News from the Professional Development Unit

[ News from the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences ]

UK fracking traffic would increase local air pollution, finds study

25 February 2016

The traffic generated by fracking in the UK would increase air pollution substantially at a local level at the busiest times, according to a study about the potential impact of lorry traffic.

The research found that the number of tankers taking water to and from drilling sites would increase hourly levels of nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) by as much as 30%.

Dr Paul Goodman, researcher in transport and the environment at Newcastle, said there was also another potential issue since an individual well might require hundreds of tanker truck journeys, crammed into a short period of time.

"Tankers are a very visible element of an industry and we as a country haven't much experience of heavy industry on our roads, there's potentially an image problem," he said.

He added that the use of large water tankers, some as large as the 40-tonne type that transport petrol and diesel to fuelling stations, could damage some roads. "If we don't have a potholes budget, it may become problematic as to who pays for the repair of the roads," Goodman said.

On Monday, the association for water and environment professionals, CIWEM, found in a report that dealing with the water that flows back to the surface during fracking was the most significant risk from the technology.

Full article: The Guardian

Goodman, P.S., Galatioto, F., Thorpe, N., Namdeo, A.K., Davies, R.J., Bird, R.N. (2016) Investigating the traffic-related environmental impacts of hydraulic-fracturing (fracking) operations Environment International

All of our courses in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering are accredited by CIWEM, and Dr Paul Goodman contributes to the following courses in Transport:

[ Back to top of page ]

Newcastle helps lead the way in blue-green cities move to combat flood risk

19 February 2016

More water storage and greening spaces in Newcastle are the basis for the city conference pledge at the Life Science Centre

Increasing the amount of blue and green in Newcastle could help tackle flood risk and climate change, and bring other social, economic and environmental benefits, a conference in the city heard.

Research from the Blue-Green Cities Consortium, led by the University of Nottingham and including Newcastle University, has found that increasing the amount of storage ponds, water channels, green roofs, green walls and green space - known as blue and green infrastructure - in Newcastle could make a significant contribution to reducing flood risk, as well as improving air quality and biodiversity.

Local partners are already working together to introduce such approaches into the city.

Measures include the final masterplan for Science Central, providing an urban water research facility as part of Newcastle University's new Urban Sciences Building, which is set to open in 2017. The £10 million facility will enable testing of new "smart" technologies and urban flood management features.

Prof Chris Kilsby and Vassilis Glenis are members of the Blue Green Cities Research Team.

Read more: Newcastle Chronicle

Prof Chris Kilsby

[ Back to top of page ]

Seven ways we can fight back against flooding

4 February 2016

There is no panacea for flood events, but there a range of things we can either do better or start doing to mitigate or adapt to them.

  1. Get to grips with climate change
  2. Make forecasting smarter
  3. Improve catchment management
  4. Make best use of flood defences
  5. Get strategic about large-scale water storage
  6. Look at rural solutions
  7. Learn to live with the floods

Full article: The Conversation

Prof Chris Kilsby

[ Back to top of page ]

Understanding climate change's role in the UK's recent floods

6 January 2016

It's an environmental whodunit. Last month, in streets that would normally be bustling with sales shoppers, the only sounds were the thrum of helicopters and the lapping of water against walls.

First Desmond, then Eva and Frank: three major storms slammed into the UK and Ireland during December, making it the wettest month ever recorded in the UK and causing flooding misery in northern England and Scotland. Now those affected want to know where to lay the blame.

... asking if climate change is to blame for an individual event may be the wrong question, says Hayley Fowler at Newcastle University, UK. Such events would probably happen anyway, but can be enhanced or made more frequent by climate change. "We're living in a climate that is warmed," she says. "All of our weather is affected by climate change."

Full article: New Scientist

Prof Hayley Fowler

[ Back to top of page ]

Research Impact: Managing Global Water Supplies and Engineering a Halt to the 'Superbug'

4 January 2016

Managing Global Water Supplies

The management of water resources is a source of potential conflict all over the world, particularly where supplies cross a number of political boundaries. Newcastle University, UK, has earned a global reputation for applying solid science to help bring about resolutions to these issues.

Dr Geoff Parkin

Engineering a Halt to the 'Superbug'

Antibiotic resistance and the associated spread of untreatable 'superbugs' is one of the major public health concerns of the 21st century. Now, a team of experts from Newcastle University and the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi are shedding new light on how to tackle this global problem.

Prof David Graham

[ Back to top of page ]

Pickering flood defences hailed as ideal model

4 January 2016

A North Yorkshire town which avoided flooding despite not having traditional flood defences has been hailed as an example to follow.

Pickering flooded in 2007 but couldn't get funding for a flood barrier. Instead a smaller, and cheaper reservoir to store water and let it out slowly was built further up Pickering beck.

In addition, 167 small, leaky dams were built out of logs and branches and trees were planted.

Academics and engineers say that these cost effective, simple schemes are not always appropriate but could be the way to prevent further flooding across the north. Dr Paul Quinn has worked on similar schemes in Northumberland.

"It's really good if you have a big thunderstorm. A big thunderstorm with really big intensity and rainfall it just kills the storm. It takes away the energy, slows down the flow. And it works really well for small communities where the flood wave goes through quite quickly."

Full article:

Dr Paul Quinn

[ Back to top of page ]

Urban Sciences Building takes shape on Science Central

14 December 2015

Work has commenced on the construction of Newcastle University's Urban Sciences Building (USB) on Newcastle Science Central.

Newcastle University is investing £60 million in the new building, which will house the School of Computing Science and Institute for Sustainability, creating world-class facilities from which to lead international research into digitally enabled urban sustainability.

The building will feature an Urban Observatory, which will collect a diverse set of data from across the city, and a Decision Theatre, which will enable real time data to be analysed and explored. The building and the surrounding city will become a 'living laboratory' underpinning research to make urban centres more sustainable for future generations.

To commemorate the start of the building work, Dr Jennine Jonczyk, a researcher in water resources at Newcastle University, fitted the first E-mote sensor on the site which will feed data into the Urban Observatory. The E-mote sensor is a low cost, low power environmental quality monitoring device that records data which can be accessed in real time.

"We're very excited to have the first sensor on site at Newcastle Science Central" said Jennine. "It will form part of a heterogeneous sensor network across Newcastle Science Central, Newcastle University's campus and eventually the city, allowing us to measure and record air quality, air pollution, temperature, humidity, vibration, light and noise.

"Eventually we will have thirty E-motes around the Newcastle Science Central area which will communicate with each other, feeding data into the Urban Observatory.

"During the development of the site we can look at how air quality changes, from construction phase to ten years down the line. We plan to create a long-term data set that can be utilised by the public, researchers, and city service providers and planners. The Urban Observatory is improving our understanding of how cities work and we can base future decisions about our city on a firm evidence base."

Read more in our Press Office release

CPD Courses in Water Resources

[ Back to top of page ]

Twin sisters scoop top honours

11 December 2015

Identical twins Rebecca and Victoria Smith have now got even more in common after both graduated with distinctions from Newcastle University.

Joining approximately 1,900 students at the University's winter congregation ceremonies, Rebecca and Victoria, from Hamsterley Colliery in County Durham, gained master's degrees with distinction in Flood Risk Management.

For their dissertations, the 22-year-olds explored runoff management for areas in Newcastle. Victoria focused on water management options for Newcastle Town Moor, while Rebecca investigated storing runoff on Leazes Moor in order to potentially reduce the risk of flooding to the City Centre and Newcastle University campus.

Dr Paul Quinn, Senior Lecturer in Catchment Hydrology at School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, supervised the twin sisters' dissertation projects.

He said: "In recent years the urgency to solve real world problems in our own back yard has become more important than ever. The issue of flooding in Newcastle and across the UK could not be more important as we see once again record floods in the Eden and the Tyne.

"Rebecca and Victoria have pitched in with full effort and have taken the issue of solving floods in Newcastle to level where the ideas proposed in their dissertation are now receiving serious consideration. Their work was highly skilled and thoughtful and they certainly kept me busy! I really enjoyed working with them on their dissertation and know they will do well in their new roles as problem solvers of the future."

Building on their research experience from the master's course and undergraduate degrees in Physical Geography, Victoria and Rebecca have now started PhD projects focusing on water-related issues.

Read more in our Press Office release

Dr Paul Quinn

[ Back to top of page ]

Entire M60 breaks limit for toxic gas

2 November 2015

Entire M60 breaks limit for toxic gas (Sunday Times, p12)

Dr Anil Namdeo comments on the impact of air pollution on vulnerable people, such as the elderly and young children.

People using some of the country's busiest motorways and trunk roads are being exposed to dangerous and illegal levels of air pollution, according to official figures.

Dr Anil Namdeo

[ Back to top of page ]

Scientists from Newcastle University to help free China of industrial smog

26 October 2015

Professor Phil Blythe is co-leading a collaboration involving experts from Newcastle University, Imperial College London and Southeast University, China. The project will examine how electric or hybrid cars can halt the environmental and social problems created by the rapid increase in vehicle use in East Asia.

Read the University Press Release
Article in the Newcastle Chronicle

Prof Phil Blythe

[ Back to top of page ]

Engineering Grand Challenge: A new £3.9million research project

19 October 2015

A new £3.9million research project involving Newcastle University and Northumbrian Water will help ensure the UK maintains a clean, sustainable water supply for the future.

The project will help the UK water sector tackle key challenges, including population growth, ageing infrastructure and climate change.

The project is part of the £21 million Engineering Grand Challenges funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), announced by the Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson.

Professor Richard Dawson

[ Back to top of page ]

BBC Science and Environment

5 October 2015

Following the appearance of PhD student Eleanor Starkey and researchers Selma Guerreiro and Liz Lewis on the BBC Weather World documentary, further clips have appeared on BBC Breakfast and BBC Look North. A longer science video about flooding has also been released on the BBC Science & Environment page:

The work of Paul Quinn and Eleanor Starkey also appeared in the Chronicle:

Dr Paul Quinn

[ Back to top of page ]

Car smoking ban comes into force

2 October 2015

Experts at Newcastle University have revealed the true danger of smoking in cars after an experiment showed passengers are at risk of shockingly high levels of chemicals. The University took part in an experiment, led by Dr. Anil Namdeo, designed to show the real impact of second-hand smoke. Details of the experiment and findings can be seen on the BBC website.

Daily Mail:
Sky News:
Newcastle Chronicle:

Dr Anil Namdeo

[ Back to top of page ]

Toxic diesel risk rises, Sunday Times Green

28 September 2015

Dr Anil Namdeo discusses the differences between real and predicted pollution levels in this article about inaccurate emission claims by car companies.

Toxic diesel risk rises

Dr Anil Namdeo

[ Back to top of page ]

Storm chasers: The scientists trying to combat flooding

1 September 2015

BBC News Breakfast, BBC News online - SUNDAY

BBC Weather's Nick Miller meets the team from Newcastle University who investigate flash flooding and runoff, as well as the scientists behind the water quality project inspired by the childhood game Kerplunk.

[ Back to top of page ]

New flood action team launched to investigate flash flooding across the UK

19 August 2015

A band of 'storm chasers' has been set up by Newcastle University to help collect data about flash flooding and inform the way we manage future flood risk.

With their specially-adapted 'storm mobile', the team of scientists are using met-office weather data to track intense rainfall and head off to areas where flash flooding is most likely to occur.

Using GPS data and laser scans, together with social media, photographs and videos of the affected area, the team are able to provide crucial data needed to create hydraulic models to build up an accurate picture of the flooding and identify key causes and trigger points.

Ultimately, the aim is to further our understanding of when and where flash flooding is likely to occur and develop new systems to reduce the damage and impact on communities.

Dr Geoff Parkin, one of the 'storm chasers' and a senior lecturer at Newcastle University, explains: "Extreme rainfall events may only last for a few hours at most, but can generate terrifying and destructive floods."

Led by Professor Hayley Fowler, the team use the Met Office forecasting charts to track the weather and anticipate where intense weather might hit the UK.

Read more at the University Press Office.

Dr Geoff Parkin

Prof Hayley Fowler

[ Back to top of page ]

LWEC Infrastructure Climate Change Impacts Report Card published

12 August 2015

The LWEC Infrastructure Climate Change Impacts Report Card has been published. The production of the card was led by a working group chaired by CESER Director, Professor Richard Dawson.

The Card is aimed at anyone who works with, or has an interest in, infrastructure in the UK. Infrastructure provides services important for our safety, our health and our economic development. Climate change may affect it in a number of ways. Focusing on the possible physical impacts of climate change, this card sets out to aid understanding of the nature and scale of those impacts on UK infrastructure and so inform decisions about infrastructure's management and further development. The card provides a high-level summary of the main findings from 12 detailed technical reports prepared by leading experts in their fields using the best available science from academic literature.

Read more on the School website and at CESER's blog.

Prof Richard Dawson

[ Back to top of page ]