• GAO: U.S. tsunami detection buoys are costly, difficult, and not always reliable

    A network of 39 buoys makes up the early-warning system to protect 767 U.S. coastal communities at risk of tsunamis; maintaining the system is expensive — it consumes 28 percent o the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget — and the sensors are not always reliable

  • Mobile communications helps in business continuity

    The essential step for companies to survive disasters: enable people to work from home; instead of using technology to recover from an incident, we are now at the point where we can use it to prevent the incident having much of an effect; the key is to build technology into the company’s operations from the start

  • Leading volcanologist: ash crisis may not be over

    In addition to air travel woes that the massive ash cloud has already caused, it may trigger longer-term changes in climate and health hazards; moreover, additional eruptions are likely: “The oceanic crust in this region is slowly pulling apart along giant fissures that extend deep enough to reach magma sources; the volcanic magma rises along these fissures and erupts in episodes when and where the fractures break at the surface”

  • Iceland's volcanic eruption will not affect climate patterns

    The eruptions of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, while impressive and large enough to shut down air traffic in Europe, are too small, so far, to have an impact on global warming; the 1991 eruption at Mount Pinatube did cool the planet by injecting sulfates into the upper reaches of the atmosphere, where they circulated for over a year, shading the earth; so far the Icelandic volcano has only put out less than 0.004 Mt of SO2, compared to the 20 Mt that Mt. Pinatubo injected; also, the Icelandic emission was only into the lower atmosphere, where the lifetime is on the order of one week, as opposed to a couple years in the stratosphere

  • Laptops to serve as roaming earthquake detectors

    Newer models of laptops contain accelerometers — motion sensors meant to detect whether the computer has been dropped; if the computer falls, the hard drive will automatically switch off to protect the user’s data; researchers say this motion sensing ability allows laptop to serve as roaming earthquake detectors — even though laptop accelerometers are not as sensitive as professional-grade seismometers, so they can only pick up tremors of about magnitude 4.0 and above

  • Preparing for climate wars

    Climate change is not only the concern of academics and left-leaning do-gooders; it has increasingly become the preoccupation of strategic planners, militaries, and the intelligence communities in all the leading industrial states; the national security establishments of the U.S. NATO, India, and others have been war-gaming climate change and how to cope with its predicted consequences; a new book details some of the frightening scenarios for which the U.S. and other militaries prepare

  • Critical surge barrier on New Orleans's eastern flank completed ahead of schedule

    A 7,490 ft.-long storm-surge protection wall that is the central part of a roughly two-mile long surge barrier in New Orleans is being completed several months ahead of schedule; the placement of a significant portion of the barrier, well ahead of the start of the 2010 hurricane season, adds a welcome level of defense on the city’s eastern flank

  • Louisiana officials to visit the Netherlands to learn Dutch flood protection methods

    The Dutch are widely hailed as having the best investment in flood protection in the world; much of the country’s densely populated areas are below sea level, and after a storm struck in 1953 and flooded 80 percent of the Netherlands, the Dutch became even more serious about flood protection

  • Studies agree on a rise in sea levels of between 0.7 and 1.2 meters during the next 100 years

    A joint study by universities and research institutions from England, China, and Denmark finds that IPCC 2007 estimates that sea level would rise by less than half a meter in the next 100 years were too low; the researchers now estimate that sea levels will rise between 0.7 and 1.2 meters during the next 100 years; instead of using temperature to calculate the rise in sea levels, the researchers have used the radiation balance on Earth — taking into account both the warming effect of greenhouse gasses and the cooling effect from the sulfur clouds of large volcanic eruptions, which block radiation

  • End-of-the-world shelter company selling bunker space

    A California-based company offers people a chance to survive the end of the world; for $50,000 per person, the company will sell you a spot in an underground shelter guaranteed to survive nuclear attacks, bio terrorism, chemical warfare, super volcano eruptions, asteroids, solar flares, tsunamis, earthquakes, pole shifts, the return of Planet X, and social and political anarchy;

  • Study: U.S. Northeast seeing more, fiercer rainstorms

    Rainstorms in the U.S. Northeast have become more frequent and fiercer over the last six decades; there is a debate whether or not this 60-year trend is an indication of, or is related to, global warming; what is more certain is the potential economic impact should the 60-year trend continue, requiring billions of dollars in infrastructure improvements to things in the region including roads, bridges, sewers, and culverts

  • New software spots vulnerabilities in flood defenses

    Spanish researchers develop a computer system could provide more detailed flood-risk information; the system developed at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) identifies flood risks more quickly and effectively than satellite imagery, particularly in areas where there are dramatic changes in land over small spaces

  • The lessons of Chile earthquake to California building code

    Since the Chile earthquake, many U.S. engineers have visited Santiago and other affected cities to study the failures and successes of building codes here; Chile is of particular interest to American engineers because it employs similar building codes to those in California and also has widespread use of reinforced concrete; one observation from Chile’s earthquake that could find its way into U.S. building code concerns confining reinforcement; confining reinforcement is meant to keep vertical bars from bucking, but the design proved insufficient in Chile; one solution: requiring confining reinforcement along a greater length of the wall

  • Searching for Earth-threatening dark objects in space

    NASA’s WISE — for Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer — search for “dark” objects in space like brown dwarf stars, vast dust clouds, and Earth-approaching asteroids; WISE finds them by sensing their heat in the form of infrared light most other telescopes can not pick up

  • New theory: a comet swarm struck America 13,000 years ago

    One way to prevent an asteroid from hitting Earth is to blast it with a large nuclear weapon; trouble is, the blast would cause a barrage of asteroid debris to fall to Earth; indeed, there is a new suspect in the quest to understand what might have killed the ice-age megafauna of North America — a shower of debris from a disintegrating comet