• Water securityCalifornia Wildfires Can Impact Water Availability

    In recent years, wildfires in the western United States have occurred with increasing frequency and scale. Climate change scenarios in California predict prolonged periods of drought with potential for conditions even more amenable to wildfires. The Sierra Nevada Mountains provide up to 70 percent of the state’s water resources, yet there is little known on how wildfires will impact water resources in the future.

  • FloodsThese Dams Needed Replacing 15 Years Ago. Now Texas Will Drain Four Lakes Instead — Causing Other Problems.

    By Chase Karacostas

    Texas officials will start draining four lakes next week in Guadalupe County in Central Texas without a plan in place for when the lakes, and the 90-year-old dams that support them, will be rebuilt. Area homeowners, who got barely a month’s notice, said they felt blindsided by the plan, and they say it will slash their property values, kill their beloved century-old cypress trees and render the lakes — which have hosted water skiing tournaments for decades — unusable.

  • Perspective: Election securityCalling Off Iowa’s “Digital Caucuses” Is a Wise Display of Caution

    Caution and restraint are not known as the hallmarks of the digital revolution. Especially when there’s the admirable possibility of increasing participation by going digital, the temptation to do so is strong—and rarely resisted. But a decision reportedly taken by the Democratic National Committee, however, presents a significant display of caution that deserves both attention and praise. “Showing restraint usually isn’t exciting or flashy,” Joshua Geltzer writes. “But it can be admirable. And, here, organizations like the DNC that take these steps deserve our collective applause for erring on the side of caution, especially in a world replete with cybersecurity and election interference threats.”

  • Coastal challengesTexas might spend up to $20 billion to protect Houston from hurricanes. Rice University says it can do it for a fraction of that.

    By Kiah Collier

    A government plan to guard the Houston-Galveston region from deadly storm surge could cost as much as $20 billion and isn’t expected to become reality for at least 15 years. Rice University says it has a plan that could be completed faster for a fraction of the cost.

  • False alarmsMissile Strike False Alarm Most Stressful for Less Anxious Hawaiians: Study

    After learning that a warning of a missile headed to Hawaii was a false alarm, the most anxious local Twitter users calmed down more quickly than less anxious users, according to a study of tweets before, during and after the event. “Can a false alarm of an impending disaster itself be a form of trauma? Our results suggest that the experience may have a lingering impact on some individuals well after the threat is dispelled,” says an expert.

  • PerspectiveCities Ban Government Use of Facial Recognition

    Oakland, Calif., last week became the third city in America to ban the use of facial recognition technology in local government, following prohibitions enacted earlier this year in San Francisco and Somerville, Mass. Berkeley, Calif., is also weighing a ban. The technology is often inaccurate, especially when identifying people who aren’t white men.

  • PerspectiveCalifornia’s Wildfires Are 500 Percent Larger Due to Climate Change

    Californians may feel like they’re enduring an epidemic of fire. The past decade has seen half of the state’s 10 largest wildfires and seven of its 10 most destructive fires, including last year’s Camp Fire, the state’s deadliest wildfire ever. A new study finds that the state’s fire outbreak is real—and that it’s being driven by climate change. Since 1972, California’s annual burned area has increased more than fivefold, a trend clearly attributable to the warming climate. “Each degree of warming causes way more fire than the previous degree of warming did. And that’s a really big deal,” Park Williams, a climate scientist at Columbia University and an author of the paper, said. Among the many ways climate change might be messing with the environment, extra heat is among the simplest and most obvious. “Heat is the most clear result of human-caused climate change,” Williams said.

  • HurricanesCan the “Masters of the Flood” Help Texas Protect Its Coast from Hurricanes?

    By Kiah Collier

    After centuries of fighting back water in a low-lying nation, the Dutch have become the world leaders in flood control. And their expertise is helping Texas design what would become the nation’s most ambitious — and expensive — coastal barrier.

  • Perspective: The Russia ConnectionAs Feds Struggle, States Create Their Own Anti-election Propaganda Programs

    As the 2020 presidential campaign heats up, individual states are ramping up education efforts to counter the threat posed by foreign disinformation campaigns to US elections. A lack of action at the federal level has prompted many states to craft their own programs designed to counter foreign efforts to undermine American democracy and educate the next generation of voters in schools.

  • Preventable diseasesNY State: Religious grounds no longer allowed to exempt children from vaccination

    New York is the latest state where parents can no longer refuse to vaccinate children on religious grounds. Both houses of the New York State Assembly passed the measure Thursday and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it immediately.

  • Preventable diseasesTexas vaccine exemption rates have reached an all-time high. Did Texas make it too easy for parents to opt out?

    By Elizabeth Byrne and Shiying Cheng

    Texas has resisted recent attempts to change its vaccine laws, allowing parents to get their children exemptions for “reasons of conscience.” Use our lookup tool to see how exemption rates have changed in school districts and private schools across the state.

  • Ghost gunsGhost guns are everywhere in California

    By Alain Stephens

    Feds say nearly a third of firearms recovered in California are homemade, unserialized, and untraceable. Experts say the accessibility of ghost guns is aided by a cottage industry of retailers selling nearly completed firearms that require no screening to purchase.

  • EarthquakesCalifornia hospitals to pay billions for seismic safety upgrades

    California hospitals would need to make substantial investments—between $34 billion and $143 billion statewide—to meet 2030 state seismic safety standards, according to a new report.

  • GunsReducing Illinois gun violence

    Illinois could reduce the number of people killed each year by gun violence by implementing ten policies supported by available research, according to a new report. The Johns Hopkins report identifies weaknesses or gaps in current Illinois law and offers recommendations to reduce gun violence.

  • GunsVirginia bill would let cities ban guns from protests

    By Alex Yablon

    The city of Charlottesville, Virginia, was powerless to prevent attendees from carrying guns at last year’s Unite the Right rally. But one of the state’s top officials, Attorney General Mark Herring, thinks he can prevent a similar situation from unfolding in the future.