• FloodsWhy Flooding Is Still So Difficult to Predict and Prepare for

    By Hannah Cloke

    Given the huge costs to people and property when it floods, it’s a reasonable question to ask why, in one of the richest countries in the world, more cannot be done to prevent flooding. And if not prevent it, to know more precisely when and where it will hit.

  • FloodsUrban Development Reduces Flash Flooding in Arid West

    Urban development in the eastern United States results in an increase in flash flooding in nearby streams, but in the arid West, urbanization has just the opposite effect. Researchers suggest there may be lessons to be learned from the sharp contrast.

  • Coastal perilRising Seas Threaten Low-Lying Coastal Cities, 10 percent of World Population

    A new report from the Coalition for Urban Transitions finds that, because sea level rise exacerbates flooding and storm surge, it is a critical threat to urban coastal areas. More than 10 percent of the world’s population now resides in urban centers or quasi-urban clusters situated at less than 10 meters above sea level.

  • WildfiresData Science Could Help Californians Battle Future Wildfires

    By David Wild

    A major wildfire spread through Colorado, and I spent long hours locating shelters, identifying evacuation routes and piecing together satellite imagery. As the Fourmile Canyon Fire devastated areas to the west of Boulder, ultimately destroying 169 homes and causing $217 million in damage, my biggest concerns were ensuring that people could safely evacuate and first responders had the best chance of keeping the fire at bay. The oddest thing about that 7 September 2010? I spent it sitting comfortably in my home in Bloomington, Indiana, a thousand miles away from the action.

  • EarthquakesThe Big One: Lessons from Nepal 2015 Earthquake

    For decades, scientists have debated the structure of the Main Himalayan Thrust — the fault responsible for a 2015 earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people, injured 22,000, and destroyed 600,000 homes in Gorkha, Nepal. This fault is a direct result of ongoing collision between two tectonic plates — the Indian and Eurasian – that gives rise to the Himalayas. The authors of a new study of that tremor say that those residing anywhere near major fault lines should always have an emergency plan and supplies on hand because earthquakes are inevitable.

  • PerspectiveNevada Leaders Trying to Stay Ahead of Wildfire Destruction

    In 2016, a little over 265,000 acres in Nevada burned from wildfires. In 2017, around 1.3 million acres burned, and in 2018 a little over a million acres burned, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Nevada’s political leadership is continuing to develop measures to combat the increasing threats posed by wildfires across American West and in the Silver State.

  • Nuclear powerOperations in French Nuclear Power Plant Suspended after Monday Tremor

    Following a strong earthquake Monday in the Drôme and Ardèche regions in south-east France, EDF (Électricité de France) has ordered the suspension of power production at the Cruas-Meysse power station. The magnitude 5.4 earthquake shook the area at 11:52 a.m. Monday. Of France’s nineteen active nuclear power plants, five plants are located in seismically active zones.

  • HurricanesHurricanes in U.S. Have Become Bigger, Stronger, More Destructive

    A new study shows that hurricanes have become more destructive since 1900, and the worst of them are more than three times as frequent now than 100 years ago. A new way of calculating the destruction, compensating for the societal change in wealth, unequivocally shows a climatic increase in the frequency of the most destructive hurricanes that routinely raise havoc on the North American south- and east coast.

  • Perspective: DamsDams Across the U.S. Pose Potential Risk

    A more than two-year investigation by the Associated Press has found scores of dams around the United States in various states of disrepair, located in areas where a breach might place thousands in danger. These aging dams loom over homes, businesses, highways, or entire communities which could face life-threatening floods if the dams don’t hold. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates it would take more than $70 billion to repair and modernize the nation’s more than 90,000 dams. But unlike much other infrastructure, most U.S. dams are privately owned. That makes it difficult for regulators to require improvements from operators who are unable or unwilling to pay the steep costs.

  • Perspective: WildfiresA Year after Paradise Fire, California Lawmakers Hope to Keep History from Repeating

    Last year’s Camp Fire in California offered a scenario officials hadn’t planned for: thousands of residents fleeing at the same time from a town overcome by wildfire — and with few ways to get out. Many others perished in their cars, killed in the blaze that ultimately took 85 lives. Taryn Luna writes that a dire need for better evacuation routes was just one hard lesson of the Camp fire, a tragedy that prompted California’s elected officials to try to prevent history from repeating itself.

  • Perspective: Climate emergencyHow Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong

    Few thought it would arrive so quickly. Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios. Had a scientist in the early 1990s suggested that within 25 years a single heat wave would measurably raise sea levels, at an estimated two one-hundredths of an inch, bake the Arctic and produce Sahara-like temperatures in Paris and Berlin, the prediction would have been dismissed as alarmist. But many worst-case scenarios from that time are now realities.

  • Water securityPlants Demand More Water as Climate Warms, Leaving Less for People

    As climate changes, plants in North America, much of Eurasia, and parts of central and South America will consume more water than they do now, leading to less water for people, according to a new study. The research suggests a drier future despite anticipated increases in precipitation in populous parts of the United States and Europe that already face water stresses.

  • Climate crisisWorld Scientists Declare Climate Emergency

    A global coalition of scientists says “untold human suffering” is unavoidable without deep and lasting shifts in human activities that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and other factors related to climate change. In a paper published in BioScience, the authors, along with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from 153 countries, declare a climate emergency, present graphics showing trends as vital signs against which to measure progress, and provide a set of effective mitigating actions.

  • Perspective: Age of fireCalifornia Wildfires Signal the Arrival of a Planetary Fire Age

    Another autumn, more fires, more refugees and incinerated homes. For California, flames have become the colors of fall. Stephen Pyne writes that free-burning fire is the proximate provocation for the havoc, since its ember storms are engulfing landscapes. But in the hands of humans, combustion is also the deeper cause. Modern societies are burning lithic landscapes - once-living biomass now fossilized into coal, gas and oil - which is aggravating the burning of living landscapes. “Add up all the effects, direct and indirect – the areas burning, the areas needing to be burned, the off-site impacts with damaged watersheds and airsheds, the unraveling of biotas, the pervasive power of climate change, rising sea levels, a mass extinction, the disruption of human life and habitats – and you have a pyrogeography that looks eerily like an ice age for fire,” he writes. “You have a Pyrocene. The contours of such an epoch are already becoming visible through the smoke. If you doubt it, just ask California.”

  • EarthquakesFirst Statewide Testing of ShakeAlert in the United States

    Earlier this month, the U.S. Geological Survey and the State of California pressed the “go” button to allow the first-ever statewide public testing of the California Early Earthquake Warning System, which is powered by USGS’s earthquake early warning alerts, called ShakeAlerts. Alerts will be delivered by two independent methods, first over the federal Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system and second through the University of California Berkeley’s MyShake smartphone app.