TIME climate change

Why Climate Change Could Make Hurricane Impact Worse

Victims of Hurricane Katrina stay at the Astrodome stadium in Houston.
Carlos Barria—Reuters Victims of Hurricane Katrina stay at the Astrodome stadium where 16,000 evacuees were receiving food and shelter in Houston on Sept. 4, 2005.

Sea level rise plays a key role

Hurricane Katrina surprised disaster preparedness authorities when it made landfall 10 years ago, leveling entire communities and killing more than 1,800 people. The storm caused more than $100 billion in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. But for all the damage the storm caused in New Orleans, Katrina was a relatively weak hurricane when it hit the city.

In the academic community, the unexpected disaster prompted climate scientists to consider the link between climate change and storms. Since then, research has shown that climate change will increase the devastation caused by hurricanes as sea levels rise due to global warming. Some research has also suggested that climate change has increased the intensity and frequency of storms.

The phenomenon of storm surge plays an essential role in the worsening effect of hurricanes. Storm surge occurs when waters rise above their normal level during a storm and wind and weather conditions push that water onto shore. Thanks to global warming and rising sea levels, the potential for ocean water to be washed ashore by a storm surge has risen as well.

Read More: These Are the Cities Most Vulnerable to the Next Katrina

During Katrina, storm surge pushed ashore the water, causing levees to fail. The storm was recorded as a hurricane of category 1 or category 2 strength when it hit New Orleans, relatively weak for such a devastating hurricane. But the storm surge reached as high as 12 feet in some places, creating flood conditions across the city and wreaking havoc with the city’s levee system. Hurricane Sandy, which hit the New York City in 2012, cost $2 billion more due to sea level rise than it would have otherwise, according to a RAND report.

“The strong winds in Katrina essentially blew water from the gulf up across southern Louisiana,” said Hugh Roberts, associate vice president at ARCADIS, a firm that has consulted on Louisiana’s rebuilding efforts. “Once it hits land, it begins to build up.”

In the future, rising sea levels will only exacerbate the storm surge problem. Around the globe, sea levels are estimated to rise 1 to 3 feet by 2100 due to climate change, and researchers say that in places like New Orleans 1 foot of sea level rise may lead to a 3 or 4 foot storm surge rise.

While scientists have come to a consensus about how storm surge will affect cities, research on how climate change affects hurricane strength and intensity remains unclear, and no findings have been positive. Many peer-reviewed studies suggest that warmer weather in tropical oceans has increased the frequency of tropical storm activity, though not necessarily the intensity. Others suggest that climate change has made storms more intense. Still other research has suggested that future storms will be both more frequent and more intense.

The projection of more frequent and more intense hurricanes might surprise even the causal weather observer. Indeed, a major hurricane of category 3 or higher hasn’t hit U.S. soil since 2005, according to a study from earlier this year. But the so-called hurricane drought shouldn’t be viewed as an indication of what’s to come. This year’s strong El Niño will likely reduce the chance of powerful hurricanes.

Increased hurricane risk due to climate change presents a unique challenge for policy makers. While the federal government has promoted cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in hopes of slowing climate change, preparing for more dramatic storms requires local solutions. Even if countries around the world stem global warming, sea level rise will occur.

“There is not uncertainty about sea level rise,” said RAND researcher Jordan Fischbach, who led a Louisiana flood risk assessment team. “As we get more sea level rise, these large storm events will with certainty damage to assets and people.”

 

TIME A Year In Space

How Astronauts Dock at the Space Station

Need a lift? A Souyz spacecraft after undocking from the space station on June 11, 2015
NASA Need a lift? A Souyz spacecraft after undocking from the space station on June 11, 2015

A wee-hours maneuver of a Soyuz spacecraft is critical for keeping things safe

One of the trickiest questions for a Soyuz spacecraft approaching the International Space Station (ISS) is where to park. The ISS may be larger than a football field, but it’s got only so many ways to get inside, and with crewed spacecraft and uncrewed cargo ships regularly shuttling up and down, docking ports—or at least the right docking port—can be at a premium.

In the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 28, space station astronaut Scott Kelly, along with cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka, will be required to do a bit of delicate flying to sort just that kind of problem out.

The three crewmen arrived at the station on March 29, with Padalka slated to spend six months aloft, and Kelly and Kornienko scheduled for a marathon one year in space. They docked their Soyuz spacecraft at the station’s Poisk module—a 16-ft. (4.8 m) Russian node that was added to the ISS in 2009 as a science lab, observation point and egress compartment for astronauts embarking on spacewalks. It’s remained there ever since, and that’s a concern.

The five-plus months the ship has been hanging off the station in the alternating searing heat and deep freeze of orbital space can take its toll on the hardware, and since the crews rely on the ships as their way back to Earth, NASA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, instituted a rule: 180 days is the maximum amount of time a Soyuz can remain aloft before detaching and returning to Earth. But Kelly and Kornienko are set to stay for 365 days—which complicates their ride home.

MORE: TIME is producing a series of documentary films about the record-breaking mission to space. Watch them here.

Their Soyuz is not the only one that’s on hand. There’s another one for the other three crewmembers who are currently aboard. (Another NASA-Roscosmos rule: there must always be enough seats for everyone to be able to bail out immediately in the event of an emergency.) And on September 2, a third ship, carrying three more crew members, is set to arrive for a changeover of personnel. Not all docking nodes are equal—the Poisk is a better target since it faces Earth—and that requires a little juggling. Mission rules—to say nothing of basic physics—make the job a delicate one.

At 3:09 AM EDT, the complete Padalka-Kornienko-Kelly team will climb fully suited into their Soyuz. Technically, it does not take all three men to do the job. Padalka, who is one of the most experienced Soyuz pilots extant, has joked that he could fly the thing with two cabbages in the other seats. But in the event of Soyuz emergency requiring an immediate reentry, all three men must be aboard—lest a solitary pilot come home, leaving five people aboard the ISS and only three seats on the remaining Soyuz.

The crew will then undock from the Poisk and re-dock to the nearby Zvezda module, or service module—a straight distance of only a few dozen yards. But these kinds of orbital maneuvers require care, with both the station and the Soyuz orbiting the Earth at 17,133 mph (27,572 k/h) but moving just a few feet or inches at a time relative to each other.

“They’ll undock, then back out 200 meters or so,” says NASA TV commentator and overall space station authority Rob Navias. “Then they’ll fly around to the back end of the service module, do a lateral translation, fly retrograde, then move in for a docking at the aft end of the module.” If that sounds like an awfully complicated way to say, essentially, that they’ll back up, turn around and pull in at another door, it’s less techno-babble than it is a reflection of the complexity of even the most straightforward maneuvers in space.

Two of the newly arriving crew members will be only short-timers, staying on the station for just 10 days. They’ll then fly home with Padalka in the older ship, leaving the fresh one for Kelly, Kornienko and another crew member six months later.

The ISS may be the most complicated job site on—or off—the planet, but it’s one that could proudly display a sign reading “14 years without an accident.” Playing by all the workplace safety rules will help keep that record going.

TIME A Year In Space

See the Best Photos From an Astronaut’s Fifth Month in Space

Astronaut Scott Kelly just passed the five-month mark in his yearlong stay aboard the Space Station. Here is a collection of the best photos he's snapped so far

TIME is following Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the first two episodes here.

MORE: See more photographs from Scott Kelly’s yearlong mission in space here.

TIME psychology

Most Psychological Studies Can’t Be Replicated, Research Shows

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The effort focused on 100 experiments reported during 2008 in any of 3 major psychology journals

(NEW YORK) — A large group of researchers set out to repeat 100 experiments published by leading psychology journals to see how often they would get the same results.

The answer: Less than half the time.

That doesn’t mean all those unconfirmed studies were wrong. But it’s a stark reminder that a single study rarely provides definitive answers and why scientists often greet new findings by saying, “More research is needed.”

“Any one study is not going to be the last word,” said Brian Nosek, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia.

“Each individual study has some evidence. It contributes some information toward a conclusion. But the real conclusion, when you can say confidently that something is true or false, is based on an accumulation of evidence over many studies,” said Nosek, who led the project.

And yes, he said at a press conference, “even this project itself is not … a definitive word about reproducibility.”

The work was carried out by an international team of more than 300 people and released Thursday by the journal Science. The project focused on psychology because its organizers came from that field. Researchers worked with the authors of the original studies in setting up the replication attempts.

Only about 40 percent of those attempts produced the original results.

The effort focused on 100 experiments reported during 2008 in any of three major psychology journals: Psychological Science, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

None of these experiments tested any treatments. They focused on basic research into how people think, remember, perceive their world, and interact with others. One explored why people are reluctant to tempt fate, for example.

Studies with stronger statistical evidence for their conclusions were more likely to be replicated than others, as were those with findings that were judged to be less surprising.

When a study’s results were not replicated, there could be several explanations, Nosek said. The original study could be wrong. Or it could be right, and the repeat study overlooked a real effect just by chance. Or both studies could be correct, with conflicting conclusions because of differences in how they were carried out.

Project workers tried to minimize such differences, but matching an original study could be tricky. E.J. Masicampo of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a co-author of the new study, said one of his own experiments was not confirmed by the project.

The study required participants to make decisions that required significant mental effort. To create that situation, researchers asked undergrads to choose between off-campus apartments. That task wasn’t as mentally challenging when it was tried again at a different campus, which evidently threw off the results of the experiment, he said.

Duane Wegener, a psychologist at Ohio State University who was not among the new study’s authors, said a similar problem in reproducing the psychological setting for an experiment apparently explains why the project could not confirm one of his results.

Wegener said that the message of the new project’s results for psychological researchers is unclear because the reasons for the various failures to confirm are not known.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

A New Theory of Why Neurotics Are Creative

A wandering mind might explain why creative leaders tend to be neurotic.

Adam Perkins is a psychologist and a self-proclaimed neurotic, contemplating things to the point of obsession. He can get anxious about things that might seem mundane to another person. And he’s admittedly quite sensitive.

Perkins also has a new theory, described in a piece published Thursday in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, about why he and many others like him channel their neuroticism into creativity and problem solving. He argues it comes from how certain people daydream.

Neuroticism and creative thinking have long been correlated: some of history’s more exciting minds, from Isaac Asimov to Winston Churchill to Woody Allen, have been famously anxious with a tendency to brood. The trait is also often associated with being risk-averse; neurotic people are often considered “threat sensitive,” a classification that the psychologist Jeffrey Gray first pinpointed while developing a test that predicted a person’s tendency to be neurotic. Gray’s test showed that high scorers on the neuroticism test tended to avoid “dangerous” jobs, preferring occupations that kept them out of harm’s way—hence the association with more analytical jobs, which require creative problem solving, as opposed to physical ones.

But Gray’s analysis seemed simplistic, Perkins says. “Why should having a magnified view of threat make you good at coming up with solutions to difficult problems?” he tells TIME. “It doesn’t add up. On one hand, it’s a clever theory—it shows the difficulty of holding down a dangerous job, for example—but on the other hand, it doesn’t explain why [neurotic people] tend to feel unhappy or why they’re more creative.”

Perkins had an epiphany when he attended co-author Jonathan Smallwood’s lecture on mind wandering. Smallwood, an expert who studies the neuroscience of daydreaming, was describing self-generated thought and its origins in the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that has been linked with memories and recall.

“He started describing how people whose minds wander are better at things like creativity, delaying gratification and planning. He also talked about the way that daydreamers’ minds wander when they’re feeling kind of blue,” Perkins says. “And my ears perked up.”

Smallwood had run a series of tests on volunteers, where he’d put them through an MRI scanner with no instructions. Naturally, the volunteers began daydreaming. Those with negative thoughts would display greater activity in the medial prefrontal cortex. “If you have a high level of activity in this particular brain area, then your mind wandering tends to be threat-related,” he says.

That’s what happens in the brains of neurotic people when their minds wander.

And of course, no surprise, the longer one dwells on a problem, unwilling to let it go, the more likely they are to come up with a solution—making that a potential upside to neurotic daydreaming.

“There’s costs and benefits to being a neurotic,” Perkins says. “What’s interesting is that you can be neurotic and have a creative benefit, but we still don’t understand it.”

TIME Bacteria

How the Dust in Your Home Can Tell People Your Gender

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Paul Düsterhöft / Eye—;Getty Images/EyeEm Sweeping dusty room

Dust can also show the geographic location of your house and whether or not you have pets.

It turns out that dust collecting in the corners of your house is more than just a nuisance: it can also contain valuable information about you.

According to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, dust in people’s homes contains bacteria and fungi that can point to the geographic location of the house, the gender makeup of the people who live there, and whether or not they have pets.

Of those, “Geography is the best predictor of fungi in your home,” Noah Fierer, an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at CU-Boulder and a co-author of the study, said in a press release.”The reason is that most fungi blow in from outdoors via soil and leaves.”

But researchers were also able to use the dust samples from the 1,200 homes around the U.S. they studied to figure out whether the home occupants had dogs or cats, and whether only men lived in the home or if women lived there as well.

“If you want to change what you breathe inside your house, you would either have to move very far away or change the people and the pets you live with,” Albert Barbarán, a graduate researcher in CU-Boulder’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and lead author of the study, said in the release.

On average, each home contained more than 5,000 different species of bacteria and about 2,000 species of fungi.

TIME Natural Disasters

These Are the Cities Most Vulnerable to the Next Katrina

Katrina Changing City New Orleans
Gerald Herbert—AP Empty lots and new buildings dot the Lower 9th Ward section of New Orleans on July 29, 2015.

'The entities that were most resilient were the ones who are best at preparing for the worst'

Where should we expect the next Hurricane Katrina to hit? Despite 10 years of work and some $15 billion in investment in disaster preparedness, experts say we may still want to look to New Orleans.

Identifying the places facing the most serious risk of a devastating hurricane requires a two-pronged approach: figuring out where the next big storm is likely to strike and determining how well those locations have prepared.

In Louisiana, federal dollars have funded the creation of a 133-mile levee system designed to protect the city from a once in 100-year storm. (That means, there’s a 1% chance that a storm of that size will occur on any given year.) As a storm approaches, officials can close off 220-ton gates and activate pumps that remove rainwater from the city’s sewage system. The pumps—the world’s largest—could fill the Superdome with water in 90 seconds.

At a cost of nearly $15 billion, the system wasn’t cheap. But it may not be enough to withstand the next serious storm, one that will likely be exacerbated by global warming and changing conditions in New Orleans. For one, land in the city is sinking at a rate of nearly half an inch each year due in part to changes in the soil that have resulted from human settlement. The occurrence, known technically as subsidence, has left many parts of the sea below sea level and especially vulnerable to flooding.

And, while the city sinks, climate change has been contributing to higher sea levels, further exacerbating flood risk. Around the globe, sea levels are estimated to rise 1 to 3 feet by 2100 due to climate change. Policymakers say storm surge, a phenomenon that raises sea levels during storms and pushes ocean water onto land, has them particularly concerned. And, in recent months, research has suggested that chances of storm surge are worse than previously believed.

“Looking forward, New Orleans is faced with a double-whammy. The land on which the city is built is sinking, even faster than the sea levels are rising,” said Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at Risk Management Solutions.

The new levees may protect New Orleans from a 100-year event in 2015 terms, but all bets are off looking 50 or 100 years into the future. And that says nothing about what will happen if the city faces a 500-year storm. Research from RMS suggests that New Orleans currently has a 1-in-440 chance of suffering from a storm that causes $15 billion in economic loss in any given year. By 2100, that number will be down to 1-in-315 under conservative estimates and the assumption that the city continues to upgrade its current infrastructure, according to RMS.

It’s also unclear how much meaning those older storm predictions have in a global warming age. Scientists disagree on whether Katrina itself was a 100-year event, a 500-year event, or even greater. The models that go into calculating 100-year storms are constantly changing, yet the levee system, once built, will be fixed.

Some officials in Louisiana hope that they will be able to do more than work with what they already have built. A task force put together a $50 billion master plan in 2012 that was meant to more fully provide protections against devastating losses. The plan calls for a slew of different protection measures, from paying for homeowners to elevate their houses to construction of more levees.

But with a hefty price tag, funding for the program has fallen fall short of what’s needed. Nonetheless, the program sets priorities when funding does begins to flow to the region again, said RAND researcher Jordan Fischbach, who led the flood risk assessment team for the master plan.

“Do you want this to be total protection?” asked Robert Muir Wood, chief research officer at Risk Management Solutions (RMS). “The government was not prepared to invest that much.”

But, while New Orleans still has much work to do to prepare fully for the next storm, in some ways the storm has been a helpful reminder—albeit a painful one. For other regions that haven’t prepared, the next storm could only be a season away. According to RMS, three cities beyond New Orleans face especially high chances of large-scale damages: Miami, Tampa and New York City. Currently, Tampa faces a 1-in-80 annual chance of a storm surge event causing more than $15 billion in damage. The odds are 1-in-125 in Miami and 1-in-200 in New York City.

Motivating those regions to prepare, and pay for it, will be a tough task. In efforts to combat climate change, national efforts often focus on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, while local policy makers often work to make cities and communities able to withstand climate-related natural disasters. In many places, like Florida, there’s little motivation to spend time thinking about how climate change may make the next storm worse. Though the state contains two of the four cities most threatened by rising sea levels, state policies have created a roadblock to preparation.

“The disconnect is big,” Christina DeConcini, director of government affairs at the World Resources Institute, told TIME earlier this year. “At some point it’s going to have to close.”

Read next: New Orleans, Here & Now

TIME climate change

Sea Levels Are 3 Inches Higher Than They Were in 1992

Stormy ocean water
Getty Images

"It's very likely to get worse in the future."

A panel of NASA scientists said Wednesday that new data shows sea levels are, on average, three inches higher than they were in 1992 due to melting ice from both mountain glaciers and the polar ice caps, as well as warmer oceans.

The data was collected from NASA satellites. NASA also released a video that shows a visualization of rising sea levels.

The changes are concerning and “it’s very likely to get worse in the future,” Steve Nerem, a University of Colorado geophysicist and a member of the panel, said in a conference call, Reuters reported. In 2013, a United Nations panel reported sea levels were projected to rise between 1 and 3 feet by 2100; the NASA panel said data indicates the level rise would be on the higher end of that projection.

The sea level change is an average; in some areas, sea levels rose more than 9 inches, and in others—such as along the West Coast, sea levels are falling.

Scientists warn that we haven’t seen the worst of it yet; ocean currents and weather cycles have actually offset some sea level changes in the Pacific, which means the West Coast could see a huge jump in sea levels in the next 20 years.

The panel warned that forecasting the melting rate of the polar ice caps is nearly impossible. And even if the pattern were to stall and reverse, it would take centuries to return to original pre-climate change levels.

 

TIME animals

One of the Newborn Baby Pandas at the National Zoo Has Died

One cub is still alive

The smaller panda of the twins born to giant panda Mei Xiang at Washington DC’s National Zoo has died, the zoo said on Wednesday.

Mei Xiang was paying more attention to the larger of the panda cubs, and ignoring the smaller one, the zoo said on Tuesday. Zookeepers were struggling to get her to nurse the smaller cub.

The twins were born on Aug 22. On the day of the birth, zoo spokesperson Pamela Baker-Masson said keepers were “thrilled, absolutely thrilled.”

According to the zoo, giant pandas have twins 50% of the time, and this is only the third time a giant panda is given birth to twins in the U.S. Only two giant pandas have successfully raised twins in the past, and it required a lot of human help, the zoo said.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

FDA Says Vegan Mayonnaise Can’t Be Called Mayo

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FDA rules require mayonnaise to contain eggs; Hampton Creek's Just Mayo doesn't

Vegan mayonnaise—which by definition doesn’t contain eggs—can’t be marketed as mayonnaise, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Hampton Creek Foods, Inc., a health foods company whose best known product is a vegan, egg-free mayonnaise called Just Mayo, was sent a warning letter from the FDA on Aug. 12.

“According to the standard of identity for mayonnaise, egg is a required ingredient,” said the letter, which was released Tuesday and was signed by William A. Cornell, Jr., the FDA’s director of the office of compliance. “[H]owever, based on the ingredient information on the labels, these products do not contain eggs. We also note that these products contain additional ingredients that are not permitted by the standard, such as modified food starch, pea protein, and beta-carotene, which may be used to impart color simulating egg yolk. Therefore, these products do not conform to the standard for mayonnaise.”

The FDA requires that a product calling itself “mayonnaise” contain at least 65% vegetable oil and have one or more “egg yolk-containing” ingredients.

The “egg” of Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo—and Just Mayo Sriracha, which was also cited in the warning letter—is actually a byproduct of Canadian yellow pea and has fast become a popular product on grocery store shelves across the country, TIME reported last year. The company boasts investors that read like the who’s who of the tech world: Bill Gates, Peter Theil and Vinod Khosla all back the San Francisco-based company.

But in November 2014, Unilever—which owns Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise—filed a lawsuit against Hampton Creek, arguing the lack of eggs in its Just Mayo disqualifies the product from being classified as a mayonnaise. Unilever dropped the suit less than a month later, with a company spokesperson saying in a statement, “We believe Hampton Creek will take the appropriate steps in labeling its products going forward.”

The letter from the FDA also takes issue with Hampton Creek’s claim that Just Mayo is “cholesterol free,” as well as the website tagline “You’ll never find cholesterol in our products,” saying that “it is an unauthorized synonym for ‘cholesterol free.'”

The FDA has asked Hampton Creek to respond within 15 business days of receiving the letter. Hampton Creek has yet to do so, and did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

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