Disasters

  • Software turns laptops, PCs into earthquake early-warning system

    Harnessing the power of accelerometers — tiny devices that detect movement, allowing, for example, iPhones to flip from vertical to horizontal and Wii devices to function as tennis rackets — and embedding them in laptops and PCs would create a local, regional, or even global network of “quake catchers” who would use their computers to map tremors

  • Worry: gravitational force would cause nuked asteroids to reform

    The only way to prevent large asteroids from hitting Earth is to use nuclear weapons to blast them to pieces; scientists find that this is not good enough: the gravitational force among the asteroids fragments would cause the asteroid to reform, “Terminator”-like, within hours

  • National insurance for natural disasters: a necessity or "beach house bailout"

    Supporters of national disaster insurance program say it is better to plan ahead than do a bailout after a natural disaster; opponents say it would be a subsidy for owners of coastal mansions and encourage people to live in disaster-prone areas

  • Washington State, federal officials in dam-related disaster resilience exercises

    Officials from the Tri-Cities area of Washington State, neighboring areas, and federal agencies participate in a exercise aiming to develop a strategy to improve disaster resilience and preparedness in the event of severe flooding along the Columbia River, flooding which leads to overtopping and subsequent breaching of levees in the Tri-Cities area

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  • The city of Concepción moved 10 feet to the west; rebuilding infrastructure will cost $1.2 billion

    Chile’s earthquake was the fifth most powerful quake ever measured; the powerful temblor shifts one city to the west — and rearranges others parts of South America as well; cost of rebuilding Chile’s infrastructure estimated at $1.2 billion

  • Wireless communication solutions for emergency situations

    At one time, traditional broadcast networks — radio and TV — were adequate for alert services and information dissemination during disasters and emergencies; these means do not allow communication among individuals; modern mobile devices might prove increasingly resilient in emergencies and could be the most accessible platform for the majority of people

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  • Engineering earthquake-resistant buildings

    Chile’s 8.8-magnitude earthquake was much more powerful that Haiti’s 7.0-magnitude tremor; yet, Haiti’s quake claimed an estimated 300,000 dead, while Chile’s quake claimed around 800; the reason: Chile enforced building codes for earthquake-resistant structures after the 1960 9.0-magnitude earthquake; the corrupt, indifferent, and ineffective governments of Haiti never bothered to develop a meaningful building code, let alone enforce one

  • FCC's new public safety proposal receives mixed response

    FCC relaunches the 700 MHz public/private safety initiative; original 2008 auction for Block D failed to reach its reserve price; new FCC plan puts up to $16 billion and more spectrum behind the proposals; public safety organizations disappointed, carrier community remains undecided

  • Chile quake occurred in zone of increased geological stress

    The massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile on 27 February occurred in an offshore zone that was under increased stress caused by a 1960 quake of magnitude 9.5; the earthquake, some 300-500 times more powerful than the magnitude 7.0 quake in Haiti on 12 January, ruptured at the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates

  • The Chile quake was followed by a smaller tsunami than originally expected

    The tsunami which followed Saturday’s earthquake in Chile was smaller than originally expected because the earthquake ruptured only a relatively small segment of fault at the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates — around 350 kilometers; the length of fault rupture determines the distance at which a tsunami begins to lose energy

  • Chile quake will likely be followed by increased volcanic activity

    Chile’s problems are not over, as previous earthquakes were followed by volcanic activity: after a magnitude 8.3 in 1906 and a magnitude 9.5 earthquake in 1960, there were three or four more volcanic eruptions within about 500 kilometers of the epicenter in the following year than would normally be expected

  • Smart CCTV detects brush-fire in early stage

    Researchers develop a CCTV that can detect the first flames of a brush fire; a specially developed software for the CCTV analyzes video images for the characteristic flicker and color of a flame; the software looks for pixels which change from one frame to the next, and which also have a fire-like color

  • The unprecedented role of SMS in disaster response

    In Haiti, volunteers set up an SMS messaging system which allow individuals in earthquake-affected areas to text their location and urgent needs in real time for free; since the majority of incoming text messages were in Creole, thousands of volunteers agreed to serve as instant translators

  • A new law of hurricane formation

    Robert Ehrlich, a physicist at George Mason University, offers a new mathematical model of hurricane formation which appears finally to solve one of the outstanding puzzles of climate change; the model also predicts dramatic increases in the number of storms as the world warms

  • Radar detection may fail to spot smaller tornadoes

    Even though meteorologists use multiple radar stations to monitor thunderstorms, small tornadoes can escape the detection of radar scans. Smaller tornadoes do not level entire towns like their bigger brethren, which can be more than a half-mile wide, but the small twisters can cause widespread damage