Disasters

  • Protecting vital infrastructure as sea levels rise

    As the world gets warmer, sea levels are rising; it has been happening at a snail’s pace so far, but as it speeds up more and more low-lying coastal land will be lost; at risk are many of the world’s cities and huge areas of fertile farmland; the sea is set to rise a meter or more by the end of this century, swamping much vital infrastructure and displacing hundreds of millions of people; scientists are looking at various ways to slow down or reverse the rise in sea levels — and of ways of coping with its consequences

  • 2010: a year of costly disasters

    Altogether, a total of 950 natural catastrophes were recorded last year, nine-tenths of which were weather-related events like storms and floods; this total makes 2010 the year with the second-highest number of natural catastrophes since 1980, markedly exceeding the annual average for the last ten years (785 events per year); the overall losses amounted to around $130 billion, of which approximately $37 billion was insured; the five “great natural catastrophes” of 2010 — the earthquakes in Haiti (1/12), Chile (2/27), and central China (4/13), the heat wave in Russia (July to September), and the floods in Pakistan (July to September) — claimed approximately 295,000 lives

  • Asia faces climate-induced migration crisis

    Asians accounted for 89 percent of the 207 million people affected by natural disasters globally last year; Asian governments are currently focused on mitigating weather changes induced by climate change, but a new report from the Asian Development Bank says they should start laying down policies and mechanisms to deal with the projected population shifts; weather changes such as significant temperature increases, changing rainfall patterns, greater monsoon variability, sea-level rise, floods, and more intense tropical cyclones would force millions of people to flee their homes to safer havens within countries and across borders

  • Pakistan floods last summer could have been predicted

    Five days before intense monsoonal deluges unleashed vast floods across Pakistan last July, computer models at a European weather-forecasting center were giving clear indications that the downpours were imminent; if the information had been processed, forecasters could have predicted extremely accurate rainfall totals 8-10 days beforehand; the lack of a cooperating agreement between the forecasting center and Pakistan, however, meant that these rainfall warnings did not make it to the Pakistani people, nor did Pakistan’s own meteorological agency forecast the flooding

  • Minnesota will see major floods in spring

    Meteorologists project major floods in Minnesota this spring; emergency response officials warn that major roadways will likely be closed and are urging residents to immediately purchase flood insurance; officials are also encouraging residents to develop evacuation plans and to begin raising appliances off of basement floors; a third particularly rainy autumn followed by double the average amount of snow is to be blamed for the floods, as excessive snow melt will swell rivers in the spring; last year similar conditions caused rampant flooding and an estimated $28 million in damages

  • DHS grant buys gear for Ohio fire department

    A DHS grant will allow the Lancaster, Ohio fire department to upgrade aging equipment and purchase a sophisticated new wireless tracking system; the new system will allow commanders to track firefighters on the scene and can send out distress signals if the firefighter becomes trapped or is impaired; the DHS grant covered $57,000 of the total $62,000; another $300,000 DHS grant will pay for a new fire truck to replace an aging truck that dates back to 1983; Lancaster has suffered from budget shortfalls and was forced to lay off firefighters

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  • Weighing the costs of disaster

    Different people react differently to disasters; individuals exposed to disaster may experience a number of psychological problems including PTSD, grief, anxiety, and increased substance abuse, but the evidence shows that less than 30 percent of adults experience severe, lasting levels of these problems; there may be a number of factors that influence how people react following disasters, such as age and socioeconomic status

  • Dinosaurs survived mass extinction by 700,000 years

    The long established impact theory of dinosaur extinction holds that the age of dinosaurs ended between 65.5 and 66 million years ago, after Earth was hit by an asteroid; the impact caused massive fires, throwing smoke and soot into the atmosphere, blocking sun light for months, and causing the death of plants on which the vegetarian dinosaurs depended; a femur bone of a hadrosaur found in New Mexico is only 64.8 million years old, meaning this particular plant eater was alive about 700,000 years after the mass extinction event

  • California dams plagued by seismic concerns

    Half of Santa Clara County, California’s reservoirs cannot be filled to their full capacity due to seismic concerns; engineering tests revealed that in the event of a major earthquake the dam could slump sending a deadly tidal wave across densely populated communities; seismic retrofit costs to the county’s dam are estimated at $150 million; with the reduced capacity, the county’s dams must be maintained at 67 percent of its total capacity and cannot store more water in preparation for future droughts; the lost capacity could provide water for 280,000 people for a year

  • Megastorm could devastate California, not just earthquakes

    A team of over 100 scientists, engineers, and emergency planners are urging California disaster planning officials to prepare for megastorms; the team projected that a catastrophic megastorm could decimate California with massive landslides and flooding; the findings were based on geological evidence of such powerful storms that occur every 300 years; the last megastorm occurred in 1861 and left the Sacramento Valley an “inland sea”

  • Aussies flee more flooding

    Flood water in northern Australia now cover an area larger than Germany and France combined; in addition to Queensland, large parts of the state of Victoria are now under water; around sixty towns across an area larger than Denmark to the north-west of the state capital, Melbourne, have been hit by floods as heavy rain from recent weeks makes its way across broad floodplains to the Murray River; the estimated damage in hard-hit Queensland now stands at US$19.8 billion

  • Who is the culprit in the Queensland floods: man or nature?

    Climate change may contribute to the intensification of natural disasters, but the major drivers of the rapidly rising costs of natural disasters — in Australia and around the world — are societal changes such as increases in population, wealth, and inflation, not climate change; the only way to reduce the scale of future disasters in Australia are risk-informed land planning policies with risks appropriately priced by an active insurance market; in simple terms, for flood and bushfire, this means an end to unmanaged development of flood plains or within bushlands

  • 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

  • Economic, infrastructure damage of floods in Australia, Brazil staggering

    The floods in Australia and Brazil demonstrate how vulnerable societies are to the ravages of nature; the floods in Brazil have caused damage estimated at $1.2 billion; the Australia flooding could prove to be the most costly in the country’s history, already topping $5 billion before the waters reached Brisbane last week; the waters have ruined the agriculture industry in many areas of the country and when including the lost production value of crops and other goods, damages rise to almost $30 billion

  • Brisbane under water

    Brisbane, a city of two million and Australia’s third largest, is flooded; roads are inundated, railway lines have been cut, and sewage is spreading into the waters; dozens of suburbs are under three meters of waters, with some factories and homes only visible by their roofs; more than 100,000 properties had their power cut as a precaution against flooding of electricity substations; the worst affected area was the town of Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, where residents described an 8-meter “instant inland tsunami” ripping through the streets on Monday; the flood zone in northern Australia now covers are larger than Germany and France combined