• Beaver-inspired robot navigates rough terrain

    A beaver-inspired robot uses new self-learning algorithms to navigate an obstacle-rich terrain —randomly placed rocks, bricks, and broken bits of concrete — which simulates an environment after a disaster such as a tornado or earthquake.

  • Sea level rise and coastal development: Science speaks directly to business

    If you are an investor or a developer with an interest in coastal properties, you are being bombarded with evidence of climate change in the form of sea level rise and its consequences. In the academic community, many interested in the business of coastal development have begun to take into account information from climate scientists and have expressed frustration that government regulators are not doing so.

  • Snow Job: Iran accuses its enemies of “stealing clouds” to create drought

    A senior Iranian official has accused Iran’s foreign enemies, including Israel, of modifying the weather in the country in order to create drought. “Foreigners are suspected of intervening in the country’s climate,” Gholamreza Jalali, the head of Iran’s Passive Defense Organization, a subdivision of the armed forces, said on 2 July in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

  • VR tech to help understand, ease the cognitive overload on first responders

    First responders’ lives depend on their ability to navigate structures during an emergency — a task researchers hope to make easier by using virtual reality technology to help understand cognitive overload, which occurs when smoke, fire, and stress combine to thwart a first responder’s sense of direction.

  • 3 reasons why the U.S. is vulnerable to big disasters

    During the 2017 disaster season, three severe hurricanes devastated large parts of the U.S. The quick succession of major disasters made it obvious that such large-scale emergencies can be a strain, even in one of the world’s richest countries. Why do some countries better withstand and respond to disasters? The factors are many and diverse, but three major ones stand out because they are within the grasp of the federal and local governments: where and how cities grow; how easily households can access critical services during disaster; and the reliability of the supply chains for critical goods. For all three of these factors, the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction. In many ways, Americans are becoming more vulnerable by the day.

  • Facing “a new era of catastrophes,” book by Wharton profs offers tips for business leaders

    Wharton’s Howard Kunreuther and Michael Useem’s recent book Mastering Catastrophic Risk: How Companies are Coping with Disruption dives into the ways top companies have rebounded after their own worst-case scenarios. “The ‘unthinkable’ has gone from not being on anyone’s radar screen to now being central,” says Useem. “But to think about it, you need tools, and wisdom.”

  • Meteoroid explodes over Russian city without warning

    A meteoroid exploded over the city of Lipetsk in western Russia last week without warning, lighting up the summer sky with a bright flash. While some enjoyed the light show, others are worried that we didn’t see it coming. The danger from an incoming asteroid of that size – about 15 feet wide — isn’t that it will crush buildings or people (although falling meteorites have occasionally done that), but the shock wave from the explosion, which can be comparable to a small nuclear explosion.

  • Warming climate would make wildfire-prone homes uninsurable

    Nine months after the October 2017destructive Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County, the process of reconstruction has begun. Experts question the prudence of rebuilding in some of the burnt-out areas in light of existing fire hazard and predictions of how the warming climate will fuel more frequent and severe wildfires in the western United States.

  • New simulations show potential impact of major quakes by building location, size

    With unprecedented resolution, scientists and engineers are simulating precisely how a large-magnitude earthquake along the Hayward Fault would affect different locations and buildings across the San Francisco Bay Area. Researchers are leveraging powerful supercomputers to portray the impact of high-frequency ground motion on thousands of representative different-sized buildings spread out across the California region.

  • Understanding the Gulf Coast's interconnected natural and human system

    The physical and ecological systems, people, and economy in the Gulf Coast are inextricably linked. Improved understanding of the coupled natural-human coastal system will help promote resilience of coastal communities and ecosystems under rapidly changing environmental conditions and support informed decision-making, says a new report.

  • Lessons from extreme weather events: What disasters teach us about resilience

    Extreme weather events are among the most likely causes of disasters. Every dollar spent on disaster resilience saves five dollars in future losses. Post-Event Review Capability analysis helps to identify opportunities to reduce risk and build long-term resilience. With that in mind, Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) says it is sharing what it has learned about how individuals, businesses and communities can increase resilience to disasters.

  • Dangerous climate change is likely: Study

    New study reveals sensitive regions of the world are still at risk from the dangerous and potentially irreversible effects of climate change. Research also concludes governments can achieve the goals set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement of limiting the increase in global average temperatures to well below 2°C, if they act now.

  • Houston and Hurricane Harvey: The lessons

    Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas on 25 August 2017 as a Category 4 storm. Over the next four days, Harvey dropped more than 40 inches of rain over eastern Texas, causing catastrophic flooding. The resulting floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displaced more than 30,000 people and prompted more than 17,000 rescues. Total damage from the hurricane is estimated at $125 billion. Through extensive interviews, a new Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) study identifies lessons learned from the 2017 Houston floods and provides recommendations for enhancing flood resilience - before the next event occurs.

  • The lessons of natural disasters for the world

    Historians are part of a global study that will shed light on how to better deal with the prediction and aftermath of environmental disasters in the Indian Ocean region, including tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

  • New national near-Earth object preparedness plan released

    A new multiagency report outlines how the U.S. could become better prepared for near-Earth objects—asteroids and comets whose orbits come within thirty million miles of Earth—otherwise known as NEOs. While no known NEOs currently pose significant risks of impact, the report is a key step to addressing a nationwide response to any future risks.