• Carbon emissionsCarbon Law, modeled after Moore’s Law, a pathway to halve emissions every decade

    Moore’s Law states that computer processors double in power about every two years. While it is neither a natural nor legal law, this simple rule of thumb or heuristic has been described as a golden rule which has held for fifty years and still drives disruptive innovation. Research say that a carbon roadmap, driven by a simple rule of thumb, or Carbon Law, of halving emissions every decade, could catalyze disruptive innovation. Following a Carbon Law, which is based on published energy scenarios, would give the world a 75 percent chance of keeping Earth below 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures, the target agreed by nations in Paris in 2015.

  • Emerging threatsHave humans transformed geological processes to create a new epoch -- the Anthropocene?

    The Anthropocene — the concept that humans have so transformed geological processes at the Earth’s surface that we are living in a new epoch — was formulated by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen in 2000. It has since spread around not just the world of science, but also across the humanities and through the media into public consciousness. An international group of scientists – the Anthropocene Working Group – is now analyzing the Anthropocene as a potential new addition to the Geological Time Scale, which would be a major step in its global scientific recognition. These scientists argue that “irreversible” changes to the Earth provide striking evidence of new epoch.

  • Emerging threatsClimate breaks multiple records in 2016, with global impacts

    The year 2016 made history, with a record global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise, and ocean heat, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that the increased power of computing tools and the availability of long term climate data have made it possible today, through attribution studies, to demonstrate clearly the existence of links between man-made climate change and many cases of high impact extreme events in particular heatwaves.

  • EarthquakesPast quakes at Calif. fault portend abrupt sinking of Seal Beach wetlands

    A new study shows evidence of abrupt sinking of the wetlands near Seal Beach caused by ancient earthquakes that shook the area at least three times in the past 2,000 years — and it could happen again, the researchers say. The paleoseismology study reveals that the wetlands at the National Wildlife Refuge Seal Beach, a nearly 500-acre area located within the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach and next to the communities of Seal Beach and Huntington Harbor, are susceptible to rapid lowering in elevation during large — over 7.0 magnitude earthquakes.

  • Disaster responseEmergency retweets can help in times of disaster

    Twitter and other social media tools are commonly used around the world. Now, many government and not-for-profit organizations have a presence on at least one of these systems and use them in various ways to share information about their activities and engage with people. For organizations that work in disaster zones and emergency situations, these tools can also be used to coordinate activities, help raise funds and disseminate timely news that can help in relief efforts.

  • DoomsdayAs the world ends, people remain calm and prosocial: Video-game study

    As the world ends, will you lock arms and sing “Kumbayah” or embark on a path of law-breaking, anti-social behavior? A new study, based upon the virtual actions of more than 80,000 players of the role-playing video game ArcheAge, suggests you will be singing. “We realize that, because this is a video game, the true consequences of the world ending are purely virtual. That being said, our dataset represents about as close as we can get to an actual end-of-the-world scenario,” says one researcher.

  • Coastal vulnerabilityExtreme sea levels could endanger European coastal communities

    Massive coastal flooding in northern Europe that now occurs once every century could happen every year if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, according to a new study. New projections considering changes in sea level rise, tides, waves and storm surge over the twenty-first century find global warming could cause extreme sea levels to increase significantly along Europe’s coasts by 2100. Extreme sea levels are the maximum levels of the sea that occur during a major storm and produce massive flooding.

  • Coastal resilienceLouisiana wetlands threatened by with sea-level rise four times the global average

    Without major efforts to rebuild Louisiana’s wetlands, particularly in the westernmost part of the state, there is little chance that the coast will be able to withstand the accelerating rate of sea-level rise, a new study concludes. The study shows that the rate of sea-level rise in the region over the past six to ten years amounts to half an inch per year on average.

  • Disaster predictionPredicting floods, hurricanes with social media

    Social media can warn us about hurricanes, storms, and floods before they happen – according to new research. Key words and photos on social media can signal developing risks – like water levels rising before a flood. Researchers, who analyzed posts on Flickr between 2004 and 2014, found certain words – such as river, water, and landscape - take on distinct meaning of forecast and warning during time periods leading to extreme weather events. Words can be used as ‘social sensors’, to create accurate early warning system for extreme weather, alongside physical sensors.

  • Disaster responseMore effective response to unpredictable disasters

    When the unthinkable happens and the unpredictable takes over, crises cannot be handled by the book. Traditional emergency work emphasizes fixed procedures and strong leadership, as is typically exemplified by the police force. This approach works in most emergency situations – but not when the unthinkable happens. Evaluations of past events show that the scale of many disasters could have been reduced if local decision-making power had been greater — that is, if the part of the team that was closest to the situation had been involved in a different way.

  • Disaster responseHow disaster relief efforts could be improved with game theory

    By Anna Nagurney

    The number of disasters has doubled globally since the 1980s, with the damage and losses estimated at an average $100 billion a year since the new millennium, and the number of people affected also growing. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the costliest natural disaster in the U.S., with estimates between $100 billion and $125 billion. The death toll of Katrina is still being debated, but we know that at least 2,000 were killed, and thousands were left homeless. Worldwide, the toll is staggering. The challenges to disaster relief organizations, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), are immense, and the competition among them is intense. My team and I have been looking at a novel way to improve how we respond to natural disasters. One solution might be game theory.

  • EarthquakesOffshore fault system could produce onshore magnitude 7.3 quake in southern California

    A fault system that runs from San Diego to Los Angeles is capable of producing up to magnitude 7.3 earthquakes if the offshore segments rupture and a 7.4 if the southern onshore segment also ruptures, according to a new analysis. “This system is mostly offshore but never more than four miles from the San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles County coast,” says the lead author. “Even if you have a high 5- or low 6-magnitude earthquake, it can still have a major impact on those regions which are some of the most densely populated in California.”

  • Planetary securityCould fast radio bursts be evidence of alien probes?

    The search for extraterrestrial intelligence has looked for many different signs of alien life, from radio broadcasts to laser flashes, without success. However, newly published research suggests that mysterious phenomena called fast radio bursts could be evidence of advanced alien technology. Specifically, these bursts might be leakage from planet-sized transmitters powering interstellar probes in distant galaxies.

  • AvalanchesNew avalanche, snow burial practice guidelines

    With the growing popularity of backcountry snow activities, it is increasingly important to understand the best techniques for avalanche rescue. Each year, there are over 150 avalanche fatalities in the US and Europe, with most deaths occurring among recreational groups that include skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, and mountaineers. The Wilderness Medical Society has issued new practice guidelines to help medical professionals, as well as the public, understand the latest techniques and recommendations for avalanche risk management and rescue protocols.

  • Emerging threatsKnowledge gaps on protecting cultural sites from climate change

    Researchers searched worldwide for peer-reviewed studies of cultural resources – archaeological sites, natural landscapes, and historic buildings — at risk due to climate change. About 60 percent of the studies referenced sites in Europe, most commonly in the United Kingdom. Another 17 percent of the research covered sites in North America, a majority of them in the United States. About 11 percent dealt with resources in Australia and the Pacific Islands and 10 percent mentioned Asia, mostly China. All but six of the 124 studies were published in English-language journals, with South America and Africa rarely represented in the research. “We see a significant gap in knowledge of how to adapt to climate change and preserve cultural resources for future generations,” says one researcher.