• Pentagon: Climate change aggravates U.S. security risks

    Global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries, according to a report the Defense Department sent to Congress last week. The report finds that climate change is a security risk, Pentagon officials said, because it degrades living conditions, human security, and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations.

  • Improving West Coast earthquake early warning system

    UC Berkeley is among four universities to receive grants last week from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to help bring the planned ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system toward a production stage. Among other tasks, the partners also will continue development of scientific algorithms rapidly to detect potentially damaging earthquakes, more thoroughly test the system, and improve its performance.

  • $4 million awarded to support earthquake early warning system in Pacific Northwest

    The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) last week has awarded approximately $4 million to four universities — California Institute of Technology, University of California, Berkeley, University of Washington, and University of Oregon — to support transitioning the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning (EEW) system toward a production stage. A functioning early warning system can give people a precious few seconds to stop what they are doing and take precautions before the severe shaking waves from an earthquake arrive.

  • Confronting weather extremes by making infrastructure more resilient

    South Florida’s predisposition to weather extremes renders the region’s infrastructure acutely vulnerable. But weather extremes are not exclusive to South Florida. The Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather-Related Events Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN), a newly formed team of researchers, is addressing these challenges on an international scale.

  • New study narrows the gap between climate models and reality

    Climate models are used to estimate future global warming, and their accuracy can be checked against the actual global warming observed so far. Most comparisons suggest that the world is warming a little more slowly than the model projections indicate. Scientists have wondered whether this difference is meaningful, or just a chance fluctuation. A new study finds that the way global temperatures were calculated in the models failed to reflect real-world measurements. The climate models use air temperature for the whole globe, whereas the real-world data used by scientists are a combination of air and sea surface temperature readings.

  • Coral reefs could protect Pacific islands from rising seas – but only if global warming slows

    The coral reefs that have protected Pacific Islanders from storm waves for thousands of years could grow rapidly enough to keep up with escalating sea levels if ocean temperatures do not rise too quickly, according to a new study. If global temperatures continue to rise and thus retard the growth of these natural storm barriers, the homelands of millions of people on lands throughout the Pacific Ocean will be in jeopardy.

  • Different lessons from past floods

    More and more frequent extreme weather events lead to new projects on risk management and spatial planning. Past experiences represent an added value and suggest the importance of greater involvement of local communities. Luckily, past mistakes can sometimes be useful for present or especially future decisions. This can apply to spatial planning and management in response to natural disasters and extreme weather events.

  • Community-based flood insurance offers benefits, faces challenges

    Community-based flood insurance — a single insurance policy that in theory would cover an entire community — may create new opportunities to reduce flood losses and enhance the likelihood of communities paying more attention to flood risk mitigation, says a new National Academies report. This option for providing flood insurance, however, would not provide the sole solution for all of the nation’s flood insurance challenges.

  • More extreme heat coming to the Southeast

    The Southeastern United States and Texas are uniquely at risk from climate change, according to a new report release the other day by the Risky Business Project. The Southeast region also faces the highest risks of coastal property losses in the nation as seas rise and storms surge. Between $48.2 billion and $68.7 billion worth of existing coastal property in the Southeast will likely be below sea level by 2050. Cities like Miami and New Orleans will likely be severely affected. The dramatic increase in the number of days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will have a deleterious effect on people’s health, agricultural yields.

  • Strengthening urban infrastructure to withstand extreme weather-related events

    A multi-disciplinary team of about fifty researchers from fifteen universities and other institutions will address the vulnerability of urban infrastructure to extreme weather related events, and ways of reducing that vulnerability. Funded under a $12 million research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the researchers will conduct their extensive work over the coming five years. In light of weather related extremes, such as increasing storm frequency and intensity, as well as climate uncertainties, this network will evaluate threats to transportation, electricity, water, and other services in major urban areas, and the social, ecological, and technical systems to protect infrastructure and increase its flexibility and adaptability, using new designs and technologies.

  • Washington, D.C. sinking fast, compounding threat of sea-level rise

    New research confirms that the land under the Chesapeake Bay is sinking rapidly and projects that Washington, D.C., could drop by six or more inches by the end of this century — adding to the problems of sea-level rise. This falling land will exacerbate the flooding that the nation’s capital faces from rising ocean waters due to a warming climate and melting ice sheets — accelerating the threat to the region’s monuments, roads, wildlife refuges, and military installations. “It’s ironic that the nation’s capital — the place least responsive to the dangers of climate change — is sitting in one of the worst spots it could be in terms of this land subsidence,” says one researcher. “Will the Congress just sit there with their feet getting ever wetter?”

  • Safer structures to withstand earthquakes, windstorms

    A new cyberinfrastructure effort funded by a $13.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation will help engineers build safer structures that can better withstand natural hazards such as earthquakes and windstorms. Researchers aim to build a software platform, data repository, and tools that will help the United States design more resilient buildings, levees, and other public infrastructure that could protect lives, property and communities.

  • Sea level rise, storm surges increasing risk of “compound flooding” for major U.S. cities

    Scientists investigating the increasing risk of “compound flooding” for major U.S. cities have found that flooding risk is greatest for cities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts when strong storm surge and high rainfall amounts occur together. While rising sea levels are the main driver for increasing flood risk, storm surges caused by weather patterns that favor high precipitation exacerbates flood potential.

  • Mangroves help protect coasts against sea level rise

    Mangrove forests could play a crucial role in protecting coastal areas from sea level rise caused by climate change, according to new research. Taking New Zealand mangrove data as the basis of a new modelling system, the researchers were able to predict what will happen to different types of estuaries and river deltas when sea levels rise. They found areas without mangroves are likely to widen from erosion and more water will encroach inwards, whereas mangrove regions prevent this effect - which is likely due to soil building up around their mesh-like roots and acting to reduce energy from waves and tidal currents.

  • Drought and climate change fuel high-elevation California fires

    Wildfires in California’s fabled Sierra Nevada mountain range are increasingly burning high-elevation forests, which historically have seldom burned, researchers report. The phenomenon — likely driven by climate change, forest-management practices and other factors — may influence the rate at which forests in this ecosystem are altered by the effects of climate change, the researchers suggest. It also may have implications for how forests are restored after fires.