• America’s most vulnerable communities

    Floods are the natural disaster that kill the most people. They are also the most common natural disaster. As the threat of flooding increases worldwide, scientists have gathered valuable information on flood hazard, exposure and vulnerability in counties throughout the United States. Urban development has declined in coastal flood zones in general across the United States, but development in flood zones in inland counties has grown.

  • Decision to defund the Earthquake Early Warning system criticized

    The Trump administration’s decision to defund the Earthquake Early Warning system is being criticized by experts. The “administration’s failure to fund the Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system threatens this vital program and potentially the lives of hundreds or even thousands of people on the West Coast from California to Alaska,” says one expert.

  • Dissipating earthquakes to provide earthquake protection

    Earthquakes and explosions damage thousands of structures worldwide each year, destroying countless lives in their wake, but a team of researchers at Penn State is examining a completely new way of safeguarding key infrastructure.“The structural design for earthquakes now requires the whole building to shake, which you can design for, but it’s quite an expensive proposition. Our idea is that if you can dissipate the earthquake before it gets to the structure, then you don’t have to design it to resist that ground motion,” says one researcher.

  • Deadly heatwaves on the rise

    Seventy-four percent of the world’s population will be exposed to deadly heatwaves by 2100 if carbon gas emissions continue to rise at current rates, according to a new study. Even if emissions are aggressively reduced, the percent of the world’s human population affected is expected to reach 48 percent. “We are running out of choices for the future,” says one expert. “For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible.”

  • Feeling the impact of fracking

    Fracking involves drilling holes deep into layers of subterranean shale and then pumping in millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals to release oil and natural gas trapped in the rock. In some shale formations, a large volume of toxic water comes up along with the hydrocarbons. The injection of the wastewater from the process back into the earth can trigger seismic activity, scientists say. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there were approximately 26,000 hydraulically fractured wells for natural gas in the United States in 2000. By 2015, the number had grown to 300,000. Researchers are studying the link between fracking and earthquakes

  • Inflatable plug for subway tunnels demonstrated

    A giant, inflatable structure designed to prevent flooding in subways was rolled out, literally, for media observers inside a full-scale, mock subway tunnel. In a demonstration, the plug, in under five minutes, nearly filled with pressurized air, created a flexible but extremely strong barrier. Full inflation is complete in less than twelve minutes.

  • More capable hurricane decision support platform helps emergency managers

    Hurricane Matthew was one of the first operational uses of DHS’s S&T HURREVAC-eXtended (HV-X) platform. The HV-X platform integrates forecast and planning data to provide emergency managers decision support tools for use in advance of and during tropical weather. Development began in 2013 and since then, S&T identified the need for a comprehensive hurricane decision platform that encompassed all phases of planning and evacuations. Collaborating with FEMA, S&T worked to streamline the currently available HURREVAC storm tracking and decision platform. The result of this collaboration is HV-X.

  • Protective value of mangroves for coastlines

    The threat to coastal regions posed by climate change, overdevelopment and other human caused stressors is well-established. Among the most prized and valuable land throughout the world, shorelines everywhere are imperiled by sea level rise, beach erosion and flooding. But a recently published NASA-funded research study has discovered a new, natural phenomenon that could offer an economic and ecological solution to coastal wetland protection—the spread of mangrove trees.

  • Capable governments more important than weather in preventing food scarcity-related violence

    While climate change is expected to lead to more violence related to food scarcity, new research suggests that the strength of a country’s government plays a vital role in preventing uprisings. While previous studies had examined the impact of climate change-induced weather patterns on violence and the increased danger of violence in weak or failing states, this is the first study to demonstrate that the combination of the two risk factors is even more dangerous than they would be separately.

  • Annual Taurids meteor shower may be hiding asteroids capable of wiping out entire continents

    Each year, from the end of October, the skies light up in what is called “nature’s fireworks” — the annual Taurids meteor shower which lights up the night sky with hundreds of fireballs. Scientists say that next time, this spectacular shower could be hiding doomsday asteroids. The scientists are warning that the cosmic fragments of ice and rock could be large enough to wipe out whole continents. Researchers predict that one of these fragments could hit Earth in 2022, 2025, 2032, or 2039. The biggest ever documented explosion occurred in Siberia on 20 June 1908. Known as the Tunguska event, the blast –with a force of 185 Hiroshima bombs — happened after Taurids meteor shower lighted up the Siberian sky.

  • 2016 hurricane season was a season of extremes

    The 2016 hurricane season was the longest hurricane season since 1951, making it the second-longest hurricane season on record. “Overall 2016 was notable for a series of extremes, some rarely and a few never before observed in the Atlantic basin, a potential harbinger of seasons to come in the face of ongoing global climate change,” one researcher says.

  • Seacoast roads under new threat from rising sea level

    Research has found that some roads, as far as two miles from the shore, are facing a new hazard that currently cannot be seen by drivers - rising groundwater caused by increasing ocean water levels. Without drastic improvements to these routes, at or below the pavement surface, motorists can expect segments of these roadways to deteriorate more quickly, require more maintenance and be closed for longer periods of time.

  • Mass trauma’s emotional toll can disrupt children’s sense of competence

    Traumatic events can have a profound effect on communities. Whether it is a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, the aftermath can have lasting effects, especially on children. How children respond in the wake of mass traumatic events is related to their perceptions of competence – or how they view their ability to control a situation. An overwhelming challenge, such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, can disrupt the development of that sense of well-being.

  • Frequency of coastal flooding will double globally in next decades

    The frequency and severity of coastal flooding throughout the world will increase rapidly and eventually double in frequency over the coming decades even with only moderate amounts of sea level rise, according to a new study. The new report shows that with just 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 inches) of sea level rise expected no later than 2050, coastal flooding will more than double. This dramatic increase in coastal flooding results from rising sea levels combined with storm-driven flooding, including the effects of waves and storm surge.

  • No funds for California's earthquake early-warning system in Trump's proposed budget

    The Trump administration’s proposed budget would eliminate federal funding for an earthquake early warning system being developed for the U.S. West Coast. Critics say that if the relevant clauses in the budget proposal become law, the long-planned seismic warning effort will be killed. Scientists say the withdrawal of federal funds would likely end the early-warning project, which aims to send smartphone tremor alert messages to West Coast residents.