Natural disasters

  • DHS S&T selects UNC as coastal resilience center of excellence

    The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) the other day announced the selection of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as the lead institution for a new DHS Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (COE). S&T will provide the Coastal Resilience COE with an initial $3 million grant for its first operating year. The DHS Coastal Resilience COE will bring together university students and professors, DHS and other federal agencies, private sector partners, the first responder community, and other COEs to collaboratively address the unique challenges facing communities across the United States that are vulnerable to coastal hazards, including hurricanes and flooding.

  • NASA putting satellite eyes on threat to U.S. fresh water

    Algal blooms are a worldwide environmental problem causing human and animal health risks, fish kills, and taste and odor in drinking water. In the United States, the cost of freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated at $64 million annually. In August 2014, officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it was contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie. NASA has joined forces with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Geological Survey to transform satellite data designed to probe ocean biology into information that will help protect the American public from harmful freshwater algal blooms.

  • Californians hoping the state would innovative itself out of a water crisis

    California’s water agencies have relied on innovation to cope with the worsening drought and depleting water resources. Irrigation systems have evolved overtime to help the agriculture sector maintain crop yields as temperatures rise and wells begin to dry up.Some are hoping the state would innovate itself out of a water crisis.

  • As the drought worsens, California’s conservation measures fall short

    As the drought worsens, California is doing a poor job of conserving water. Water use has declined by only 2.8 percent in February compared with the same time in 2013. Some Southern Californians are actually increasing their water use. “These are sobering statistics — disheartening statistics, considering how hard we have been working on this,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of California’s water control board, which reported the findings. “We are very concern about these numbers. They highlight the need for further action.”

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  • 70 percent of glaciers in Western Canada will be gone by 2100

    There are over 17,000 glaciers in B.C. and Alberta and they play an important role in energy production through hydroelectric power. The glaciers also contribute to the water supply, agriculture, and tourism. A new study says that 70 percent of glacier ice in British Columbia and Alberta could disappear by the end of the twenty-first century, creating major problems for local ecosystems, power supplies, and water quality.

  • Calif. business leaders: State’s worsening water situation threatens economic havoc

    California’s drought outlook is alarming to the point that Governor Jerry Brown recently announced the first-ever mandatory restrictions on water usage, aimed at reducing the state’s urban water use by 25 percent. For much of its history, California has measured up to its challenges while maintaining a healthy economy. Business leaders in the state say that the time has come for California once again to take bold actions to ensure a sustainable future. “We have a choice between protecting our economy by protecting our environment — or allowing environmental havoc to create economic havoc,” said former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who now co-chairs the Risky Business Project.Driscoll’s CEO Miles Reiter agrees: “The state of California has to deal with groundwater, or we’re going to ruin this state,” he said.

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  • N.C. scientific panel completes sea-level rise forecast draft

    In January, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission advisory science panel completed its draft copy of sea-level rise forecasts for five regions along the North Carolina coast over the next thirty years. That draft copy has now been released for a public comment period that will last through 31 December, before being finalized in early 2016 and delivered to the state’s General Assembly by 1 March 2016.According to the 43-page draft report, by 2045, the seas will rise between 6.5 and 12.1 inches at Duck, between 4.8 and 11.6 inches at the Oregon Inlet Marina, between 4.9 and 9.3 inches at Beaufort, between 4.1 and 8.5 inches at Wilmington, and between 4.0 and 8.5 inches at Southport.

  • $500 million, 5-year plan to help Miami Beach withstand sea-level rise

    Miami Beach is investing up to $500 million in a new five-year plan to fortify its coastline against flooding caused by sea-level rise. Between seventy to eighty pumps that will be installed to drain the streets of water as it comes in. Additionally, the city is planning to raise roadways and sidewalks by 1.5 to 2 feet along the western side, which faces the Biscayne Bay. Florida is already seen as one of the most vulnerable states to climate change. Over the past 100 years, sea levels along the coast have risen 8 to 9 inches and are expected to rise by between three and seven inches within the next fifteen years, according to federal government projections.

  • Forecasting future flooding in the Pacific Northwest

    Unlike the South or East coast of the United States, coastal flooding in the Pacific Northwest comes primarily from large waves generated by major storms instead of hurricanes. The Pacific Northwest is dotted by small, low-lying, coastal cities where populations tend to cluster. These communities can be isolated and are susceptible to devastation from major storms that bring substantial wind, waves, and storm surge. With climate change, it is anticipated that storms will only become more frequent and intense, signifying a need to understand how the areas will be affected.

  • Rising sea level-induced floods cause increase in flood insurance rates

    Long-term sea level rise has made tidal flooding a near-daily event in many cities, compared to 1950 when it occurred about once every two years. As sea level rises, threatening more homes along flood zones, flood insurance claims are expected to increase. The Home­owner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (HFIAA), which went into effect on 1 April, means that primary homeowners would see an average 10 percent increase in flood insurance premium yearly, along with an extra $25 annual surcharge. Secondary owners of vacation houses and condominiums can expect about an 18 percent rate increase, plus a $250 annual surcharge.

  • California imposes first mandatory water restrictions in state history

    Standing on a patch of brown grass in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which is usually covered with several feet of snow at this time of the year, California governor Jerry Brown announced the first mandatory water restrictions in state history. “Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow,” Brown said yesterday. “It’s a different world… we have to act differently.”About 30 percent of California’s water supply comes from the Sierra Nevada snowpack, so less snow means less snowmelt, which means less water.

  • NASA asteroid hunter spacecraft data available to public

    Millions of images of celestial objects, including asteroids, observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft now are available online to the public. The data was collected following the restart of the asteroid-seeking spacecraft in December 2013 after a lengthy hibernation. NEOWISE is a space telescope that scans the skies for asteroids and comets. The telescope sees infrared light, which allows it to pick up the heat signature of asteroids and obtain better estimates of their true sizes. As a result, NEOWISE can see dark asteroids that are harder for visible-light surveys to find.

  • Options for providing affordable flood insurance premiums

    The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) faces dual challenges of maintaining affordable flood insurance premiums for property owners and ensuring that revenues from premiums and fees cover claims and program expenses over time. A new report found that these objectives are not always compatible and may, at times, conflict with one another. The report discusses measures that could make insurance more affordable for all policy holders and provides a framework for policymakers to use in designing targeted assistance programs.

  • States seek to protect grid from solar flare damage

    Citing warnings from scientists about the threat of major solar storms — or EMPs, intense bursts of radiation from the sun — and their potential to disrupt the nation’s electrical grid, many state lawmakers are introducing legislation that seeks to protect their region’s infrastructure. Congress has commissioned reports and held hearings about the dangers of solar storm events, but little action has been taken, prompting many state legislators to take matters in their own hands.

  • Countries brace for forced migration due to climate change

    Scientists say that one of the more disturbing aspects of climate change-related disruptions is looming climate-induced migration crisis. Extreme weather disasters, sea level rise, and environmental degradation are factors which could trigger a mass migration, disrupting populations and destabilizing governments. A recent study sponsored by the governments of Switzerland and Norway found that an estimated 144 million people were at least temporarily displaced between 2008 and 2012.