• Latest science on sea level rise projections: In support of California policy guidance

    An estimated 75 percent of California’s population lives in coastal counties. Sea-level rise, already underway, threatens hundreds of miles of roads and railways, harbors, airports, power plants, wastewater treatment plants, coastal wetlands, beaches, dunes, bluffs, and thousands of businesses and homes. In a comprehensive analysis of the factors that affect how much the ocean will rise along California’s coast in coming decades, a seven-member team of experts has provided the state with a report on the best-available sea-level rise science — including recent scientific advances on the role of polar ice loss.

  • Cities inland could be reshaped by migration from sea-level rise

    When Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005, cities inland saw an influx of evacuees escaping the storm and its aftermath. Now, a new study predicts that this could happen again as a result of sea-level rise. Researchers estimate that approximately 13.1 million people could be displaced by rising ocean waters, with Atlanta, Houston, and Phoenix as top destinations for those forced to relocate. The study is the first attempt to model the destination of millions of potentially displaced migrants from heavily populated coastal communities.

  • Identifying, utilizing water resources in Africa drylands

    Researchers say that by 2050, almost half of the world’s population will live in countries with a chronic water shortage. In African drylands, it is not a water shortage problem, but an inability to capture water for food and other uses. Israeli scientists help villagers in Ethiopia, Zambia, and Uganda to identify water sources and test water quality – and also better capture and use water which is available.

  • Smart handpumps predict depths of groundwater in Africa

    The amount of groundwater in Africa is estimated to be over 100 time’s greater than annual renewable freshwater sources in the region. Around one million hand pumps supply groundwater to people in rural Africa. Groundwater is used by around 200 million rural Africans every day because it is a widely available, reliable, and safe source of drinking water. Yet according to a new research paper, although groundwater is critical to Africa’s growth and development, there is currently too little data to effectively manage this critical resource.

  • Lessons from the Oroville Dam incident

    U.S. dams and levees received a grade of “D” in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 report card on national infrastructure, meaning they are in poor to fair condition and mostly below standard, with many components near the end of their service life. Experts examining the recent Oroville dam incident in California, say that the massive hole in the dam’s primary spillway and excessive erosion in the emergency spillway, along with a levee breach near Manteca, “clearly demonstrate how extreme events, land-cover and land-use changes, and the emerging climatic changes can threaten the integrity of our aging dams and levees.”

  • New resilience study helps governments prevent disaster-related loss

    Hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, and other disasters cannot be stopped, but countries can plan for them — something some areas of the world seem to do better than others, according to a new study. In the study, thirty-eight factors that affect a country’s resilience were derived from national and international databases, and the researchers used these databases to grade the resilience of each country and continent and develop a comprehensive index that includes indicators such as the number of disasters and their death tolls, as well as an area’s population, infrastructure, economy and educational system.

  • Urgent action needed to bolster cybersecurity for critical infrastructure

    There has never been a more crucial time to examine cybersecurity for critical infrastructure, most of which is privately owned. According to MIT experts, over the last twenty-five years, presidents from both parties have paid lip service to the topic while doing little about it, leading to a series of short-term fixes they liken to a losing game of “Whac-a-Mole.” This scattershot approach, they say, endangers national security. A new report warns of hacking risk to electric grid, oil pipelines, and other critical infrastructure. “The nation will require a coordinated, multi-year effort to address deep strategic weaknesses in the architecture of critical systems, in how those systems are operated, and in the devices that connect to them,” the authors write. “But we must begin now. Our goal is action, both immediate and long-term.”

  • Bolstering security in urban centers

    The terrorist attack in Stockholm on Friday mimicked previous attacks in Europe, in which terrorists used vehicles to kill civilians. Among the cities in which such attacks were carried out are London, Nice, Glasgow, Berlin, and more. More and more cities are considering the use of bollards to protect not only buildings – but other, “softer” urban areas. The Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) program of the National Institute of Building Sciences offers a detailed Resource Page with useful analysis of and information about crash- and attack-resistant bollards.

  • Earthquake early warning vital for city transit

    Although no one can reliably predict earthquakes, today’s technology is advanced enough to rapidly detect seismic waves as an earthquake begins, calculate the maximum expected shaking, and send alerts to surrounding areas before damage can occur. This technology is known as “earthquake early warning” (EEW). An EEW system called “ShakeAlert” is being developed and tested for the West Coast of the United States.

  • Potentially explosive methane gas mobile in groundwater, poses safety risk

    Potentially explosive methane gas leaking from energy wells may travel extensively through groundwater and pose a safety risk, according to a new study. Researchers found the gas is highly mobile in groundwater, travelling far beyond the shale wells where it is drilled and changing the water chemistry. It will also escape into the atmosphere as a powerful greenhouse gas.

  • Monitoring critical minerals to ensure national preparedness

    In 2014, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) came to a startling conclusion: The United States needed to increase its stockpile of a basic manufacturing material with military applications — yttrium oxide, a material used in laser rangefinders. This shortfall meant that in 2014, the DLA had to submit a request to Congress to acquire new material for the National Defense Stockpile. The DLA has a watch list of about 160 materials, and economists at the agency have developed an early warning system that let them concentrate on high-priority materials.

  • Roll, Jordan, Roll? -- Where the Jordan River stops flowing

    A new study argues that Israel’s Jordan River may be a useful case study for the challenges facing stream restoration initiatives around the world. The Jordan River has been ravaged by unbridled population growth and defunct sewage treatment plants, and the river now has only 3 percent of its original flow. “No river enjoys better PR and has worse environmental conditions than the Jordan River,” says a researcher.

  • U.K. airports, nuclear power stations on terror alert following “credible” threat

    Airports and nuclear power stations in the United Kingdom have been instructed to bolster their defenses against terrorist attacks in the face of intensified threats to electronic security systems. Security services have issued a series of alerts over the weekend, warning that terrorists may have developed ways of bypassing safety checks. U.S. and British security services are concerned that terrorists will use the techniques they developed to bypass screening devices at European and U.S. airports, against other critical infrastructure facilities such as nuclear power stations.

  • 11 percent of disappearing groundwater used to grow internationally traded food

    Wheat, rice, sugar, cotton and maize are among the essential internationally traded crops in the global economy. To produce these crops, many countries rely on irrigated agriculture that accounts for about 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawals, according to the United Nations Water program. One freshwater source is underground aquifers, some of which replenish so slowly that they are essentially a non-renewable resource.

  • Managed retreat: Relocating communities to get them out of harm’s way

    More frequent extreme weather events put certain regions in the cross hairs of risks such as coastal flooding, heavy rain, and erosion. There is an obvious, but controversial, solution: relocating communities from vulnerable to safer areas. Based on examples from around the world, researchers chart the landscape for whether and how to implement the strategy of managed retreat – and how, with the minimum disruption possible, relocate or abandon development in the face of extreme weather risks.