Disasters

  • ResilienceAssessing climate change vulnerability in Georgia

    New research from the University of Georgia assesses the communities in the state most vulnerable to changes in temperature and precipitation. The study examines not only the sensitivity and susceptibility of populations that are vulnerable to flooding along the coast, but also the social vulnerability of inland populations in Georgia. The research presents a vulnerability assessment of Georgia based on county-level statistics from 1975 to 2012.

  • WaterHimalayas glaciers volume to decline dramatically, affecting region’s water supply

    Glaciers in High Mountain Asia, a region that includes the Himalayas, contain the largest volume of ice outside the polar regions. If greenhouse-gas emissions continue to rise, glaciers in the Everest region of the Himalayas could experience dramatic change in the decades to come – and may decline by between 70 percent and 99 percent by 2100. Changes in glacier volume can impact the availability of water, with consequences for agriculture and hydropower generation. While increased glacier melt initially increases water flows, ongoing retreat leads to reduced meltwater from the glaciers during the warmer months. “The signal of future glacier change in the region is clear: continued and possibly accelerated mass loss from glaciers is likely given the projected increase in temperatures,” says a researcher.

  • Terrorism & mediaExposure to media coverage of terrorist acts, disasters may cause long-term negative health effects

    The city of Boston endured one of the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in April of 2013, when two pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. While emergency workers responded to the chaos and law enforcement agencies began a manhunt for the perpetrators, Americans fixed their attention to television screens, Internet news sites and forums, and Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. In doing so, some of those people may have been raising their acute stress levels which, in some cases, have been linked with long-term negative health effects. For some individuals, intense exposure to the Boston Marathon bombing through media coverage could be associated with more stress symptoms than those who had direct exposure to the attack.

  • Decision making“Echo chambers” fuel climate change debate: Study

    A new study demonstrates that the highly contentious debate on climate change is fueled in part by how information flows throughout policy networks. The researchers found that “echo chambers” — social network structures in which individuals with the same viewpoint share information with each other — play a significant role in climate policy communication. The researchers point out that the debate on climate change is not indicative of inconclusive science. Rather, the debate is illustrative of how echo chambers influence information flows in policy networks. “Our research underscores how important it is for people on both sides of the climate debate to be careful about where they get their information. If their sources are limited to those that repeat and amplify a single perspective, they can’t be certain about the reliability or objectivity of their information,” says one of the authors.

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  • EarthquakesEarthquake preparations in the Pacific Northwest need to start now: Experts

    Developing the resilience to withstand a massive earthquake along the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia Subduction Zone is the responsibility of public agencies, private businesses, and individuals, and that work should be under way now, an OSU expert advised Congressional leaders last week in Washington, D.C.“It will take fifty years for us to prepare for this impending earthquake. The time to act is before you have the earthquake. Everybody needs to take some responsibility and start preparing now.” Earthquake preparation, or lack thereof, is not an issue unique to Oregon: Forty-two U.S. states have significant earthquake faults.

  • GridDrought, heat to affect U.S. West's power grid

    Expected increases in extreme heat and drought will bring changes in precipitation, air and water temperatures, air density and humidity, scientists say. These changing conditions could significantly constrain the energy generation capacity of power plants — unless steps are taken to upgrade systems and technologies to withstand the effects of a generally hotter and drier climate. Power providers should invest in more resilient renewable energy sources and consider local climate constraints when selecting sites for new generation facilities, the researchers say.

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  • WaterHow climate change is making California’s epic drought worse

    By Catherine Gautier

    California is undergoing a record-setting drought that began in 2012, the worst in at least 1,200 years. California and other southwestern states have suffered through multi-year droughts in the past, but how does climate change figure into what’s happening now? Can scientists separate the effect of rising greenhouse gas levels on the current drought from other factors? Detecting and attributing observed or projected impacts to man-caused climate change is not an easy task. But there is some supporting evidence from improving numerical climate models and the record of several diverse meteorological and hydrological events already happening, including heat waves, flooding, or droughts. Scientists can run climate model experiments that include only natural variability and then include manmade factors, such as greenhouse gases. These tools serve to highlight and distinguish the dominant mechanisms responsible for particular air circulation characteristics. These climate model simulations show that the extreme and persistent circulation patterns that have caused droughts on the West Coast this century are due to anthropogenic external forces, not natural causes. Studies suggest that climate change might give rise to a new climate regime, one in which the years of low precipitation will be accompanied by warm conditions, creating the aforementioned “warm drought.”

  • Nuclear powerNRC ruling raises questions about future of Diablo Canyon reactors

    In a major victory for those who pointed, post-Fukushima, to the risks involved in having a nuclear power reactor operating too close to a seismic fault, as is the case with the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners have ruled – in a decision that could mark the beginning of the end of Diablo Canyon — that an Atomic Safety Licensing Board will decide whether Pacific Gas & Electric Co. was allowed illegally to alter the plant’s license. This alteration was made in an effort to hide the risk from powerful earthquake faults discovered since it was designed and built.

  • ResilienceLimiting climate change to 1.5°C

    Limiting temperature rise by 2100 to less than 1.5°C is feasible, at least from a purely technological standpoint, according to a new study. The study examines scenarios for the energy, economy, and environment that are consistent with limiting climate change to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and compares them to scenarios for limiting climate change to 2°C. Limiting temperature rise to1.5°C over pre-industrial levels is supported by more than 100 countries worldwide, including those most vulnerable to climate change, as a safer goal than the currently agreed international aim of 2°C.

  • WaterHow will California cities meet water-rationing mandates? Universities have some ideas

    By John Cook

    California is in the fourth year of an historic drought. It’s now so bad that state water authorities canceled the last monthly measurement of the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. There wasn’t enough snow to even bother trying. The situation compelled Governor Jerry Brown to impose emergency water-conservation measures that will require a 25 percent cut in urban water use over the next year. The water footprint of the state’s higher education system is substantial: there are ten University of California campuses, twenty-three California State University campuses, and 112 California community colleges. Yet the university system is putting in place a number of measures to conserve water. Municipalities, too, will need to implement similar measures to meet the mandates and adapt to this prolonged drought.

  • VolcanoesWashington State more prepared now for volcanic eruption

    Thirty-five years after the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption in Central Washington, which killed fifty-seven people and blanketed much of the state in ash, state officials say that they are far more ready for a future emergency than they were previous to that disaster.

  • Coastal resilienceRethinking coastal planning approaches

    The sound of waves, an ocean view, a beach at your doorstep — these might define the ultimate lifestyle choice. But who will pay for the sea wall to keep those seaside mansions and holiday homes safe as sea levels rise? What about public beach access? And how long would it provide protection anyway? Are there other options we can explore to realize the many benefits of our coasts in an era of climate change? Rising sea levels and other climate change effects are forcing a major re-think of coastal planning approaches, says a natural hazards planning expert.

  • WaterHow best to adapt to the U.S. water shortage?

    The water crisis in the western United States — most notably in California and Washington — may be the most severe and most publicized, but other threats to the nation’s water supply loom, says a water expert. “We have settled in places and undertaken industrial and agricultural activities largely based on water availability,” he says. “When that availability changes, we must adapt. If the change is rather rapid, we often face a crisis.”

  • VolcanoesWashington State more prepared now for volcanic eruption

    Thirty-five years after the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption in Central Washington, which killed fifty-seven people and blanketed much of the state in ash, state officials say that they are far more ready for a future emergency than they were previous to that disaster.

  • Coastal resilienceAntarctica’s ice shelf disintegrating, accelerating sea level rise

    Ice shelves are the gatekeepers for glaciers flowing from Antarctica toward the ocean. Without them, glacial ice enters the ocean faster and accelerates the pace of global sea level rise. A new NASA study finds the last remaining section of Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf, which partially collapsed in 2002, is quickly weakening and likely to disintegrate completely before the end of the decade. “Although it’s fascinating scientifically to have a front-row seat to watch the ice shelf becoming unstable and breaking up, it’s bad news for our planet. This ice shelf has existed for at least 10,000 years, and soon it will be gone,” says one scientist.