Infrastructure protection

  • EarthquakesSeismologists deploy after a quake to learn more, so we can prepare for the next one

    By Ray Russo

    The simple truth about great earthquakes, and the miserable cascade of events they often trigger, is this: if an earthquake has affected a region, recently or in historical records, then future earthquakes in that region are inevitable. Globally, we need a program of identification and characterization of potentially hazardous faults in urban areas. From those studies, site-specific expected seismic shaking maps can be developed and construction codes and engineering design specifications for infrastructure enacted, mitigating hazard to new and future construction. Then urban political leaders and civil defense agencies must collaborate to lead local populations in an open and honest dialog to identify both irreplaceable cultural heritage, and also infrastructure that must survive natural disasters intact in order to prevent an earthquake from triggering a series of consequent catastrophes — fires, water, and food shortages and disease outbreaks. These structures should be retrofitted to survive the predicted shaking from the maximum expected magnitude earthquake for the given area. A number of different mechanisms to pay for this costly preventive engineering are almost certainly needed, tailored to local conditions.

  • ResiliencePreparing for extreme weather events

    “Arthur,” “Katrina,” “Allan,” and “Bertha” are examples of extreme weather events that have ravaged European and North American communities in recent years. Such extreme events often have enormous economic consequences, but they also represent irreplaceable losses for people whose homes have been destroyed. Since extreme weather is one consequence of climate change, we know that we need to prepare ourselves for more Arthurs and Katrinas in the coming years. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) are studying how Norwegian communities are tackling climate change and extreme weather events.

  • STEM educationYoung students compete at the Sea Level Measurement Device Design competition

    Global warming is bringing about a rise in the mean sea level, and this increases the risk of coastal flooding brought by storm surges during the passage of tropical cyclones. Two-hundred young students – from 4th grade to junior high — from twenty-five primary, secondary, and international schools designed and produced sea level measurement devices to compete for various prizes in the Sea Level Measurement Device Design Competition held last Sunday at the University of Hong Kong.

  • GridProtecting the U.S. power grid

    The U.S. power grid is made up of complex and expensive system components, which are owned by utilities ranging from small municipalities to large national corporations spanning multiple states. A National Academy of Sciences report estimates that a worst-case geomagnetic storm could have an economic impact of $1 trillion to $2 trillion in the first year, which is twenty times the damage caused by a Katrina-class hurricane.

  • view counter
  • InfrastructureU.S. must invest in energy infrastructure to upgrade outdates systems

    Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is calling for a renewed focus on U.S. energy infrastructure, saying new and improved oil pipeline projects are just a portion of a long list of work needed to modernize the country’s outdated system for transporting oil, natural gas, and electricity.In the government’s first Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), an almost 500-page analysis released last week, Moniz calls for building new pipelines, repairing old ones, and insulating electric grids and transformers from storms and terrorist attacks.”It is the right time, maybe it’s a little after the right time, for us to make these kind of investments in energy infrastructure,” he said.

  • EarthquakesDisaster and recovery: The unexpected shall come to be expected

    By Vincent T Gawronski

    In the days following the Nepal earthquake, the media has been focusing on the heart-wrenching human interest and hero-tragedy stories, but what must be emphasized is that this disaster was anticipated. More importantly, we now have the tools and building technologies to mitigate the impact of even major earthquakes. The frequency of earthquakes has not changed over the past few million years, but now millions of people live in vulnerable situations. The unexpected must come to be expected. Much-needed humanitarian assistance must transition into long-term development efforts. Simply put, instilling a culture of disaster risk reduction, investing in hazard mitigation, building as best as we can, and retrofitting what remains, will save lives.

  • view counter
  • Earthquake early warningU Oregon expands role in Pacific Northwest earthquake early warning system

    The University of Oregon will soon be playing an active role in preparing West Coast residents for the next magnitude 9 earthquake. Working in cooperation with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN), the UO will maintain fifteen seismometers previously owned by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The seismic network is a cooperative between the UO and the University of Washington, and is a key player in the development and testing of a West Coast earthquake early warning system. The recent passage of Oregon Senate Bill 5543, which was signed 30 March by Gov. Kate Brown, paved the way for the state of Oregon to acquire the seismometers with a one-time appropriation of $670,000.

  • Cyber operationsIsrael’s navy protects more than the country’s coast

    Cyber warriors working for Israel’s navy are constantly engaged in protecting against intense cyber intrusions which targets the country’s digital infrastructure, according to a senior navy source. “The navy understands that cyber conflicts are wars in their own right, beyond conventional conflicts that we have grown accustomed to. In cyber war, one can engage without firing a single bullet. Attacks can come before a conventional war. There are no official cease-fires. It goes on all of the time,” the source said.

  • ResilienceNIST releases draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for public review

    Over the last four years, the United States experienced forty-two extreme weather events which caused at least $1 billion in damage, for a total cost of about $227 billion and 1,286 lives lost. In all, there were 334 major disaster declarations in the United States between 2010 and 2014. The United States experienced about 500 natural disasters between 1994 and 2013, ranking second globally, behind China. The ten deadliest of these U.S. disasters killed more than 4,000 people. NIST issued a draft guide to help communities plan for and act to keep windstorms, floods, earthquakes, sea-level rise, industrial mishaps, and other hazards from inflicting disastrous consequences.

  • Coastal infrastructureWeb app helps Miami residents visualize how sea level rise affects their homes

    Researchers have developed a web app, known as the Sea Level Rise Toolbox, which helps Miami-Dade residents visualize the possible impact of rising seas in South Florida on their neighborhoods. The Web app, using elevation data from the Google Elevation Service, and based on sea level rise calculations created by Peter Harlem, a scientist at FIU’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Center, is an interactive sea-level rise viewer where users can enter an address to visualize how up to a 6-foot rise in sea level may affect Miami-Dade County neighborhoods.

  • EarthquakesNepal would have benefitted from a seismic early-warning system: Experts

    As far back as the thirteenth century, Nepal experienced a major earthquake every seventy-five years or so, and just like the recent magnitude 7.8 quake, no one has been able to predict exactly when the next quake will strike. If forecasters are unable to anticipate quakes days or weeks ahead, then residents of earthquake prone areas may have to rely on early-warning systems which are able to provide a few seconds notice before an earthquake strikes. Earthquake early-warning systems have been deployed in a few seismic hot zones including Japan, Mexico, and California.

  • EarthquakesIsrael worries about its own Big One

    The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal, leaving more than 4,000 people dead, has alerted earthquake experts in Israel about the country’s own seismic risk, which could result in a large quake months or a few years from now. Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan are sitting on a major fault line which constitutes “a real, as well as a current, threat to the safety, social integrity, and economic well-being of the people in the region,” reads a 2007 earthquake report.

  • Nuclear powerPreventing a Fukushima-like disaster in Europe

    In 2005, Europe was exposed to a potential risk of a nuclear disaster caused by the flooding of the Loviisa nuclear power plant in Finland. Sea levels rose by 1.73 meter above normal levels, due to a storm. As a result, flood defenses have been reinforced. Floods are likely to occur more frequently than anticipated when nuclear power plants where built, due to climate change. Improved safety management and further collaboration between experts are required to minimize the risk of flooding at coastal nuclear plants in Europe.

  • Coastal infrastructureMiami Beach luxury real estate market is booming in the face of rising sea levels

    By 2100, sea levels could rise by as much as six feet. Miami Beach, with its dense population and low altitude, is on the list of U.S. cities at greatest risk. This recognition has not slowed down the region’s luxury real estate market. To help drain city streets during high tides and floods, Miami Beach is installing an eighty pumping system units expected to cost between $300 and $500 million.Scientists are skeptical of plans to solve the city’s flood and tackle sea level rise problem with pumps, saying the only solution is rebuilding and retrofitting some city infrastructure at higher levels – and moving some neighborhood inland. “If you spend [the money] on the easy stuff, you’re not going to have any money left for the hard stuff,” says one geologist. “So my concern is the longer-term sea level rise that’s going to get real expensive — and if we’re all broke because we blew all that money saving a few places that should have been moved.”

  • ClimateAs climate warms, vast amounts of carbon may be release from long-frozen Arctic soils

    Scientists estimate there is more than ten times the amount of carbon in the Arctic soil than has been put into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution. To look at it another way, scientists estimate there is two and a half times more carbon locked away in the Arctic deep freezer than there is in the atmosphere today. Now, with a warming climate, that deep freezer is beginning to thaw and that long-frozen carbon is beginning to be released into the environment.