• InfrastructureUnderground radar locates post-Katrina damage

    An innovative underground radar technology is helping a city of in south Louisiana to identify and document underground infrastructure damage that had gone undetected in the months and years following Hurricane Katrina. This radar technology is a pipe-penetrating scanning system based on a new technology called ultra-wide band (UWB) pulsed radar. UWB allows for the inspection of buried pipelines, tunnels, and culverts to detect fractures, quantify corrosion, and determine the presence of voids in the surrounding soil often caused by storm water leaks and flooding.

  • Italy’s earthquakeItaly’s deadly earthquake is the latest in a history of destruction

    By Brendan Duffy, Mark Quigley, and Mike Sandiford

    The Appenines region of central Italy has been struck by a deadly earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.2. This earthquake is no surprise. Italy is prone to earthquakes; it sits above the boundary of the African and European plates. The Appenines region’s earthquake history can be traced back over seven centuries. Within the region, there is excellent and continuously improving scientific information about the hazard. But the knowledge of the hazard has not always translated well into measures that directly reduce economic loss and fatalities in earthquakes. Numerous vulnerable buildings remain, and the recovery process is commonly plagued by long disruptions and inadequate government funding to recover rapidly. Both the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake and this most recent quake highlight just how important it is to translate hazard assessments into improving the resilience of infrastructure to strong shaking. The focus should remain on linking science, engineering and policy, this is often the biggest challenge globally.

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  • Seismic shieldLarge-scale metamaterials could earthquake-proof buildings in tremor-prone regions

    Metamaterials – artificial structures that exhibit extraordinary vibrational properties – could come to the rescue of regions threatened by earthquakes, according to new research. The study, performed by researchers in Europe and involving detailed computer simulations, shows that large-scale metamaterials can attenuate the energy and amplitude of harmful low-frequency vibrations associated with seismic shocks.

  • Seismic predictionsCan we get better at predicting earthquakes?

    By Michel Campillo and Rob van der Hilst

    In the wake of the deadly earthquake, measuring 6.2, which rocked central Italy in the early hours of 24 August, questions again have been raised about whether earthquakes can be predicted. Fortunately, all earthquakes do not lead to disasters and, therefore, understanding where and why disasters are produced is the first goal of earthquake seismology. The first issue is thus one of semantics and objectives. Is the goal to predict an earthquake occurrence, predict ground motion due to an earthquake, or predict a disaster? In our efforts to better predict earthquakes, we have to be precise about the timescale: is it a prediction that an earthquake is imminent – that is, within seconds, hours, or even days before the shaking? Or that it is likely to happen within years or tens of years? There is hope that one day we could detect and monitor extremely slight changes in the rocks that would precede earthquakes – but this is still a long way from “prediction” of precisely when and where a disaster will occur. For now, knowing earthquakes is one way to live with them, to be prepared, to know the vulnerability of our communities and to adopt sound policies for earthquake-safe environments.

  • Coastal perilRising seas threaten 1.9 million U.S. homes with current value of $882 billion

    Typically when we talk about “underwater” homes, we are referring to negative equity. But there is a more literal way a home can be underwater: Rising sea levels, and the flooding likely to come with them, could inundate millions of U.S. homes worth hundreds of billions of dollars. If sea levels rise as much as climate scientists predict by the year 2100, almost 300 U.S. cities would lose at least half their homes, and 36 U.S. cities would be completely lost. The total combined current value of all homes at risk of being underwater with a 6-feet rise in sea levels is $882 billion.

  • Emerging threatsEconomic growth will not counterbalance increasing climate change-related damage

    More than 50 percent of all weather-related economic losses on the globe are caused by damages due to tropical cyclones. New research finds that financial losses per hurricane could triple by the end of the century in unmitigated climate change, while annual losses could on average rise by a factor of eight. The researchers also concluded that economic growth will not be able to counterbalance the increase in damage.

  • Coastal resilienceSeawalls, coastal forests in Japan help reduce tsunami damage

    Researchers who analyzed a history of tsunamis along the Pacific coast of Japan’s Tohoku region have learned that seawalls higher than five meters reduce damage and death, while coastal forests also play an important role in protecting the public. Japan has embarked on a 10-year reconstruction project costing about 31.5 trillion yen, or about $255 billion, which includes the construction of tsunami seawalls along Tohoku’s Pacific coast. Critics of the program have voiced skepticism about the effectiveness of seawalls.

  • ResilienceBuild disaster-proof homes before storms strike, not afterward

    By T. Reed Miller

    There are many technologies we can use to make our buildings more hazard-resistant. But we are not using them as extensively as we should. Instead of designing a building to reduce potential damage from the hazards it may face over its lifetime, most construction projects focus on saving money up front. By choosing the lowest construction cost possible, homeowners, insurance agencies, and taxpayers may end up paying for it many times over when natural disasters occur. To prevent the devastation from another storm, twister, or quake, we need to make deep investments nationwide in mitigation now, before the next disaster strikes.

  • ResilienceFort Collins, Colorado, using NIST guide to bolster community resilience

    Guided in part by strategies and procedures developed by NIST for creating effective and affordable community resilience, the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, is making a commitment to “deal with prospects of future weather- and climate-related challenges that put our community at greater risk,” according to Mayor Pro Tem Gerry Horak.

  • GridElectric grid vulnerabilities in extreme weather areas

    Climate and energy scientists at the DoE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a new method to pinpoint which electrical service areas will be most vulnerable as populations grow and temperatures rise. The scientists’ integrated approach – combining ORNL’s unique infrastructure and population datasets with high-resolution climate simulations run on the lab’s Titan supercomputer —  identifies substations at the neighborhood level and determines their ability to handle additional demand based on predicted changes in climate and population.

  • Earthquake resilienceEarthquake-resilient pipeline could allow Los Angeles’s water utility system withstand tremors

    Los Angeles’s water utility system – the nation’s largest — crosses over thirty fault lines en route to supplying water to more than four million residents. A top engineer from the city of Los Angeles visited Cornell University this month as researchers tested a new earthquake-resilient pipeline designed better to protect southern California’s water utility network from natural disasters. The steel pipe uses a unique structural wave design to control buckling, allowing the pipe to bend and compress without rupturing or losing water pressure.

  • FloodsFlood-related losses in Germany to increase under climate change

    Flood-related losses can be expected to increase considerably in Germany as a result of climate change, a new study shows. Extreme events like the severe floods along the river Elbe have already illustrated the potentially devastating consequences of certain weather conditions such as severe rainfall events, when continuing intense rain can no longer be absorbed by the soil and water levels in the rivers rise. Without appropriate adaptation, flood-related damage of currently about €500 million a year could multiply in the future, according to the comprehensive expert analysis.

  • Coastal threatsNew research predicts a doubling of coastal erosion by mid-century in Hawai’i

    Chronic erosion dominates the sandy beaches of Hawai’i, causing beach loss as it damages homes, infrastructure, and critical habitat. Researchers have long understood that global sea level rise will affect the rate of coastal erosion. Newresearch team developed a simple model to assess future erosion hazards under higher sea levels.

  • Water securityCape Cod susceptible to potential effects of sea-level rise

    Cape Cod is vulnerable to rising water tables and, in some areas, groundwater inundation as a result of rising sea levels, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study (USGS). Groundwater inundation occurs when the water table reaches or exceeds land surface. The challenges associated with the issue are likely to become more prevalent as seas rise. Depending on the severity, it may make areas unsuitable for residential and commercial development.

  • Grid securityIncreasing power grid cybersecurity

    Cybersecurity experts are leading a new program to develop new data analysis methods better to protect the nation’s power grid. The goal of this project is to develop technologies and methodologies to protect the grid from advanced cyber and threats by developing the means to distinguish between power grid failures caused by cyber attacks and failures caused by other means, including natural disasters, “normal” equipment failures, and even physical attacks.