• Climate challengesEarth to Reach Temperature Tipping Point in Next 20 to 30 Years

    Earth’s ability to absorb nearly a third of human-caused carbon emissions through plants could be halved within the next two decades at the current rate of warming, according to a new study. Researchers have identified a critical temperature tipping point beyond which plants’ ability to capture and store atmospheric carbon—a cumulative effect referred to as the “land carbon sink”—decreases as temperatures continue to rise.

  • Climate challengesA Climate in Crisis Calls for Investment in Direct Air Capture

    There is a growing consensus among scientists as well as national and local governments representing hundreds of millions of people, that humanity faces a climate crisis that demands a crisis response. New research explores one possible mode of response: a massively funded program to deploy direct air capture (DAC) systems that remove CO2 directly from the ambient air and sequester it safely underground.

  • Power plantsIt's Getting Hot in Here: Warming World Will Fry Power Plant Production

    There’s no doubt the Earth’s temperatures are going up. The power plants that keep air conditioners pushing out cold air could soon be in a vicious cycle in a warming world–not able to keep up with growing demands on hotter days and driving up greenhouse gas emissions to dangerous levels.

  • Climate challenges2020 Was on Par with Warmest Year Ever Recorded, Ends Warmest Decade on Record

    Globally, 2020 was tied with the previous warmest year 2016, making it the sixth in a series of exceptionally warm years starting in 2015, and 2011-2020 the warmest decade recorded.

  • FirefightersGroundbreaking Firefighter Tracking Technology

    In the U.S. alone, approximately 80 to 100 firefighters are lost in the line of duty each year according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. More than 50,000 are injured according to the National Fire Protection Association.  Countless others risk their lives every day to serve and protect our communities. Last month, S&T and NASA JPL successfully tested the Precision Outdoor and Indoor Navigation and Training for Emergency Responders (POINTER) technology.

  • DisastersLeaning into Uncertainty: A Life of Anticipating the Worst-Case Scenario

    By Debra Winter

    One of the most difficult things about the COVID era is not knowing anything for certain. At first, no one knew the great reach of the virus, how exactly it spread, or how many would die. Twelve months in, we are still fuzzy on the details. In a world of loud talkers that is starved of true leadership, where do we as individuals turn for information and reliable answers? The director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Jeffrey Schlegelmilch, agrees that managing the unknown is indeed uncomfortable. But his advice differs from most experts. Rather than leading us down one path with extremist conviction, he suggests instead that we lean into our uncertainty.

  • Hazardous weatherUrban Land, Aerosols Amplify Hazardous Weather, Steer Storms toward Cities

    Urban landscapes and human-made aerosols—particles suspended in the atmosphere—have the potential to not only make gusts stronger and hail larger; they can also start storms sooner and even pull them toward cities, according to new research.

  • Coastal challengesMitigating Coastal Flooding, Erosion and Storm Damage

    Sea level rise and wave-induced flooding during increasingly frequent storm events threaten sustainability of the more than 1,700 Department of Defense (DoD) managed military installations in coastal areas worldwide. Current DoD coastal protection measures, including bulkhead and coastal seawalls, may reflect wave energy, exacerbate flooding, create downstream sediment loss, and restrict water exchange. DARPA’s Reefense program aims to develop novel hybrid biological and engineered reef-mimicking structures to mitigate wave and storm damage and reduce the ecological impact of current coastal protection measures.

     

  • WildfiresWildfire Risk Rising as Scientists Determine Which Conditions Beget Blazes

    As wildfires burn more often across the Western United States, researchers are working to understand how extensively blazes burn. Their investigation not only reveals that the risk of wildfire is rising, but also spells out the role moisture plays in estimating fire risk.

  • WildfiresFire Science Critical for Combating Wildfires Out West

    In 2020, wildfire activity in California and the Pacific Northwest has been extreme, with more than 45,700 wildfires raging across 8.3 million acres (as of October 15, 2020). This puts the 2020 Fire Year on pace for being the most extensive of the last decade, even outpacing the fires of 2017 and 2018. Science can help in preparing for and coping with wildfires, thus helping save lives, property and money.

  • ResilienceHow Disasters Can Spur Resilience in the Gulf

    Communities in the Gulf of Mexico are all too familiar with the whims of nature and power of the sea. This year’s hurricane season brought power outages, heavy rain, downed trees, property damage, and death and injury. As disasters cascade and compound, progress toward resiliency is made by people working together and using science to decide next steps. 

  • ResilienceMaking Our Infrastructure Safer

    By David L. Chandler

    Saurabh Amin, a systems engineer at MIT, focuses on making transportation, electricity, and water infrastructure more resilient against disruptions. “There are a lot of commonalities among these networks — they are built and operated by human actors, but their functionality is governed by physical laws. So, that is what drives me forward,” Amin says.

  • Climate challenge2020 on Track to Be One of Three Warmest Years on Record

    Climate change continued its relentless march in 2020, which is on track to be one of the three warmest years on record. 2011-2020 will be the warmest decade on record, with the warmest six years all being since 2015, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

  • HurricanesClimate Change Causes Landfalling Hurricanes to Stay Stronger for Longer

    Climate change is causing hurricanes that make landfall to take more time to weaken. The researchers showed that hurricanes that develop over warmer oceans carry more moisture and therefore stay stronger for longer after hitting land. This means that in the future, as the world continues to warm, hurricanes are more likely to reach communities farther inland and be more destructive.

  • EarthquakesOil Feld Operations Likely Triggered Earthquakes in California Near San Andreas Fault

    By Thomas H. Goebel

    The way companies drill for oil and gas and dispose of wastewater can trigger earthquakes, at times in unexpected places. California was thought to be an exception, a place where oil field operations and tectonic faults apparently coexisted without much problem. Now, new research shows that the state’s natural earthquake activity may be hiding industry-induced quakes.