Studying disaster impact escalation to improve emergency responses

Mapping common pathways along which the effects of natural and man-made disasters travel allows more flexible and resilient responses in the future, according to UCL researchers.

Naturally occurring extreme space weather events or man-made cyber security attacks affect critical infrastructure through shared points of vulnerability, causing disasters to cascade into scenarios that threaten life and the global economy.

“We’re quite good at responding to high-frequency threats, such as floods, but aren’t well equipped to deal with risks that indirectly cause loss of life,” explained lead author PhD candidate, Gianluca Pescaroli (UCL Institute of Risk & Disaster Reduction).

“It’s often the knock-on effects rather than the initial event that threaten life as access to technology that provides electricity, food and clean water is compromised. We’ve developed a strategy to test disaster preparedness and increase our response to unknown, complex, high-impact, low-probability events.”

Source: Tracing how disaster impacts escalate will improve emergency responses

Greener Fuel Cells Closer to Reality

A new design of algae-powered fuel cells that is five times more efficient than existing plant and algal models, as well as being potentially more cost-effective to produce and practical to use, has been developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

In a new technique described in the journal Nature Energy, researchers from the departments of Biochemistry, Chemistry and Physics have collaborated to develop a two-chamber BPV system where the two core processes involved in the operation of a solar cell – generation of electrons and their conversion to power – are separated.

“Charging and power delivery often have conflicting requirements,” explains Kadi Liis Saar, of the Department of Chemistry. “For example, the charging unit needs to be exposed to sunlight to allow efficient charging, whereas the power delivery part does not require exposure to light but should be effective at converting the electrons to current with minimal losses.”

Source: Harnessing the power of algae: New, greener fuel cells move step closer to reality

A climate for coffee: Researchers work to get ahead of potential threats to Hawaii’s signature crop

KAILUA-KONA — Climate change poses a viable threat to coffee production around the world, yet Hawaii appears more immune to its impacts than most other coffee-heavy regions — at least for now.

Love cited several reasons he doesn’t believe climate change has or will hit the crop in Hawaii nearly as hard as has been observed in other coffee centers throughout the world.

“We’re at the perfect latitude,” Love explained. “It’s more the ideal temperature here.”

He added while droughts come to Hawaii more frequently than before and heavy rainfall events can pose problems, Hawaii’s drainage is superb.

The geographical buffers afforded Hawaii via its mid-ocean location also mitigate the havoc weather events can bring down upon the state’s coffee industry, said Andrea Kawabata, a University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources extension agent based in Kainaliu.

Climate change doesn’t only affect heat and rainfall, however. The coffee berry borer, the most recent scourge on the Kona industry, is bolstered by rising temperatures, Steiman said.

Source: A climate for coffee: Researchers work to get ahead of potential threats to Hawaii’s signature crop

Interior ends climate change policies

Many regulations were axed because they are ‘burdens’ to energy development.

The order echoes earlier mandates from President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to Interior’s 70,000 employees: Prioritize energy development and de-emphasize climate change and conservation. The order is another in a long string of examples of science and conservation taking a backseat to industry’s wishes at the Interior Department under Zinke.

The sweeping order, which Bernhardt signed Dec. 22., affects a department that manages a fifth of the nation’s land, 19 percent of U.S. energy supplies and most of the water in the 12 Western states. It fulfills a high-profile executive order by Trump and a secretarial order from Zinke, both announced in March. Interior did not publicize the order but posted it on its website with other secretarial orders. The Interior Department refused to answer questions about order 3360 on Thursday. “Sorry, nobody is available for you,” Heather Swift, the department spokesperson, wrote in an email.

Source: Interior revokes climate change and mitigation policies

Turning nitrates into water and air

Engineers at Rice University’s Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) Center have found a catalyst the cleans toxic nitrates from drinking water by converting them into air and water.

“Nitrates come mainly from agricultural runoff, which affects farming communities all over the world,” said Rice chemical engineer Michael Wong, the lead scientist on the study. “Nitrates are both an environmental problem and health problem because they’re toxic. There are ion-exchange filters that can remove them from water, but these need to be flushed every few months to reuse them, and when that happens, the flushed water just returns a concentrated dose of nitrates right back into the water supply.”

Source: Rice U.’s one-step catalyst turns nitrates into water and air

The most accurate global warming predictions:  the Worst

“Our study indicates that if emissions follow a commonly used business-as-usual scenario, there is a 93 per cent chance that global warming will exceed 4°C by the end of this century,” Dr. Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, who co-authored the study told The Independent.

This research shows a dramatic increase over previous estimates, which placed the likelihood of such a drastic increase at just 62 percent.

Source: Worst global warming predictions likely the most accurate, study finds

Irrigation technology traveled the Silk Road?

“As research on ancient crop exchanges along the Silk Road matures, archaeologists should investigate not only the crops themselves, but also the suite of technologies, such as irrigation, that would have enabled ‘agropastoralists’ to diversify their economies,” Li said.

“In recent years, more and more archaeologists started to realize that most of the so-called pastoralist/nomad communities in ancient Central Asia were also involved in agriculture,” Li added. “We think it’s more accurate to call them agropastoralists, because having an agricultural component in their economy was a normal phenomenon instead of a transitional condition.”

Source: Did ancient irrigation technology travel Silk Road?

Curbing climate change

Due to the complexity of physical processes, climate models have uncertainties in global temperature prediction. The new model found that temperature uncertainty associated with the social component was of a similar magnitude to that of the physical processes, which implies that a better understanding of the human social component is important but often overlooked.

The model found that long-term, less easily reversed behavioral changes, such as insulating homes or purchasing hybrid cars, had by far the most impact in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and thus reducing climate change, versus more short-term adjustments, such as adjusting thermostats or driving fewer miles.

The results, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, demonstrate the importance of factoring human behavior into models of climate change.

Source: Curbing climate change

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The Richest U.S. Cities Turn to the World

A changing economy has been good to the region, and to a number of other predominantly coastal metros like New York, Boston and Seattle. But economists and geographers are now questioning what the nature of their success means for the rest of the country. What happens to America’s manufacturing heartland when Silicon Valley turns to China? Where do former mill and mining towns fit in when big cities shift to digital work? How does upstate New York benefit when New York City increases business with Tokyo?

The answers have social and political implications at a time when broad swaths of the country feel alienated from and resentful of “elite” cities that appear from a distance to have gone unscathed by the forces hollowing out smaller communities. To the extent that many Americans believe they’re disconnected from the prosperity in these major metros — even as they use the apps and services created there — perhaps they’re right.

Source: What Happens When the Richest U.S. Cities Turn to the World?