Natural disasters

  • Flood protectionBetter defense barriers and technologies for better protection against floods

    Hurricanes are devastating. Aside from the high, sustained wind speeds, they usually bring with them heavy rain, which can quickly lead to the breaching of flood defenses in susceptible areas. Now, U.S. and U.K. researchers have reviewed hurricane flood defense barriers and technologies with a view to helping engineers find improved designs.

  • Flood protectionCoastal defenses could contribute to flooding with sea-level rise

    A combination of coastal defenses and rising sea levels could change typical U.K. tidal ranges, potentially leading to a higher risk of flooding, say scientists. The researchers wanted to find out how tides around the United Kingdom might respond to changes in sea level over the next century depending on the level of coastal defenses in place. Their study shows for the first time that local coastal defenses, such as sea walls, could cause tides to change dramatically. It suggests flood defenses need to be reassessed on an international scale as they may lead to an increased risk of flooding.

  • Earthquake early warningCongressional funding allows partial roll-out of Calif. seismic early warning system

    California officials applauded the U.S. Senate approval of the $1.1-trillion spending package, which allocated $5 million to fund expansion of the state’s earthquake early-warning system dubbed ShakeAlert.In 2015, a select number of schools will receive earthquake alerts to warn students and teachers to drop and cover before shaking begins, fire stations will be alerted to open their garage doors before electricity goes out and prevents doors from opening, and some hospitals will receive notice to suspend surgeries.

  • Coastal infrastructurePower grids in coastal U.S. cities increasingly vulnerable as a result of climate change

    Cities such as Miami are all too familiar with hurricane-related power outages. A new analysis finds, however, that climate change will give other major metropolitan areas a lot to worry about in the future. Johns Hopkins University engineers created a computer model to predict the increasing vulnerability of power grids in major coastal cities during hurricanes. By factoring historic hurricane information with plausible scenarios for future storm behavior, the team determined which of twenty-seven cities, from Texas to Maine, will become more susceptible to blackouts from future hurricanes. The team’s analysis could help metropolitan areas better plan for climate change.

  • TECHEXPO - Exclusive Security-Cleared Hiring Events - Register Now!
    view counter
  • Infrastructure protectionImpact of solar storm on U.S. infrastructure cannot be predicted with certainty

    Of the many threats to the U.S. electric grid, from cyberattacks to terrorism, industry experts agree that the most catastrophic, yet least likely to occur, threat is a magnetic space storm which could shut down the grid and cause other infrastructure to fail. Previous large scale solar storms include the 1859 Carrington Event — the strongest storm on record — and a March 1989 coronal mass ejection which caused a 9-hour blackout in Quebec.

  • Coastal infrastructureN.C. panel to issue sea-level rise forecast to guide coastal, infrastructure development

    Scientists with the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission(CRC) will have their last public meeting today (Monday) before the group issues its projections on sea level rise around the state’s coastal areas. In a 2010 forecast, the science panel concluded that North Carolina’s sea levels would increase by thirty-nine inches by 2100. Climate-change skeptics and coastal developers opposed the report, and in 2012 persuaded the state legislature to bar any state agency from adopting a policy based on any sea level forecast. The legislature modified the CRC’s mandate by limiting its projections to 30-year periods and instructing it to focus on four separate zones and not the entire state projections. The CRC will submit it report to the legislature on 1 March 2016.

  • Water warsISIS uses control of water as a tool of war

    Global security analysts have warned for some time now that water scarcity due to climate change will be used as a tool of war in regions with poor government.The on-going wars in Iraq and Syria provide the first examples of the strategic and tactical use of water as a tool of war, as militant groups operating in both countries have been using water against residents of areas they control. “ISIS has established a blueprint that can be used by other entities to take advantage of drought and water scarcity,” writes on researcher. “For all the conversation about ISIS taking control of oil refineries, one could argue that their control of water is even more significant, as it deprives the population of a resource necessary for daily sustenance and gives the militant group significant leverage over local governments and populations.”

  • Coastal infrastructureFlorida's First Coast region trying to cope with rising seas

    City planners in Florida’s First Coast region are taking steps to avoid massive destruction to property and human life as sea level rise is expected to cause mass flooding and super storms during the next few decades. Some groups are lobbying for coastal property-insurance reforms, while others are researching ways to help historic properties manage flooding.

  • Infrastructure protectionExploring ways to deal with Great Lakes water-level changes

    Extreme water-level fluctuations in the Great Lakes, including historic lows on lakes Michigan and Huron in 2013 and substantial upward trends in 2014, are creating serious challenges for many shoreline property owners, tourism-related businesses, municipal planners, and others. To help these community decision makers determine the best strategies for dealing with these water-level changes, a two-tiered, two-year research initiative has been launched with the goal of developing information, tools, and partnerships to help decision makers address challenges and opportunities posed by water-level variability.

  • WaterWater’s role in the rise and fall of the Roman Empire

    The Roman Empire, stretching over three continents and persisting for many centuries, was home to an estimated seventy million people. In such a vast area ensuring a stable food supply was no easy task, particularly given the variable and arid climate of the Mediterranean region. Smart agricultural practices and an extensive grain-trade network enabled the Romans to thrive in the water-limited environment of the Mediterranean, a new study shows. The stable food supply brought about by these measures, however, promoted population growth and urbanization, pushing the Empire closer to the limits of its food resources.

  • Infrastructure protectionTurning excess space into apartments as an incentive for earthquake-retrofitting of buildings

    San Francisco is dealing with a housing shortage at the same time that city officials are trying to get landlords to retrofit buildings which are at risk of crumpling during a severe earthquake. In 2013, Mayor Ed Lee approved a bill that mandates retrofits for soft-story multi-unit residential buildings over the next four to seven years. Roughly 4,800 buildings of two or more stories, containing five or more apartment units, which were approved for construction before January 1978, have to be retrofitted, according to the mandate.A member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, recently proposed that building owners of at-risk apartment buildings be allowed to finance earthquake retrofits by converting garages, basements, and other excess space into apartments –a plan which would also increase the city’s housing stock.

  • Disaster insuranceFEMA will review denied or underpaid Sandy-related claims by owners of damaged homes

    Hundreds of homeowners who were denied claims for damages caused by Hurricane Sandy will now have their claims reviewed, according to a series of reforms by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which operates the National Flood Insurance Program. According to FEMA administrator, W. Craig Fugate, contractors hired to handle homeowner claims allegedly conspired to underpay flood insurance settlements to homeowners.

  • TsunamisAnother wave of tsunami debris, possible invasives, to reach West Coast

    Scientists monitoring incoming tsunami debris were taken aback last spring when some thirty fishing vessels from Japan washed ashore along the Pacific Northwest coast — many of them covered in living organisms indigenous to Asia. Incidence of wayward skiffs and other tsunami debris subsequently declined sharply over the summer because of seasonal shifts in the winds. Now, those winds and currents have returned to their winter-spring pattern and scientists are expecting more items to wash ashore — even though it is nearing four years since a massive earthquake and tsunami shook Japan.

  • EarthquakesRe-thinking Southern California earthquake scenarios

    New three-dimensional (3D) numerical modeling that captures far more geometric complexity of an active fault segment in southern California than any other, suggests that the overall earthquake hazard for towns on the west side of the Coachella Valley such as Palm Springs and Palm Desert may be slightly lower than previously believed.

  • California drought2012-14 California drought the worst in 1,200 years

    New research shows that the California drought of 2012-14 has been the worst in 1,200 years. California is the world’s eighth largest economy and the source of a substantial amount of U.S. produce. Surface water supply shortages there have impacts well beyond the state’s borders. The research indicates that natural climate system variability is compounded by human-caused climate change and that “hot” droughts such as the current one are likely to occur again in the future.