• WildfiresWildfires create much more pollution than previously thought

    Naturally burning timber and brush launch what are called fine particles into the air at a rate three times as high as levels officially noted in emissions inventories at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a new study. This does not mean that burning biomass produces more pollution than it previously did, but the new research makes clearer how much and what pollutants are inside a wildfire plume. Fine particles, the microscopic, sooty specks that form aerosols, are a hazard to human health, particularly to the lungs and heart.

  • Hurricane IrmaHurricane loss model estimates damage caused by Hurricane Irma at $19 billion

    A team of researchers estimates that Hurricane Irma caused $19.4 billion in wind-related losses to Florida residents alone. The data does not cover flood losses. Of that total, $6.3 billion will be paid by insurance companies. As a result, roughly two-thirds of the losses will be borne by homeowners.

  • The Russian connectionElection systems of 21 states targeted by Russian government hackers ahead of 2016 election: DHS

    More revelations about the scope of the Russian government’s cyber-campaign on behalf of Donald Trump in the November 2016 presidential election came to light Friday afternoon, when DHS officials called election officials in twenty-one states to inform them that their states’ election systems had been targeted by Russian government hackers trying to influence the U.S. presidential election. Among the states whose election systems were targeted by Russian government operatives: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

  • Hurricane HarveyHouston's “flood czar” says Harvey has brought the city to a decision point on flood control

    By Neena Satija and Kiah Collier

    In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s record floods, the city of Houston is poised to receive billions — maybe even tens of billions — of recovery dollars in the coming years that may cover significant improvements to the city’s woefully inadequate drainage system as well as other projects to reduce flooding. Stephen Costello, Houston’s chief resilience officer, expects to play a big role in how Houston spends it Hurricane Harvey recovery dollars.

  • Hurricane HarveyA year before Harvey, Houston-area flood control chief saw no "looming issues"

    By Kiah Collier and Neena Satija

    Experts say the flooding in the Houston region could have wreaked far less havoc if local officials had made different decisions over the last several decades. But the former head of a key flood control agency strongly disagreed with that take in an interview last year.

  • SurveillanceCalifornia’s police can't keep license plate data secret: Court

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the ACLU won a decision by the California Supreme Court that the license plate data of millions of law-abiding drivers, collected indiscriminately by police across the state, are not “investigative records” that law enforcement can keep secret. California’s highest court ruled that the collection of license plate data isn’t targeted at any particular crime, so the records couldn’t be considered part of a police investigation.

  • Hurricane HarveyHarvey’s losses “would reach $190 billion or 1 percent of the nation's GDP”: AccuWeather

    AccuWeather’s Dr. Joel N. Myers predicts that “The total losses from this storm would reach $190 billion or 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), countering the expected growth in the economy for the rest of this year.” The one percent loss that AccuWeather is predicting will be spread out over the next 12 months, but the bulk of it will occur over the next four months. “This is the costliest and worst natural disaster in American history,” Myers said.

  • Harvey & immigrantsImmigration authorities seek to soothe fears about Hurricane Harvey rescues

    By Julián Aguilar

    Immigration enforcement and Border Patrol officials reiterated on Thursday that their agents are not conducting routine immigration operations during rescue efforts in Southeast Texas — despite rumors to the contrary. ICE spokeswoman said that the false reports about ICE conducting immigration enforcement operations during rescue missions “are furthering an unhelpful narrative that could ultimately discourage people from seeking help in a dire situation.”

  • Hurricane HarveyAnalysis: Four things Houston-area leaders must do to prevent future flooding disasters

    By Kiah Collier and Neena Satija

    An unprecedented amount of rain has fallen on the Houston area in the past few days, causing what is likely the worst flooding event that the nation’s sixth-largest metropolitan area has ever experienced — even worse than 2001’s Tropical Storm Allison. This may seem like a freak occurrence. But it is the third catastrophic flooding event this region of 6.5 million people has experienced in three years. And scientists and other experts say that much of the devastation could have been prevented. Here are four steps local leaders could have done to protect the Houston region from Harvey-related flooding — and what they must do to prevent such disasters in the future: Preserve and restore as much prairie land as possible; restrict development in floodplains and buy flood-prone homes; plan for climate change; educate the public.

  • Hurricane HarveyUSGS installs storm-tide sensors along Texas coast ahead of Harvey’s arrival

    Storm surge, coastal erosion and inland flooding are among the most dangerous natural hazards unleashed by hurricanes, with the capacity to destroy homes and businesses, wipe out roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and profoundly alter landscapes. The USGS has experts on these hazards, state-of-the-science computer models for forecasting them, and sophisticated equipment for monitoring actual flood and tide conditions. The agency is installing storm-tide sensors in advance of Hurricane Harvey.

  • Coastal perilPriorities for property buyouts in Florida’s flood-prone areas

    Flooding is the most common and damaging of all natural disasters in the United States. In 2016, 44 of the 46 major disaster declarations were related to storms, with flooding being a significant factor in almost 70 percent of them (30 events). In 2016, severe floods in the United States resulted in more than $17 billion in damages (six times higher than in 2015). Twelve individual weather and climate events caused more than $1 billion in damages each, and at least five severe 1,000-year precipitation events occurred in the United States in 2016. A new study proposes that government-funded buyouts, followed by structure demolition or relocation and the restoration of floodplain habitats, can support social, environmental, and economic objectives simultaneously.

  • Plum IslandHouse passes bill to prevent sale of Plum Island to highest bidder

    The House of Representatives on 25 July passed a bipartisan bill, the Plum Island Preservation Act (H.R. 2182), which would prevent the sale of Plum Island by the federal government to the highest bidder. H.R. 2182, which you can view here, was sponsored by Representative  Lee Zeldin (R-New York), and has received unanimous support from the Long Island and Connecticut House delegations, as well as a coalition of over sixty-five local and national environmental groups.

  • Border securityBorder funding bill passes U.S. House; Texans vote along party lines

    By Julián Aguilar and Abby Livingston

    The U.S. House on Thursday passed about $800 billion in federal spending, including $1.6 billion worth of funding that will go toward constructing a border wall. While there is almost no chance this legislation will become law, Republican lawmakers can head back to their home districts pointing to the wall funding as a legislative step toward a tenet of the Trump presidential campaign.

  • Dust stormsDust Bowl redux: Increase in dust storms in the U.S.

    Could the storms that once engulfed the Great Plains in clouds of black dust in the 1930s once again wreak havoc in the United States? A new statistical model developed by researchers predicts that climate change will amplify dust activity in parts of the United States in the latter half of the 21st century, which may lead to the increased frequency of spectacular dust storms that have far-reaching impacts on public health and infrastructure.

  • InfrastructureMaintaining the safety of California’s natural gas system

    California has 14 underground storage facilities in 12 fields with a capacity of 385 billion cubic feet of natural gas. There are about 350 active wells at those fields, many of which are used currently for natural gas but were designed for oil and gas production and constructed prior to 1970. The massive natural gas leak at Aliso Canyon shined a light on California’s aging natural gas infrastructure. And five years of extreme drought also exacted its toll on transmission pipelines.