach to its aging infrastructure. Researchers are rigging up the country’s bridges with multiple sensors that allow early detection of wear and tear. The bridges can even tweet throughout the course of a day.