• California exploring water purification, imports, and conservation as water situation worsens

    California officials are calling on residents better to manage their water usage as the state enters its fourth consecutive year of drought. An average American uses 100 gallons of water each day, and reservoirs in California only have enough water to supply this level of consumption until the end of 2015. In 2014 alone, the state’s agriculture sector lost $2.2 billion in revenue as a result of the drought. State officials acknowledge that a heavy rainfall alone will not be sufficient to restore the groundwater the state needs, so water districts are investing in water recycling plants and exploring strategies ranging from importing water to encouraging greater conservation.

  • Diminished Utah snowpack threatens Salt Lake City water supply

    Studies of water use from 2005 to 2010 show that Utahans used more water for public supply than any other state, despite Utah being ranked the second most arid within the country. Significantly lower levels of Utah snowpack this winter are the biggest climate challenge now facing Salt Lake City: The Northeastern part of the country is inundated with record amounts of snow, but Salt Lake City’s snowpack is 69 percent below the 30-year average.

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  • States must consider climate change threats to be eligible for FEMA disaster preparation funds

    Roughly every five years, states publish reports detailing their vulnerability to natural disasters, qualifying them for part of the nearly $1 billion aid money administered annually by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). States looking to receive grants from the federal Hazard Mitigation Assistance program to help them prepare for natural disasters such as floods, storms, and wildfires will have,beginning next year, to consider the threats posed by climate change.

  • Investigating changing sea levels

    The sea level has been rising by an average of 3.1 millimeters a year since 1993. Long-term measurements recorded since the start of the twentieth century indicate an acceleration in the averaged sea level change. Coastal flooding and land loss are just some of the severe consequences. Traditionally, sea level changes are recorded at coastal tide gauge stations, which measure the water level relative to a fixed point of the Earth’s crust. Some of the records go back to the nineteenth century and provide important insights into sea level evolution. Since 1991 it has been possible to measure the surface of the oceans across the entire globe using satellite altimetry.

  • Climate change discussion: Shifting from mitigation to adaptation

    Many infrastructure protection experts say that there is a need to discuss not only how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also how to plan for and adapt to the inevitable consequences of those emissions, which are already changing the climate. One area in which adaptation to climate change is likely to be especially painful is in coastal areas affected by sea level rise. In some coastal regions, communities will be forced to retreat from the coast as a result of rising sea level and increasing damage from storms and flooding. Part of the problem is that policies such as disaster relief programs and insurance regulations create a system that protects many property owners from the true costs of building in risk-prone areas of the coast. “We have a system of private gains and externalized costs,” said one expert.

  • Record seasonal snowfall caused significant financial losses in New England

    Following large snowfall totals this winter, much of New England is now coping with massive economic losses to the regional economy as a result of business closures. Economists estimated that the state of Massachusetts alone suffered roughly $1 billion in lost profits and lost wages following the recent winter storms. Economists expect that ripple effects from the New England winter will be felt nationally, but they warn that it is still too early to measure these effects.

  • Averting global water crisis

    Climate change is increasing the demand for desalinated water — by 2025,14 percent of the global population will be forced to use desalinated sea water — as greater evaporation and rising seas further limit freshwater supplies for a growing world population. Current methods to desalinate water, however, come at a very high cost in terms of energy, which means more greenhouse gases and more global warming. Carbon nanotube membranes have the potential to tackle the current and future challenges in water purification.

  • Studying El Niño, La Niña helps predict frequency of tornadoes, hail storms

    Climate scientists can spot El Niño and La Niña conditions developing months ahead of time, and they use this knowledge to make more accurate forecasts of droughts, flooding, and even hurricane activity around the world. Now, a new study shows that El Niño and La Niña conditions can also help predict the frequency of tornadoes and hail storms in some of the most susceptible regions of the United States. “We can forecast how active the spring tornado season will be based on the state of El Niño or La Niña in December or even earlier,” said the study’s lead author.

  • Rising seas bring heavy burden to Florida coastal economy. Can it adapt?

    Florida is a coastal state. Nearly 80 percent of its twenty million residents live near the coast on land just a few feet above sea level, and over a hundred million tourists visit the beaches and stay in beach-front hotels every year. The coastal economy in Florida is estimated to account for 79 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, a measure of direct revenue into the economy. It now is widely accepted that climate change is causing an unprecedented rise in sea levels around the world, and that locations such as Florida, where huge infrastructure and large populations live right on the coast, are especially vulnerable. An important reality is that sea-level rise is not a future phenomenon. It has been happening slowly over the past decades, at about one inch every ten years. That’s a half foot since the 1960s and already it is taking a toll.

  • Some African storms intensify into Hurricanes – but which ones?

    Hurricanes require moisture, the rotation of the earth, and warm ocean temperatures to grow from a mere atmospheric disturbance into a tropical storm. Where do these storm cells originate, however, and exactly what makes an atmospheric disturbance amp up full throttle? Researchers found that most hurricanes over the Atlantic which eventually make landfall in North America actually start as intense thunderstorms in Western Africa. The finding has important implications for forecasts. “If we can predict a hurricane one or two weeks in advance — the entire lifespan of a hurricane — imagine how much better prepared cities and towns can be to meet these phenomena head on,” says one of the researchers.

  • Likelihood of Calif.’s Big One within next 30 years higher than previously thought: USGS

    The U.S. Geological Surveypredicts a 7 percent chance of a magnitude 8.0 or greater earthquake hitting California within the next thirty years. This is up from 4.7 percent from the last forecast. The reason for the increased estimate is due to better understanding of how different faults are connected.The new forecasts are not meant to startle the average citizen, but property developers and homeowners should be informed. City planners will consider these predictions when forming new building codes and the California Earthquake Authority will use the predictions to evaluate insurance premiums.

  • People in coastal zones in Asia, Africa are most vulnerable to sea-level rise

    The number of people potentially exposed to future sea level rise and associated storm surge flooding may be highest in low-elevation coastal zones in Asia and Africa, according to new projections. The researchers assessed future population changes by the years 2030 and 2060 in the low-elevation coastal zone and estimated trends in exposure to 100-year coastal floods. The number of people living in the low-elevation coastal zone, as well as the number of people exposed to flooding from 100-year storm surge events, was highest in Asia. China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Viet Nam had the largest numbers of coastal population per country and accounted for more than half of the total number of people living in low-elevation coastal zones.

  • New “life years” measure assesses human impact of 2011 Canterbury, New Zealand quake

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has devised the Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY) calculations, which assesses the cumulative number of “lifeyears,” or healthy years, citizens have lost due to death, injuries, and being otherwise significantly affected such as having to evacuate their homes, and the financial damages they have incurred. Globally, on average the world loses about forty million lifeyears per year because of disasters, the vast majority in low- and middle-income countries. Using the DALY calculations, researchers have calculated that each person in Canterbury, new Zealand lost approximately 150 days of “healthy life” in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake.

  • Boston prepares for life with rising sea levels

    A 2013 World Bank studylisted only seven cities in the world as more vulnerable to flooding than Boston. The other American cities are Miami, New York, New Orleans, and Tampa. Faced with the prospect of having a significant portion of the city underwater, city officials and private developers have launched a competition to redesign Boston for the year 2100, with the assumption that sea levels will be five feet higher than they are today. The Living With Watercompetition looks to prove that the future of Boston can coexist with rising sea levels.

  • Geologists: Popular Irish tourism hotspot “slowly drowning”

    Geologists have found evidence that Connemara, described by Discover Ireland, a tourism body, as one of the country’s “most iconic destinations,” is slipping under the sea.”It’s certain that the sea has encroached considerably onto the land around Galway Bay since the ice melted…and that the strange, watery landscape is indeed being shaped by a slow drowning”of Connemara, said Jonathan Wilkins, a geologist with the Earth Science Ireland (ESI) group.