• Climate change, sea level rise to cause more devastating tsunamis worldwide

    As sea levels rise due to climate change, so do the global hazards and potential devastating damages from tsunamis, according to a new study. Even minor sea-level rise, by as much as a foot, poses greater risks of tsunamis for coastal communities worldwide.

  • Wildfires are inevitable – increasing home losses, fatalities and costs are not

    Wildfire has been an integral part of California ecosystems for centuries. Now, however, nearly a third of homes in California are in wildland urban interface areas where houses intermingling with wildlands and fire is a natural phenomenon. Just as Californians must live with earthquake risk, they must live with wildfires. Focusing on traditional approaches like fighting fires and fuels management alone can’t solve the wildfire problem. Instead, California must become better prepared for inevitable fires and change how it develops future communities.

  • Climate change and wildfires – how do we know if there is a link?

    Once again, the summer of 2018 in the Northern Hemisphere has brought us an epidemic of major wildfires. These burn forests, houses and other structures, displace thousands of people and animals, and cause major disruptions in people’s lives. To many people, it has become very clear that human-induced climate change plays a major role by greatly increasing the risk of wildfire. There is huge complexity and variability from one fire to the next, and hence the attribution can become complex. The way to think about this is from the standpoint of basic science – in this case, physics: Global warming does not cause wildfires, but it exacerbates the conditions which make wildfires more likely, thus raising the risk of wildfire.

  • What are coastal nuclear power plants doing to address climate threats?

    Flooding can be catastrophic to a nuclear power plant because it can knock out its electrical systems, disabling its cooling mechanisms and leading to overheating and possible meltdown and a dangerous release of radioactivity. At least 100 U.S., European and Asian nuclear power stations built just a few meters above sea level could be threatened by serious flooding caused by accelerating sea-level rise and more frequent storm surges. More than 20 flooding incidents have been recorded at U.S. nuclear plants since the early 1980s. A number of scientific papers published in 2018 suggest that climate change will impact coastal nuclear plants earlier and harder than the industry, governments, or regulatory bodies have expected, and that the safety standards set by national nuclear regulators and the IAEA are out of date and take insufficient account of the effects of climate change on nuclear power.

  • Disaster relief: Can AI improve humanitarian assistance?

    The unique topic of artificial intelligence (AI) for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) was in the spotlight last week, as leading minds from academia, industry and the federal government met to discuss how modern technology can help victims of disasters around the globe.

  • Flood thy neighbor: Who stays dry and who decides?

    When rivers flood now in the United States, the first towns to get hit are the unprotected ones right by the river. The last to go, if they flood at all, are the privileged few behind strong levees. While levees mostly are associated with large, low-lying cities such as New Orleans, a majority of the nation’s Corps-managed levees protect much smaller communities, rural farm towns and suburbs such as Valley Park. Missouri. Valley Park’s levee saga captures what’s wrong with America’s approach to controlling rivers.

  • Blocking sunlight to cool Earth won't reduce crop damage from global warming

    Injecting particles into the atmosphere to cool the planet and counter the warming effects of climate change would do nothing to offset the crop damage from rising global temperatures, according to a new analysis. “Shading the planet keeps things cooler, which helps crops grow better. But plants also need sunlight to grow, so blocking sunlight can affect growth. For agriculture, the unintended impacts of solar geoengineering are equal in magnitude to the benefits,” said the study’s lead author.

  • New laser solution could slow spread of forest fires

    Aggressive wildfires are rampaging through many countries this summer, bringing death and destruction in their wake. In California alone, firefighters are scrambling to control 18 separate blazes. Texas, Oregon, Florida, New Jersey, as well as Canada, Greece, India, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. are among other areas battling massive forest fires, a phenomenon experts expect will only increase due to climate change. Israeli company Fighting Treetop Fire is developing a system of removing combustible foliage with algorithm-controlled laser beams controlled via helicopter or truck.

  • Planet at risk of heading towards “Hothouse Earth” state

    An international team of scientists has published a study showing that keeping global warming to within 1.5-2°C may be more difficult than previously assessed, and that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions. A “Hothouse Earth” climate will in the long term stabilize at a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today, the paper says.

  • Death toll from Hurricane Maria larger than previously thought

    The number of people who died as a result of Hurricane Maria — which hit Puerto Rico on 20 September 2017 — may be as high as 1,139, surpassing the official death count of 64, according to researchers. The researchers used official government records to calculate the number, which took into account not just those who died from the immediate effects of the hurricane, but also from secondary effects in the following months.

  • Hurricane Maria’s death toll: 2975, not 64

    Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017 and, soon after, the government of Puerto Rico determined that 64 people had died. Later, unofficial investigations and independent scientific studies suggested that the death toll was likely much higher. A comprehensive new study estimated there were 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico stemming from the hurricane from September 2017 through February 2018. The study also offers next steps to protect the most vulnerable communities.

  • Fecal bacteria contaminated surface water after Hurricane Harvey

    Hurricane Harvey was an unprecedented rain event that delivered five consistent days of flooding and storms to Texas last August. Now, researchers have substantiated that the storm caused high levels of fecal contamination to be introduced into waterways draining into the Gulf of Mexico and impairing surface water quality.

  • Solar flares disrupted radio communications during 2017 hurricane relief effort

    An unlucky coincidence of space and Earth weather in early September 2017 caused radio blackouts for hours during critical hurricane emergency response efforts, according to a new study. The new research, which details how the events on the Sun and Earth unfolded side-by-side, could aid in the development of space weather forecasting and response.

  • Microsatellites help in flood detection

    Hurricanes bring heavy rainfall and strong winds to coastal communities, a potent combination that can lead to devastating damage. In 2016 NASA launched a set of eight satellites called the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, or CYGNSS, mission to gather more data on the winds in these tropical cyclones as part of an effort to increase data coverage of hurricanes and aid forecasts. As the first year of data is being evaluated, a new and unexpected capability has emerged: the ability to see through clouds and rain to flooded landscapes.

  • How climate change will alter our food

    The world population is expected to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050. With 3.4 billion more mouths to feed, and the growing desire of the middle class for meat and dairy in developing countries, global demand for food could increase by between 59 and 98 percent. This means that agriculture around the world needs to step up production and increase yields. But scientists say that the impacts of climate change—higher temperatures, extreme weather, drought, increasing levels of carbon dioxide, and sea level rise—threaten to decrease the quantity and jeopardize the quality of our food supplies.