• Mexico City's sinking is worsening

    Scientists are alarmed by the extent to which Mexico City has sunk; over the last 100 years, parts of the city have sunk as much as forty-two feet — and sections of the city sink as much as eight inches a year; the sinking has caused the city’s sewage system to back up resulting in dangerous floods; the sinking is the result of water being pumped from the aquifer directly below the city more quickly than it is being replenished; Mexico City is built in the middle of Lake Texcoco, which has been drained

  • Securing the California Delta's levees before a major earthquake

    In the event of a major earthquake or flood and many levees failing simultaneously in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, as many as 515,000 residents and 520,000 acres of land would be in immediate danger; the long term effects could be even more widespread, as nearly 28 million residents depend on the Delta for water and irrigation; California lawmakers have increasingly turned their attention to securing the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s levees, but experts say that only little progress has been made

  • Shift of Earth's magnetic north pole affects Tampa airport

    Magnetic changes in the core of the planet shift the Earth’s magnetic pole at nearly 40 miles a year toward Russia; as a result, Tampa, Florida, International Airport has closed its primary runway so it could be redesignated 19R/1L on aviation charts; it has been 18R/36L, indicating its alignment along the 180-degree approach from the north and the 360-degree approach from the south; the FAA required the runway designation change to account for the shift in the Earth’s magnetic pole

  • Recycled Haitian concrete safe, strong, cheap

    Nearly a year after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, most of the damaged areas of Haiti are still in ruins; researchers find that concrete and other debris in Port-au-Prince could be safely and inexpensively recycled into strong new construction material which meets or exceeds the minimum strength standards used in the United States

  • Engineers develop more earthquake-resistant building designs

    Virginia Tech researchers are developing a next generation of design criteria for buildings located in geographic regions where earthquakes are known to occur, either rarely or frequently; in the future, structural engineers will base their designs on the concepts of Performance Based Earthquake Engineering (PBEE), where the objective is to control damage and provide life-safety for any size of earthquake that might occur

  • N.Y.-N.J. PATH tunnels bomb-proofed

    If a small explosive — with enough power to blast a 50-foot hole in a tunnel — were detonated, more than a million gallons of Hudson River water per minute would surge into the PATH tubes; the Port Authority is hardening the tubes against terrorist attacks — placing water-absorbing pads around the tunnels, ringing the inside of the tunnels with blast-resistant steel, and building huge floodgates to seal off a tunnel in case water comes gushing in after a blast

  • China, U.K. pursue major rail projects; U.S. does not

    Unlike almost every other developed nation, the United States has no national transportation strategy; the nation fails to raise taxes that are supposed to pay for roads and rails. Gasoline taxes, for example, cover only about 50 percent of road projects, much lower than in the past, according to recent Federal Highway Administration figures; once the U.S. recognizes that it needs diversified and integrated air, rail and road transportation, it could well end up importing the technologies, products and expertise it has failed to develop

  • Engineers enhance building designs better to withstand earthquakes

    Earthquakes come in all sizes with varying degrees of damage depending on the geographic locations where they occur; even a small one on the Richter scale that strikes in an impoverished nation can be more damaging than a larger one that occurs in a city where all buildings have been designed to a stricter building code; the current building codes are insufficient because buildings designed according to these codes have evolved only to avoid collapse under very large earthquakes

  • Quake experiments may lead to sturdier buildings

    Johns Hopkins researchers will study how seismic forces affect mid-rise cold-formed steel buildings, up to nine stories high; the cold-formed steel pieces that are commonly used to frame low- and mid-rise buildings are made by bending about 1-millimeter-thick sheet metal, without heat, into structural shapes; these components are typically lighter and less expensive than traditional building systems and possess other advantages

  • Flood control projects in Las Vegas

    Las Vegas is the middle of the desert, and as other desert cities it falls victims to flash flooding during the rainy season; the city has launched a $30 million project to protect local roads and businesses from floods

  • Thirteen Georgia dams could be reclassified as high risk

    The number of dams designated high risk under Georgia’s Safe Dams Act could more than double in two counties in the state, but a backlog in state enforcement because of budget cuts could drag the reclassification process out years longer than scheduled

  • Artificial tornadoes created to test Japanese homes

    Japan suffers from many natural disasters, and over the past few years the number of tornados hitting the country has been on the rise; researchers have built a tornado simulator which can generate maximum wind velocity of 15 to 20 meters per second, enough to simulate an F3-size storm; on Japan’s Fujita Scale, an F3 storm is one powerful enough to uproot large trees, lift and hurl cars, knock down walls, and destroy steel-frame structures

  • LIDAR technology helps to map landslides

    Researchers use Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) to identify and accurately measure changes in coastal features following a catastrophic series of landslides that occurred in New Zealand in 2005; the findings are important for assessing geological hazards and reducing the dangers to human settlements

  • Panama Canal is due a big earthquake

    The Panama Canal is at greater risk of a catastrophic earthquake than previously assumed, a seismological survey of faults around the canal has warned; the survey estimate that quakes occur every 300 to 900 years. The most recent one was in 1621, so another could happen at any time

  • Minneapolis bridge collapse spawning new bridge research

    Oregon State University developed a new system to analyze the connections that hold major bridge members together; the work also brings focus to a little-understood aspect of bridge safety — that most failures are caused by connections, not the girders and beams they connect, as many people had assumed. The issues involved are a concern with thousands of bridges worth trillions of dollars in many nations