• Early warningHigh-tech early warning system for hurricanes, tornados, and volcanic eruptions

    Earlier this year, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) was able to detect a gravity wave wafting through space from two colliding black holes billions of years ago. Now a group of researchers has built a much smaller ring laser interferometer to explore how it could detect geophysical effects such as earthquake-generated ground rotation and infrasound from convective storms and have demonstrated the technology’s potential as an early-warning system for natural disasters.

  • FloodsRecent history of U.S. floods shows regional trends, but no national pattern

    A new study examined the recent history of floods in the United States for the time period 1940-2013. The scientists found some regional trends, but no widespread national pattern of flood change. “An important prerequisite for effective flood risk management is to have an accurate assessment of how flooding is changing over time,” said one researcher. “Of course, changes in climate as well as land- and water-use management are each potential sources of change in flooding frequency or magnitude. But the relative influence of these factors across broad areas has been difficult to discern.”

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  • Coastal resilienceDetecting sea-level rise acceleration to improve U.K. coastal flood defenses

    Accelerations in the rate of sea-level rise and the time required to upgrade coastal flood defense infrastructure, such as the Thames Barrier, will be investigated as part of a new research initiative. The E-Rise project will aim to better understand the likely lead times for upgrading or replacing coastal defense infrastructure around the United Kingdom during the twenty-first century. It will also assess whether we could detect sea-level accelerations earlier to provide sufficient lead time for action.

  • Emerging threatsDamaging, costly extreme-weather winters are becoming more common in U.S.

    The simultaneous occurrence of warm winters in the West and cold winters in the East has significantly increased in recent decades. The damaging and costly phenomenon is very likely attributable to human-caused climate change, according to a new study. In the past three years alone the combination of heat-related drought in the West and Arctic conditions in the East have pinched the national economy, costing several billion dollars in insured losses, government aid and lost productivity. When such weather extremes occur at the same time, they threaten to stretch emergency responders’ disaster assistance abilities, strain resources such as interregional transportation, and burden taxpayer-funded disaster relief.

  • Rising seasLevel of northern Indian Ocean rose twice as fast as global average since 2003

    Many of the world’s most vulnerable populations to sea level rise live in areas along the northern Indian Ocean. New study shows that sea level rise in the northern Indian Ocean rose twice as fast as the global average since 2003. The reason for the rapid rise in sea level is that winds blowing over the ocean amplify sea level rise by increasing the amount of ocean heat brought into the region.

  • Public healthSmoke from 2015 Indonesian fires may have caused more than 100,000 deaths

    In the fall of 2015, hazardous levels of smoke from agricultural fires blanketed much of Equatorial Asia. Schools and businesses closed, planes were grounded, and tens of thousands sought medical treatment for respiratory illness. In a new study, researchers estimate that the 2015 smoke event caused upward of 100,000 deaths across Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

  • Emerging threatsAugust marks ongoing trend of record-breaking heat for the globe

    August marks a 16-months of record warmth for the globe, the longest such streak in 137 years. August 2016 was 1.66 degrees F above the twentieth-century average, breaking last years’ record for the warmest August on record by 0.09 degrees F. The June–August seasonal temperature was 1.6 degrees F above average, surpassing the heat record for this period set in 2015 by 0.07 degrees.

  • Emerging threatsIntegrating climate change into U.S. national security planning

    On Wednesday, President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum to address climate change and national security. The Department of Defense calls it a “threat multiplier.” The Department of Homeland Security considers it a major homeland security risk. As President Obama said in to the G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, “the growing threat of climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other challenge.”

  • Emerging threatsExtraordinary global heat continues

    Although the seasonal temperature cycle typically peaks in July, August 2016 wound up tied with July 2016 for the warmest month ever recorded. August 2016’s temperature was 0.16 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous warmest August (2014). The month also was 0.98 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean August temperature from 1951-1980, according to NASA. The increasing warming is driven by carbon dioxide concentrations – which have passed the symbolic milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere so far this year. Levels vary according to the season, but the underlying trend is upward. According to NOAA, the global monthly mean CO2 in July 2016 was 401.72 parts per million, up from 393.13 parts per million in July 2015.

  • Mass panicWhat causes mass panic in emergency situations?

    In emergency situations such as terrorist attacks, natural catastrophes, and fires, there is always a risk of mass panic leading to deadly crowd disasters. But what causes mass panic and where are the danger zones? Because these questions are difficult to study in the real world, researchers exposed experiment participants to an emergency in a three-dimensional virtual environment.

  • Emerging threatsClimate change poses “strategically significant risk” to U.S. national security

    Twenty-five national security and military leaders the other day released a statement declaring that: “the effects of climate change present a strategically-significant risk to U.S. national security,” and urging a “comprehensive policy” in response. The authors of the statement say that stresses resulting from climate change can increase the likelihood of intra or international conflict, state failure, mass migration, and the creation of additional ungoverned spaces, across a range of strategically-significant regions. They add that the impacts of climate change will place significant strains on international financial stability through contributing to supply line disruptions for major global industries in the manufacturing, energy, agriculture, and water sectors, disrupting the viability of the insurance industry, and generally increasing the political and financial risks of doing business in an increasingly unstable global environment.

  • Emerging threatsDo teachers’ climate change beliefs influence students? The answer is yes and no

    A study of middle school science classes explored whether teachers’ beliefs about climate change influenced students’ perceptions. “The answer is yes and no,” says the study’s author. “While students generally mirror a teacher’s belief that global warming is happening, when it comes to the cause of climate change, students reason for themselves and reach different conclusions than their teachers do.”

  • 9/11: 15 years onCommand under attack: What we’ve learned since 9/11 about managing crises

    By Herman B. "Dutch" Leonard, Arnold M. Howitt, Christine Cole, and Joseph W. Pfeifer

    Major disasters pose difficult challenges for responders on the ground and for higher-level officials trying to direct operations. Some events are novel because of their scale, while others involve challenges that no one may ever have envisioned. Communities need to bring their response agencies together regularly to plan and practice. This can develop and maintain knowledge and relationships that will enable them to work together effectively under the high stress of a future attack or disaster. Any community can do this, but many have not. Where training and practice have taken place, these tools have worked. They can be improved, but the most important priority is getting more communities to practice using them more regularly, before the next disaster. One important way this nation can honor the victims of 9/11 is by using these lessons to create the conditions for even better coordination in future events.

  • Grid securityMapping, quantifying the risks space-weather poses to electric-power grids

    The vulnerability of modern society to geoelectric hazards was demonstrated in March 1989, when an intense magnetic storm caused the collapse of the entire Canadian Hydro-Québec power-grid system, leaving six million people without electricity for nine hours. Scientists recently published research — including maps covering large areas of the United States — showing how the effects from intense geomagnetic storms are impacted by the Earth’s electrical conductivity. This is one of the first steps toward mapping nation-wide “induction hazards.”

  • Tsunami evacuationTsunami evacuation plans: A case study in Alameda, California

    Tsunami evacuation planning in coastal communities is typically based on maximum evacuation zones that reflect a combination of all potential extreme tsunamis. However, in the case of a smaller tsunami, this approach may result in more people being evacuated than need to be, and in doing so, may overly disrupt the local economy, and strain resources needed during emergency response. Evacuations are intended to keep a population safe and reduce losses, but what are the costs of lost work and wages, or accidental injuries that may occur during an evacuation?