• Current Southwest Drought Is a Preview of Things to Come

    Scientists found that the record-low precipitation that kicked off the unprecedented drought parching the U.S. Southwest since 2020 could have been a fluke—just the rare bad luck of natural variability. But the drought would not have reached its current punishing intensity without the extremely high temperatures brought by human-caused global warming.

  • Predicting, Managing, and Preparing for Disasters Like Hurricane Ida

    By Megan Lowry

    Since Hurricane Katrina swept through Louisiana almost exactly 16 years ago, the National Academies have helped produce scientific insights and recommendations through initiatives to help policymakers avoid the worst impacts of future disasters.

  • Small Increases in Greenhouse Gases Will Lead to Decades-Long “Megadroughts” in U.S. Southwest

    Recent NOAA-funded research found that even small additional increases in greenhouse gas emissions will make decades-long “megadroughts” – similar to the drought which has descended on the U.S. southwest nearly twenty years ago — more common.

  • Bringing the Power of AI to help Firefighters

    With $5 million in support from the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator program, researchers will bring the power of AI to help firefighters strategize how best to plan these controlled burns, as well as manage unexpected blazes.

  • Improving Use of Flood Insurance

    DHS S&T and partners will study improvements to flood insurance, identifying ways to expand the use of flood insurance to reduce the financial losses suffered by homeowners and creditors in future storms.

  • Avoiding Water Bankruptcy in the Drought-Troubled Southwest: What the U.S. and Iran Can Learn from Each Other

    By Mojtaba Sadegh, Ali Mirchi, Amir AghaKouchak, and Kaveh Madani

    In August, the U.S. government issued its first ever water shortage declaration for the Colorado River, triggering water use restrictions. The fundamental problem is the unchecked growth of water consumption. The Southwest is in an “anthropogenic drought” created by the combination of natural water variability, climate change and human activities that continuously widen the water supply-demand gap.

  • Big Fires Demand a Big Response: How 1910’s Big Burn Can Help Us Think Smarter about Fighting Wildfires and Living with Fire

    By William Deverell and Elizabeth A. Logan

    The aftermath of 1910 Big Burn in Northwestern U.S., the Rockies, and parts of British Columbia, led to bold decision-making in forest and fire management techniques and directives. Now, more than a century later, the 21st century’s big burns are a signal that things have gone terribly wrong.

  • Long Power Outages After Disasters Aren’t Inevitable – but to Avoid Them, Utilities Need to Think Differently

    By Seth Blumsack

    Americans are becoming painfully aware that U.S. energy grids are vulnerable to extreme weather events. Hurricanes in the east, wildfires in the west, ice storms, floods and even landslides can trigger widespread power shortages. And climate change is likely making many of these extreme events more frequent, more severe or both.

  • Restoring Power During Severe Storms

    Recovery, guided by common policies from FEMA and industry, varies with respect to the severity of disruptive events. The failures under study were induced by a wide range of disruptive events from hurricanes, nor’easters, and thunder and winter storms from 2011-2019, affecting nearly 12 million people.

  • Earthquake Expert Who Advised the Haiti Government in 2010: “Why Were Clear Early Warning Signs Missed?”

    By Luigi Di Sarno and Adam Mannis

    There have been very few improvements in Haiti’s seismic early warning systems between the 2010 and the 14 August 2021 earthquakes. For example, a seismic network was installed in some private residences in different locations in Haiti. These data can be easily and freely accessed online. But this network has not been efficiently used for early warning alerts. A quick examination of the data revealed that at least two strong motions (with magnitude 4.0 or above) were recorded before August 14 along the Enriquillo Plantain Garden Fault. So the warning signs were there, but nobody – it seems – was looking out for them.

  • Blocking the Sun to Control Global Warming

    By Nancy Bazilchuk

    It sounds like something out of a bad science fiction movie — artificially blocking sunlight to keep global warming from overheating the Earth. Nevertheless, a small cadre of researchers is studying the option — so that if humankind ever needs to use it, it will be an informed decision.

  • Hitting a Bullseye with Closed Eyes

    Recently NASA updated its forecast of the chances that the asteroid Bennu, one of the two most hazardous known objects in our solar system, will hit Earth in the next 300 years. New calculations put the odds at 1 in 1,750, a figure slightly higher than previously thought. Two statisticians put into perspective the chances of asteroid Bennu striking Earth in next 300 years.

  • Improving Florida’s Hurricane Resilience: Alternative Fuel Vehicles, Infrastructure

    When events like tropical storms or other unforeseen crises disrupt a state’s primary supply of gasoline and diesel, emergency fleet efforts can become hampered as access to fuel is restricted or completely unavailable.

  • Hurricane Ida and Deadly Flash Floods in New York City

    By Elise Gout

    On August 29, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 storm. In New York City, water inundated subways and basements in a matter of hours. So far, at least 82 storm-related deaths have been reported. Experts are now trying to make sense of Hurricane Ida, its damages, and just how unexpected they were.

  • Science’s Answers to Flood Disaster

    On 14 July 2021, between 60 and 180 mm of rain fell in the Eifel region in just 22 hours - an amount that would otherwise have fallen in several months and which led to catastrophic flooding. The events were far more destructive than existing models had predicted.