• People living in wildfire-prone areas underestimate their risk

    The vast majority of people living in areas prone to wildfires know they face risk, but they tend to underestimate that risk compared with wildfire professionals. At the same time, they tend to over-estimate the importance of specific risk factors beyond their control — such as the composition of vegetation on their property — while giving less heed to those they can mitigate, such as replacing combustible siding with more fire-resistant materials.

  • Worries about megaquake benefit preparedness, retrofitting businesses in Pacific Northwest

    The sale of emergency preparedness kits has been booming in the Northwest of the United States, as more press stories have highlighted the growing confidence of scientists that the Pacific Northwest is overdue for a megaquake. Stores that sell a few preparedness kits a month, and which typically cater to survivalists, see a dramatic increase in business, as do businesses which retrofit houses to make them more quake-resilient.

  • Origami-inspired, fuel-saving shelter for soldiers, disaster victims

    Soldiers are often stationed in extreme environments, from desert to mountain conditions. The military spends millions of dollars every day on fuel for air conditioning or heat. A team of engineers had a goal: design a shelter for soldiers or disaster victims that could be quickly deployed in the field, but also reduce fuel consumption in heating and cooling. The team drew inspiration from origami, the ancient art of folding paper into eye-catching creations.

  • Tackling urban water crises

    With drought conditions putting a strain on resources throughout South Florida, FIU researchers are investigating long-term solutions to water crises as part of a newly launched consortium. The Urban Water Innovation Network (UWIN) comprises fourteen academic institutions and key partners across the United States. The UWIN researchers hope to create technological, institutional, and management solutions that will help communities increase the resilience of their water systems and enhance preparedness for responding to water crises.

  • If climate trends continue, Manhattan climate index will resemble Oklahoma City today

    In a few decades, climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions will alter the way that Americans heat and cool their homes. The number of days each year that heating and air conditioning are used will decrease in the Northern states, as winters get warmer, and increase in Southern states, as summers get hotter. In the future, the amount of heating and cooling required in New York City will be similar to that used in Oklahoma City today. By this same measure, Seattle is projected to resemble present day San Jose, and Denver to become more like Raleigh, North Carolina, is today.

  • Building resilient urban infrastructure to cope with climate challenges

    In addition to urban flooding, global climate change is predicted to bring increased coastal flooding, like that associated with Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, as well as extreme heat. As extreme weather events like these occur more frequently, global climate change may demand that we recalibrate our definition of “rare.” Historically, infrastructure to mitigate flooding and extreme heat has been designed to be fail-safe, meaning that it is designed to be fail-proof. But recently we have seen that fail-safe can be a dangerous illusion. Fifty researchers from different disciplines from fifteen institutions have teamed up to explore these challenges and to change the way we think about urban infrastructure.

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  • Historic drought complicates firefighting in California

    The twenty-one wild fires which have erupted in different parts of the state have already cost lives, dozens of homes, and millions of dollars in damages. To fight fires, firefighters need water – and although state water and fire officials say that, so far, there is no danger of running out of water, they are conscious of the state’s water predicament and they are trying to be more careful in the use of water. The persistent drought has forced crews to get creative, using more dirt and retardant on wildfires. Firefighting response to several blazes has been slowed down by the drought, because firefighting helicopters found it impossible to siphon water from lakes and ponds where water levels were lower than in previous years. In the past, property owners whose properties were threatened by fire, would allow firefighting crews to tap water on their property, and would then be compensated by cash reimbursements from the state. Now, many property owners demand instead that the state replenish the water used by firefighters to protect the owners’ property.

  • 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.