• More resilient mass transit to improve Chicago emergency evacuation system

    A group of Argonne Lab researchers will be studying methods and creating tools for building more resilient mass transit systems to evacuate major cities under a $2.9 million grant announced today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration. The project will bring together researchers from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory with Chicago’s Pace Suburban Bus and Metra Commuter Rail Service to investigate ways to improve the detection, analysis, and response to emergencies, and how best to evacuate the city in a major emergency.

  • Coping with fracking-induced earthquakes

    A new study provides a case for increasing transparency and data collection to enable strategies for mitigating the effects of human-induced earthquakes caused by wastewater injection associated with oil and gas production in the United States. The study suggests that it is possible to reduce the hazard of induced seismicity through management of injection activities.

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  • What historic megadroughts in the western U.S. tell us about our climate future

    In an important paper published in Science Advances last week, scientists found that future droughts driven by human-induced global warming could surpass even the driest periods in North America over the past 1,000 years. The scientists combined knowledge of past droughts and future projections in order to compare the projected twenty-first-century states of aridity in the western United States to the megadrought periods over the last millennium. They stitched 1,000 years of paleoclimatic estimates of soil moisture variability derived from tree rings, together with an ensemble of state-of-the-art climate model simulations for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. When they compared the future projections of drought to the past they found that they were more severe and persistent than at any time during the last thousand years, even if they considered only the driest megadrought periods. The findings are sobering, but they are consistent with past experience, the researchers write: “When it comes to drought in the American West, particularly in the Southwest and Central Plains, expect more, worse, and longer events.”

  • NASA scientists issue New York City climate change 2015 report

    A new report by NASA and Columbia University researchers details significant future increases in temperature, precipitation, and sea level in the New York metropolitan area. The report aims to increase current and future resiliency of the communities, citywide systems, and infrastructure in the New York metropolitan region to a range of climate risks. “Climate change research isn’t just something for the future,” said the NASA scientist who chaired the panel which produced the report. “It’s affecting how key policy decisions are being made now.

  • Earthquake early-warning system to be deployed in Washington, Oregon

    California has been testing ShakeAlert, an earthquake early-warning system. Emergency officials and first responders in Washington and Oregon have been working with their counterparts in California to design a similar system specifically for the Pacific Northwest. The project, estimated to cost roughly $16 million a year, has received $6 million from a private foundation, $5 million from Congress for the coming year, and the White House’s new budget calls for another $5 million.

  • Warming pushes Western U.S. toward driest period in 1,000 years

    Study warns of unprecedented risk of drought in twenty-first century. Today, eleven of the past fourteen years have been drought years in much of the American West, including California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona and across the Southern Plains to Texas and Oklahoma. The current drought directly affects more than sixty-four million people in the Southwest and Southern Plains, and many more are indirectly affected because of the impacts on agricultural regions. A new study predicts that during the second half of the twenty-first century, the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions “driven primarily” by human-induced global warming.

  • Understanding the ingredients, conditions that cause spot fire ignition

    Hot metal fragments can be created from power lines, overheated brakes, railway tracks, or any other manner of metal-on-metal action in our industrialized society. The particles can reach more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, around the boiling point of most metals. Although these bits cool as they fall to the ground, they can ignite a flame that quickly spreads if they land on a prime fuel source like pine needles or dry grass. At least 28,000 fires occur each year in the United States due to hot metal hazards, according to a 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

  • Geoengineering not a substitute for reducing carbon emissions: Scientists

    There is no substitute for dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the negative consequences of climate change, a National Research Council committee concluded in a two-volume evaluation of proposed climate-intervention techniques. Strategies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are limited by cost and technological immaturity, but they could contribute to a broader portfolio of climate change responses with further research and development. Albedo-modification technologies, which aim to increase the ability of Earth or clouds to reflect incoming sunlight, pose considerable risks and should not be deployed at this time.

  • Geoengineering solutions to climate change not likely to be ready in time

    Governments have been slow to adopt measures to deal with climate change, so it is not surprising that scientists and engineers have been offering different technologies which would help slow down, or even reverse, global warming. These different technologies are called “geoengineering.” Some scientists have now concluded that even if a technological solution is found, it may not be developed and implemented quickly enough to affect the change required.

  • Midwest floods becoming more frequent

    The U.S. Midwest region and surrounding states have endured increasingly more frequent floods during the last half-century, according to results of a new study. The findings fit well with current thinking among scientists about how the hydrologic cycle is being affected by climate change. In general, as the atmosphere becomes warmer, it can hold more moisture. One consequence of higher water vapor concentrations is more frequent, intense precipitation.  The floods caused agricultural and other economic losses in the billions of dollars, displaced people, and led to loss of life.

  • Oklahoma rejects “rush to judgment” on the connection between fracking and earthquakes

    Between 1978 to mid-2009, Oklahoma recorded one or two 3.0 or greater magnitude earthquakes. Last year the state experienced 585 earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater. Studies conducted by seismologists, including those who work with the United States Geological Survey(USGS), have attributed the spike in earthquakes to the roughly 3,200 active disposal wells, in which wastewater produced during oil and gas drilling is stored deep underground, and independent scientific studies have established the causal relationship between fracking and earthquake. Arkansas, Ohio, and Colorado have imposed temporary restrictions on fracking, while Texas and Illinois are considering similar measures – but the Oklahoma Geological Survey says that “We consider a rush to judgment about earthquakes being triggered to be harmful to state, public and industry interests.”

  • Texas appoints seismologist to examine wave of Irving-area quakes

    Research over decades has shown the fracking process — injecting fluid underground to release oil — has been the cause of fault slips and fractures. The fluid can often lubricate existing faults and cause them to slip. The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) has turned to David Craig Pearson to help study a series of quakes which hit the area of Irving within a span of a few days. A UT-Austin seismologist has already published a report which found that most earthquakes in Texas’s oil-rich Barnett Shale occurred within two miles of an injection well, essentially proving that some of the quakes are caused by fracking. Pearson’s appointment was not universally welcomed, as some see him as too close to industry. “I’m absolutely engaged with trying to figure out the cause of all earthquakes throughout Texas,” said Pearson. “I’m a scientists first, and a Railroad Commission employee second.”

  • Winter storms costly for Western economies: Aon Benfield

    Aon Benfield’s January 2015 catastrophe report reveals that a series of four powerful windstorms over a seven-day span during January in different regions of Western Europe caused economic and insured losses were expected to reach hundreds of millions of euros. The catastrophe study highlights that two separate winter weather events impacted northeastern parts of the United States during the month, caused total economic damage and losses, including business interruption, estimated at $500 million.

  • "uisance flooding” becoming problem for many U.S. coastal communities

    Scientists say that floods and surges will become a regular feature of life in many coastal U.S. cities, even when the weather is not particularly bad or stormy. Some communities along the East Coast are flooding even in calm, clear weather, indicating a trend of “nuisance floods” which will increasingly plague many parts of the U.S. coast in the future. Annapolis, Maryland, is but one example: From 1957 to 1963, flooding hit the city about 3.8 days a year. From 2007 to 2013, that average had increased to 39.3 days a year.

  • Coastal communities can lower flood insurance rates by addressing sea-level rise

    City leaders and property developers in Tampa Bay are urging coastal communities to prepare today for sea-level rise and future floods in order to keep flood insurance rates low in the future. FEMA, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program(NFIP), is increasing flood insurance premiums across the country, partly to offset losses from recent disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Cities can reduce insurance premiums for nearly all residents who carry flood coverage by improving storm-water drainage, updating building codes to reflect projected rise in sea-levels, moving homes out of potentially hazardous areas, and effectively informing residents about storm danger and evacuation routes.