• Droughts boost emissions as hydropower dries up

    Recent droughts caused increases in emissions of carbon dioxide and harmful air pollutants from power generation in several western states as fossil fuels came online to replace hampered hydroelectric power. A new study quantifies the impact.

  • Clean water for Africa

    Over 100 million people in Southern Africa have no access to clean water – many sources in rural areas are contaminated. In the SafeWaterAfrica project, African and European partners are working closely together to develop a decentralized system solution for water purification that can be operated and maintained autonomously by rural inhabitants. The system covers the clean water needs of several hundred people. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films IST are coordinating the project.

  • Using the National Climate Assessment to prepare for climate change

    Every four years, the National Climate Assessment evaluates the state of climate science and the impact of climate change in the U.S., now and into the future. The most recent NCA was released on Black Friday, and many cities, states, businesses, and local communities are ready to take action on climate change—and they’re wondering how to go about it.

  • Guyana at risk: Ethnic politics, oil, Venezuelan opportunism and why it should matter to Washington

    On Friday, 21 December, the government of Guyana, a strategically important but often overlooked country, imploded. A member of parliament from a small centrist partner in the governing coalition, supported an opposition no-confidence motion against his own party’s leadership. His move ended the government’s fragile 33-32 majority in the 65 seat National Assembly, setting the stage for new national elections within 90 days. The collapse of the government is the first shot in a destabilizing fight between Guyana’s ethnically Indian and African communities to control the spoils from a tidal wave of oil money as production from the offshore Liza field begins in 2020. To exacerbate the situation, the collapsing socialist regime of neighboring Venezuela continues to assert claims on part of that oil and a third of Guyana’s national territory.

  • Fault displacement “fingerprints” helps forecast magnitude of rupture

    Machine-learning research helps detect seismic signals accurately, allowing them to predict the Cascadia fault’s slow slippage, a type of failure observed to precede large earthquakes in other subduction zones.

  • Water resources in Western U.S. threatened by declining snow mass

    Since 1982, some parts of the West have had a 41 percent reduction in the yearly maximum mass of snow. In Western U.S., winter snows and subsequent snow melt contribute substantially to water resources. Snow melt contributes to groundwater and to surface water sources such as the Colorado River.

  • U.S. must start from scratch with a new nuclear waste strategy: Experts

    The U.S. government has worked for decades and spent tens of billions of dollars in search of a permanent resting place for the nation’s nuclear waste. Some 80,000 tons of highly radioactive spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants and millions of gallons of high-level nuclear waste from defense programs are stored in pools, dry casks and large tanks at more than seventy-five sites throughout the country. “No single group, institution or governmental organization is incentivized to find a solution,” says one expert.

  • What should we do with nuclear waste?

    The failure to develop a strategy for permanent storage and disposal of this fuel costs Americans billions of dollars a year and jeopardizes the future of nuclear power as a carbon-free source of energy, according to nuclear security expert Rodney C. Ewing. He recommends a new not for profit independent corporation that’s owned and supported by the utilities that operate nuclear power plants. The new organization would deal only with spent fuel from commercial reactors. Defense waste is an entirely different issue and should, at this time, remain the responsibility of the federal government.

  • Forecast-based financing for flash floods

    Forecasts are increasingly used to help reduce the impacts of floods in vulnerable communities. Not all floods are created equal, however. Flash floods are one of the most deadly types on a global scale. While early warning and early action systems for slow-onset floods (from rivers, for example) have improved significantly over the past fifty years, efforts to create a comparable system for flash floods has lagged behind. Forecast-based Financing (FbF) is a mechanism that releases early humanitarian funding based on in-depth forecast information and risk analysis.

  • Bolstering cyber-physical systems security

    Researchers have been awarded a grant of nearly $1 million to develop stronger safeguards for a wide array of complex systems that rely on computers – from public water supply systems and electric grids to chemical plants and self-driving vehicles. Increasingly, these cyber-physical systems, or CPS, are threatened by both physical and cyberattacks.

  • Friendly electromagnetic pulse improves survival for electronics

    An electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, emitted by a nuclear weapon exploded high above the United States could disable the electronic circuits of many devices vital to military defense and modern living. These could include complicated weapon systems as well as phones, laptops, credit cards and car computers. Also, in trouble might be home appliances, gas station pumps and bank accounts. Military equipment – and some civilian equipment, too — are designed to be immune to various levels of EMP, and the validity of these designs has been tested and improved by a “friendly” EMP generator installed in a recently renovated facility at Sandia National Laboratories.

  • Houses in hurricane strike zones are built back, but bigger

    A study of hurricane-hit areas of the United States has revealed a trend of larger homes being built to replace smaller ones in the years following a storm. The research shows that the sizes of new homes constructed after a hurricane often dwarf the sizes of those lost.

  • Inexpensive super-absorbent material offers solution for ocean oil spills

    A super-absorbent material developed by Penn State scientists could dramatically reduce the environmental impact of oil spills on oceans and allow recovered oil to be refined normally. The synthetic material, called i-Petrogel, absorbs more than 40 times its weight in crude oil, and effectively stops the oil from spreading after a spill, according to the researchers.

  • National Climate Assessment: Will U.S. water problems worsen?

    Upmanu Lall is director of the Columbia Water Center, chair of Earth and Environmental Engineering, and the lead author of the chapter on water resources in the latest U.S. National Climate Assessment. The report, issued two weeks ago, paints a troubling picture of the nation’s climate future, including projected droughts and extreme precipitation events that could worsen already existing problems with U.S. water supplies and infrastructure. Lall discusses the climate change-driven water challenges the U.S. faces, and ideas for how the nation can respond.

  • National security in the Fourth National Climate Assessment

    NCA4 vol. 2: “Climate change presents added risks to interconnected systems that are already exposed to a range of stressors such as aging and deteriorating infrastructure, land-use changes, and population growth. Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security. The full extent of climate change risks to interconnected systems, many of which span regional and national boundaries, is often greater than the sum of risks to individual sectors.”