• Climate crisisNew Approach Needed to Address Anthropocene Risk

    Scientists are calling for a new approach to understanding environmental risks in the Anthropocene, the current geological age in which humans are a dominant force of change on the planet.

  • PerspectiveClimate Change Will Strain Federal Finances

    The federal government is ill-prepared to shoulder what could be a trillion-dollar fiscal crisis associated with extreme weather, floods, wildfires and other climate disasters through 2100, federal investigators have found. In the latest of a series of reports, the Government Accountability Office says that costs of disaster assistance to taxpayers since 2005 have swelled to nearly $500 billion—and they keep getting higher.

  • Perspective: Earthquake warningsQ&A: How Ridgecrest Earthquakes Helped Scientists with ShakeAlert

    U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Sarah Minson was in the thick of efforts to develop an earthquake warning system in California when a series of major temblors struck the sparsely populated community of Ridgecrest in the Mojave Desert this summer. The largest, a magnitude 7.1 quake on July 5, was the biggest to hit the state in decades. The Mercury News asked her about her work — and how this month’s big quakes is helping scientists refine California’s fledgling earthquake alert system.

  • Perspective: Mississippi River: Friend or foe?What If a Hurricane Pushed a Surge up an Already High Mississippi River? No One Is Certain.

    The Mississippi River has always been the lifeblood of New Orleans. It’s the reason for the city’s existence, and an awe-inspiring if sometimes forgotten feature of its landscape. One thing it hasn’t been, at least in recent memory, is a threat. That is, until this month, when wary residents caught a glimpse of the old Mississippi, a face of the river that’s been hidden since it was almost completely caged by man nearly a century ago. The compliant river had become a beast scaling its walls.

  • EarthquakesAmericans Focus on Responding to Earthquake Damage, Not Preventing It, Because They’re Unaware of Their Risk

    By Matt Motta

    On July 4 and 5, two major earthquakes, followed by several thousand smaller ones, struck Southern California. Their size and the damage they caused captured attention around the country. What tends to get much less notice from the public is what can be done to prevent catastrophic damage from big quakes.

  • Heat waveDangerous Heat Wave Is Building in the Central and Eastern U.S.

    The National Weather Service said Thursday that an upper-level ridge is building over the southeastern U.S., setting the stage for what will be a miserably hot and humid weekend for millions of Americans. Heat advisories and warnings affect 154 million Americans. In many major population centers, the heat index  is forecast to peak around 110 degrees between Friday and Sunday.

  • EarthquakeNew Sensor Improves Earthquake Response Efforts

    The recent massive southern California earthquakes shut down Ridgecrest Regional Hospital throughout the 4 July holiday weekend while the tiny town of Ridgecrest assessed the damages. Researchers developed a new optical sensor which could speed up the time it takes to evaluate whether critical buildings like these are safe to occupy shortly after a major earthquake.

  • DroughtsWarming Climate Intensifies Summer Drought in Parts of U.S.

    Climate change is amplifying the intensity and likelihood of heatwaves during severe droughts in the southern plains and southwest United States, according to a new study. The findings raise the idea of a self-reinforcing climate loop: as a region’s climate becomes more arid due to climate change, droughts become hotter, further reducing soil moisture.

  • Managed coastal retreatRaising Tough Questions about Retreat from Rising Seas

    By Sarah Fecht

    As the global thermostat climbs and polar ice melts, the oceans are swelling and swallowing up coastlines. By some calculations, rising seas could displace 13 million Americans by 2100. While some communities are attempting to adapt in place with elevated buildings and seawalls to divert water, relocation appears inevitable for many.

  • GeoengineeringPreventing West Antarctic Ice Collapse by Snowing Ocean Water onto It

    The ice sheet covering West Antarctica is at risk of sliding off into the ocean. The slow, yet inexorable loss of West Antarctic ice is likely to continue even after climate warming is stabilized. A collapse will raise sea levels worldwide by more than three meters. Researchers are now scrutinizing a daring way of stabilizing the ice sheet: Generating trillions of tons of additional snowfall by pumping ocean water onto the glaciers and distributing it with snow canons.

  • FloodsAs Flood Risks Increase across the U.S., It’s Time to Recognize the Limits of Levees

    By Amahia Mallea

    Many U.S. cities rely on levees for protection from floods. There are more than 100,000 miles of levees nationwide, in all 50 states and one of every five counties. Most of them seriously need repair: Levees received a D on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2018 national infrastructure report card. Climate models show that flood risks are increasing, and across the central U.S., rivers are becoming increasingly hard to control. Faith in the idea of engineered flood control is starting to erode.

  • FloodsPredicting flood duration

    The duration of floods can be determined by river flow, precipitation and atmospheric blocking. Researchers now offer a novel physically based Bayesian network model for inference and prediction of flood duration. The model also accurately examines the timescales of flooding.

  • PerspectiveCalifornia’s Wildfires Are 500 Percent Larger Due to Climate Change

    Californians may feel like they’re enduring an epidemic of fire. The past decade has seen half of the state’s 10 largest wildfires and seven of its 10 most destructive fires, including last year’s Camp Fire, the state’s deadliest wildfire ever. A new study finds that the state’s fire outbreak is real—and that it’s being driven by climate change. Since 1972, California’s annual burned area has increased more than fivefold, a trend clearly attributable to the warming climate. “Each degree of warming causes way more fire than the previous degree of warming did. And that’s a really big deal,” Park Williams, a climate scientist at Columbia University and an author of the paper, said. Among the many ways climate change might be messing with the environment, extra heat is among the simplest and most obvious. “Heat is the most clear result of human-caused climate change,” Williams said.

  • WildfiresClimate Change Is Driving Many California Wildfires

    Against a backdrop of long-term rises in temperature in recent decades, California has seen ever higher spikes in seasonal wildfires, and, in the last two years, a string of disastrous, record-setting blazes. This has led scientists, politicians and media to ponder: what role might warming climate be playing here?

  • HurricanesCan the “Masters of the Flood” Help Texas Protect Its Coast from Hurricanes?

    By Kiah Collier

    After centuries of fighting back water in a low-lying nation, the Dutch have become the world leaders in flood control. And their expertise is helping Texas design what would become the nation’s most ambitious — and expensive — coastal barrier.