Southern California environment news and trends

California and USC engineers team up to study potential tsunami scenarios

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A woman watches as tsunami surges hit the coast on March 11, 2011 in Half Moon Bay, California.

As the world pauses to remember the devastating earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan last year, California is taking precautions to brace the coast in case something similar happens here.

According to R&D, engineers from USC and the state of California will use hydrodynamic computer modeling and past tsunami data to study how the state’s coast is affected when they occur. One of the primary goals of the study is to create new coastal flooding maps and potential escape routes.

As reported by Patch, last year’s tsunami in Japan caused considerable damage along California’s coast, and created swirling currents in Santa Barbara and Marina del Rey that according to the San Francisco Chronicle, could have been much worse had the tsunami hit at high tide.

"California is being proactive in its effort to re-evaluate certain elements of its tsunami preparedness based on lessons learned from the Japan event," said Jose Borrero, the Adjunct Research Professor of the USC Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and one of the study’s primary conductors. "During the Japan tsunami, even though we knew how big the waves were going to be, we severely underestimated the strength and duration of the currents."


USC Nobel laureate develops groundbreaking CO2-soaking polymer

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A team of researchers, led by USC chemist and 1994 Nobel Prize winner George Olah, has created a new kind of polymer capable of sucking CO2 emissions right out of the atmosphere. The idea being that the CO2 can actually be harnessed and used as a base to make the alternative fuel methanol.

Working on a way to create cheaper, iron-based batteries, the team created a new plastic from a polyethylenimine base. Discovering that this new compound was able to eat up high levels of CO2 at low temperatures. With the idea that some day artificial “forests” could be created to reduce CO2 emissions in large areas, they’ve expanded their research to make a version of the plastic able to withstand higher temperatures for use in smokestacks or car exhausts.