• Human impact of rising oceans will extend well beyond coasts

    Identifying the human impact of rising sea levels is far more complex than just looking at coastal cities on a map; rather, estimates that are based on current, static population data can greatly misrepresent the true extent — and the pronounced variability — of the human toll of climate change; a new study focuses on four regions identified as highly susceptible to flooding: the tip of the Florida peninsula, coastal South Carolina, the northern New Jersey coastline, and the greater Sacramento region of northern California; the study finds that by 2030, more than nineteen million people will be affected by rising sea levels just in their four study areas

  • Germany to scrap nuclear power by 2022

    Germany yesterday announced plans to become the first major industrialized power to shut down all its nuclear plants in the wake of the disaster in Japan; phase-out due to be wrapped up by 2022; it means that the country will have to find the 22 percent of its electricity needs currently covered by nuclear reactors from another source; Monday decision is a U-turn for Chancellor Angela Merkel, and means that the current government has adopted the timetable for a nuclear phase-out set by the previous Social Democrat-Green coalition government a decade ago; it also cancels Merkel’s decision from November 2010 to extend the lifetime of Germany’s seventeen reactors by an average of twelve years, which would have kept them open until the mid-2030s

  • Scientists charged with manslaughter for not issuing earthquake alert

    The 6 April 2009 earthquake which shook the Italian city of L’Aquila killed 308 of the city’s residents, injured thousands, and caused wide-spread damage to buildings and infrastructure; prosecutors have decided to bring seven geologists to trial for failing to alert city residents about the impending tremor; the geologists, all members of Italy’s Major Risk Committee, met on 31 March 2009 to discuss the possible risk to the Abruzzo region, of which L’Aquila is the capital; the region had experienced several small tremors in the months before the meeting; in a press conference following the meeting, the geologists reassured residents of the region that no major quake was imminent, and that they had no reason to leave their homes

  • Deadly storms spark rush for storm shelters

    The recent spate of severe storms that have devastated the south and mid-west, has sparked a sharp increase in the demand for storm shelters; in April, one particularly devastating storm spawned a record 226 tornadoes in one day, bringing that week’s total to 312; demand has skyrocketed and companies that sell secure shelters designed to withstand powerful storms are scrambling to keep pace; one company is installing more than forty shelters a day around the country; storm shelters can cost anywhere from $3,000 to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the quality of construction; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been encouraging states to use federal disaster aid money to encourage homeowners to purchase storm shelters by offering subsidies

  • Japan earthquake to increase quake risk elsewhere in the country

    Japan’s recent magnitude 9.0 earthquake, which triggered a devastating tsunami, relieved stress along part of the quake fault but also has contributed to the build up of stress in other areas, putting some of the country at risk for up to years of sizeable aftershocks and perhaps new main shocks

  • Smartphone apps help thousands in latest storms

    In the recent string of natural disasters to hit the Midwest, emergency communication smartphone apps have proven invaluable for contacting family members and first responders; during these natural disasters, telephone lines and cell phone towers are often inundated with traffic, leaving individuals unable to contact their loved ones or even reach 911; thanks to smartphone apps like Life360, individuals have been able to contact family members to let them know they are okay, or alert emergency workers if they are in trouble; during the floods that left Memphis, Tennessee under water, more than 2,400 families used the app to share their locations and confirm their safety

  • More tornadoes kill at least thirteen in three states

    Residents of Joplin, Missouri were hit by another storm Tuesday night killing another thirteen people across three states just two days after a deadly tornado swept through the town killing at least 117 people with more than 1,500 still unaccounted for; Joplin received a small break, as the latest storm hit Oklahoma the hardest and no tornadoes were reported near the town; so far five people have been confirmed dead in Oklahoma, but officials expect the death toll to rise as rescue workers comb through the wreckage; at least sixty people have reported injuries; in addition four people were reported dead in Kansas and Arkansas

  • More tornadoes headed to Joplin, Missouri

    As emergency responders pick through the wreckage from Sunday’s massive tornado in Joplin, Missouri, residents are preparing for another monstrous storm that could generate more deadly tornadoes; meteorologists anticipate that thunderstorms will hit Joplin once again on Tuesday night; rescue workers raced to sift through the rubble in search of survivors before the next storm hits; it is estimated that 30 percent of the city has been destroyed after the tornado carved a three-quarter mile wide path of destruction; so far officials have confirmed that at least 117 people are dead, more than 600 injured, and approximately 1,500 are still missing from one of the country’s deadliest tornadoes in over sixty years; initial projections rate the monstrous tornado as an EF-4 with wind speeds of 166 to 200 miles per hour; it is reported that the mile-wide funnel contained two cyclones inside; President Obama is currently overseas in the United Kingdom, but plans to visit Missouri this weekend after returning from Europe

  • Western states could face disastrous floods from record snowpacks

    Western states could soon face disastrous floods like the Midwest due to record snowpacks; heavy winter storms and an abnormally cold and wet spring have resulted in record snow levels for May in states across the west including Montano, New Mexico, Colorado, and California; officials worry that if June is particularly hot and sunny, the snow could melt too quickly and inundate the region’s rivers with torrents of water; officials are particularly concerned about flash floods as they can occur with little warning; officials are bracing for the worst holding emergency drills and releasing thousands of gallons of water to make room in reservoirs
    Western states could soon face disastrous floods like the Midwest due to record snowpacks

  • Tornado kills at least 116 in Joplin, Missouri

    Residents and emergency responders are searching for survivors in Joplin, Missouri after a tornado tore through the town Sunday evening; the tornado tore a 6-mile-long, half-mile wide path through the middle of town; much of the city’s south side was leveled, with churches, schools, businesses, and homes reduced to ruins by winds of up to 165 mph; so far 116 people have been found dead, and officials expect the death toll to rise; officials have estimated 2,000 buildings were damaged; among the ruined buildings is St. John’s Regional Medical center, the city’s major hospital; the hospital was struck directly by the tornado and lost portions of its roof, façade, and windows; the Joplin twister was one of 68 reported tornadoes across seven Midwest states over the weekend

  • Risk of wetland habitat loss in southern United States

    Between 1992 and 1997, more than 500,000 acres of wetlands were lost in the United States; 75 percent of those losses were attributed to development or agriculture; the greatest loss during this period occurred in the southern United States, with development as the main reason for wetland habitat loss; wetlands are important not only as a habitat for wild life, but as a line of defense against catastrophic floods and intense storms

  • Using river sediment to repair the coast

    The water of the Mississippi River swells beyond levees and flood-control barriers, flooding large areas, destroying costly infrastructure assets, and inflicting economic harms; not all is bad, though: large floods like the current one carry huge quantities of sediment that eventually deposit on the riverbed, making the river shallower, or are carried out to the Gulf of Mexico; the vast amount of water going south will replenish Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, and the sediment carried by the water will restore long stretches of eroding coastline and rebuild barrier islands in the Gulf

  • Scientists detonate underground bombs in California for earthquake research

    To study California’s fault lines, researchers recently detonated explosives underground to create 3D models of seismic activity; a team of geologists and seismic experts travelled to areas in the Imperial and Coachella Valley, roughly 150 miles northeast of San Diego, California, to study the southern tip of the San Andreas Fault; a team detonated more than 120 explosives more than sixty feet deep to set off seismic waves; the team measured these wave patterns with 3,000 different sensors to create a 3D map in these fault areas; their work comes as part of the Salton Seismic Imaging Project

  • Disaster relief innovation: concrete tent

    Among innovations which could help relief efforts following major disasters is a fabric shelter that, when sprayed with water, turns to concrete within twenty-four hours; the system works by impregnating cement particles into a fabric from which the tent is made; when the folded tent arrives at the disaster area, it is unrolled, tacked down with stakes, and then filled with air via a fan; once in place, the tent is soaked with water and then left to dry for twenty-four hours; once the concrete hardens, the tents can last for up to ten years; the tents come with installable doors, and since the walls are hard, electrical outlets and plumbing pipes can also be installed

  • Barge traffic resumes on Mississippi River

    On a typical day, some 600 barges move back and forth along the Mississippi, with a single vessel carrying as much cargo as 70 tractor-trailers or 17 rail cars; the barges haul coal, timber, iron, steel, and more than half of America’s grain exports; interruptions of barge traffic could thus cost the U.S. economy hundreds of millions of dollars for each day the barges are idled; early Tuesday the Coast Guard halted barge and cargo haulers traffic along a 15-mile stretch of the river near Natchez, Mississippi; the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers were worried that the heavy wake churned by barges and cargo haulers increase the pressure on levees which are already straining to hold back the rising river; on Tuesday night the Coast Guard re-opened the blocked section, and barges were allowed to go through but only one at a time, and at a very low speed