• Is someone really trying to find out if they can destroy the Internet?

    A prolonged Internet outage prevented access to major sites like Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, and the New York Times on Friday. Because of the increase in number and intensity of DDoS type attacks in recent years, security analysts have theorized that some of the attacks are masking the probing of vulnerabilities. The Internet remains incredibly vulnerable to attacks on its infrastructure and right now, there are few ways of avoiding them. It does bring into question the ability of governments to put even more of its interface with the public online since as soon as it does, it becomes a potential target for malicious actors. Governments in particular need to become more adept at dealing with this possibility.

  • Wastewater disposal induced 2016 Magnitude 5.1 Oklahoma earthquake

    Distant wastewater disposal wells likely induced the third largest earthquake in recent Oklahoma record, the 13 February 2016, magnitude 5.1 event roughly thirty-two kilometers northwest of Fairview, Oklahoma. at the time, the Fairview earthquake was the largest event in the central and eastern United States since a 2011 magnitude 5.7 struck Prague, Oklahoma.

  • Bolstering energy security with homegrown energy sources

    The U.S. Department of Energy has a goal to develop and demonstrate transformative bioenergy technologies to fuel a more sustainable nation. Reaching that goal will require roughly a billion tons of biomass, so we will need to rely on a variety of resources to get the job done.

  • Assessing 100 years of Los Angeles groundwater replenishment

    A new study offers the most sophisticated analyses to date on how Los Angeles-area groundwater supplies are replenished. The analyses provide water managers with a clearer understanding of the sources and amount of available groundwater in the region — information that is important for planning and management of the vital resource.

  • Bacteria can help make underground nuclear waste repositories safer

    It takes about two hundred thousand years for the radioactivity of spent nuclear fuel to revert to the levels of naturally occurring uranium. As a result, most research into the long-term safety of nuclear waste disposal focuses on processes that tick to a slow geological clock: the mechanics of the rock layers that make up the storage site or the robustness of the protective barriers in place that are engineered to contain the radiation. However, all these studies neglect one key factor: biology. Naturally occurring bacteria could consume pent-up hydrogen gas in nuclear waste repositories to prevent radioactive leaks.

  • Improving seawalls to strengthen coastal defenses

    Britain’s coastal defenses could be designed to better withstand storms triggered by climate change. Improving seawalls could help limit loss of life and damage to property as coastal waters become stormier over coming years. New research will help engineers design coastal defenses that are better able to stop sea water spilling over on to land — known as overtopping.

  • Ambitious Baltimore water pollution clean-up project

    Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the urban rivers that flow into it are important sources of water to Chesapeake Bay, popular recreation sites for residents and tourists, and the targets of an ambitious clean-up plan to make the harbor swimmable and fishable by the year 2020. In a first for Baltimore and the nation, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency will soon be installing a suite of sensors that will provide the public and scientists with the first comprehensive, real time look at water quality in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

  • Cities should be made more resilient against extreme weather

    Over the past three decades, Europe has seen a 60 percent increase in extreme weather events. In Venice, there were 125 events in 2014, compared to only 35 in 1983 and 44 in 1993. Of these, seven were extreme in 2014, compared to only one in 1983. Moreover, in 2014, flooding and winter storms caused an estimated €20 billion in disruption to the economy  in the United Kingdom alone, while damage by the flash floods in Genoa amounted to €100 million.

  • Growing number of Hurricane Sandy-like storm surges in future

    In the wake of historic destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, residents of New York and other coastal cities were left wondering whether Sandy-scale storm floods are the new normal. Now, researchers have developed a computer simulation that estimates that storm-related flooding on the New York City coastline similar in scale to those seen during Sandy are likely to become more common in coming decades. The worst-case scenario has the frequency increasing by seventeen times by the year 2100.

  • Investor-owned utilities better prepared to handle catastrophic weather

    Investor-owned utility companies may be better prepared than municipal utility companies to deal with catastrophic weather conditions and subsequent power outages. One of the main arguments made in favor of municipal utilities is the alleged poor performance of investor-owned utilities after major storms. The author of a new study says, however, that “compared with investor-owned utilities, municipal utilities spend more on maintenance of power distribution lines, yet deliver worse customer service after major storms.”

  • Even if the Paris Agreement is implemented, food and water supplies remain at risk

    If all pledges made in last December’s Paris climate agreement (COP21) to curb greenhouse gases are carried out to the end of the century, then risks still remain for staple crops in major “breadbasket” regions and water supplies upon which most of the world’s population depend. Recognizing that national commitments made in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fall far short of COP21’s overarching climate target — to limit the rise, since preindustrial times, in the Earth’s mean surface temperature to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 — a new report advances a set of emissions scenarios that are consistent with achieving that goal.

  • Coal's decline driven by technology, market forces – not policy

    Many people – and many politicians — attribute coal’s decline to the clean-air policies of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through rules that the agency applied to electricity generation plants. A new study points out that largely because of court challenges, EPA clean-air regulations did not change until 2015 — twenty-five years after President G. H. W. Bush signed amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1980. For eighteen years following new EPA rules, coal continued to thrive — until 2008, when its production peaked and then declined 23 percent in the next seven years. The study found that the decline is correlated with the shale revolution that began to be fully felt in 2007-2008, after which cheap natural gas outcompeted coal markedly.

  • Coal's decline driven by technology, market forces – not policy

    Many people – and many politicians — attribute coal’s decline to the clean-air policies of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through rules that the agency applied to electricity generation plants. A new study points out that largely because of court challenges, EPA clean-air regulations did not change until 2015 — twenty-five years after President G. H. W. Bush signed amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1980. For eighteen years following new EPA rules, coal continued to thrive — until 2008, when its production peaked and then declined 23 percent in the next seven years. The study found that the decline is correlated with the shale revolution that began to be fully felt in 2007-2008, after which cheap natural gas outcompeted coal markedly.

  • S&T, NASA show online tool to help prepare for solar storms

    When solar storms release solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME) toward Earth, we can feel the effects here on the ground. They can interfere with Earth’s magnetic field and produce geo-magnetically induced currents. These currents impact our electric grid and can cause permanent damage to critical grid components, including high-voltage transformers. While we cannot stop solar storms and CMEs, we can mitigate their effect on the electric grid.

  • New $4 million facility at UW to investigate natural disasters worldwide

    A new Post-Disaster, Rapid Response Research Facility at the University of Washington will provide necessary instrumentation and tools to collect and assess critical post-disaster data, with the goal of reducing physical damage and socio-economic losses from future events. The NSF’s $40 million NHERI investment, announced in September 2015, funds a network of shared research centers and resources at various universities across the nation. The goal is to reduce the vulnerability of buildings, tunnels, waterways, communication networks, energy systems, and social groups in order to increase the disaster resilience of communities across the United States.