• Engineers develop more earthquake-resistant building designs

    Virginia Tech researchers are developing a next generation of design criteria for buildings located in geographic regions where earthquakes are known to occur, either rarely or frequently; in the future, structural engineers will base their designs on the concepts of Performance Based Earthquake Engineering (PBEE), where the objective is to control damage and provide life-safety for any size of earthquake that might occur

  • Aussie flood zone covers area bigger than France and Germany combined

    More than 200,000 people have been affected by relentless flooding in northeast Australia, with the flood zone now stretching over an area bigger than France and Germany combined; Heavy rains and flooding in northeast Australia is common during the southern hemisphere summer, but the scope of the damage from the recent downpours is extremely unusual

  • Plastic homes for quick rebuilding after disaster

    Canadian company thinks it has an answer for Haitian relief; the company uses a rubber seal to attach the plastic structure to the concrete slab used as the foundation; the result is the structure “floats” atop the foundation in such a way it that can compensate for movements in the earth directly below, while the production process allows it to hold up against winds in excess of 240 kilometers per hour

  • DHS to address climate change as homeland security issue

    DHS has a new task force to battle the effects of climate change on domestic security operations; DHS secretary Janet Napolitano explained that the task force was charged with “identifying and assessing the impact that climate change could have on the missions and operations of the Department of Homeland Security”; a June 2010 DHS Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan states: “climate change has the potential to accelerate and intensify extreme weather events which threaten the nation’s sustainability and security”

  • 2010's world weather extremes: quakes, floods, blizzards

    Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides, and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 — the deadliest year in more than a generation; more people were killed worldwide by natural disasters in 2010 than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past forty years combined; disasters from the Earth, such as earthquakes and volcanoes “are pretty much constant,” said Andreas Schraft, vice president of catastrophic perils for the Geneva-based insurance giant Swiss Re. “All the change that’s made is man-made.”

  • Measuring carbon monoxide levels in bloodstream at the scene

    Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and nonirritating toxic gas that can cause severe health problems or even death; communities in western Massachusetts use DHS grants to buy specialized devices that can quickly measure the level of carbon monoxide in a person’s bloodstream at a fire scene

  • Engineers enhance building designs better to withstand earthquakes

    Earthquakes come in all sizes with varying degrees of damage depending on the geographic locations where they occur; even a small one on the Richter scale that strikes in an impoverished nation can be more damaging than a larger one that occurs in a city where all buildings have been designed to a stricter building code; the current building codes are insufficient because buildings designed according to these codes have evolved only to avoid collapse under very large earthquakes

  • Flood control projects in Las Vegas

    Las Vegas is the middle of the desert, and as other desert cities it falls victims to flash flooding during the rainy season; the city has launched a $30 million project to protect local roads and businesses from floods

  • Thirteen Georgia dams could be reclassified as high risk

    The number of dams designated high risk under Georgia’s Safe Dams Act could more than double in two counties in the state, but a backlog in state enforcement because of budget cuts could drag the reclassification process out years longer than scheduled

  • Pakistan floods released tons of toxic chemicals

    The floods in Pakistan earlier this year, in addition to forcing about 20 million people out of their homes, also released long-lived chemicals, known collectively as persistent organic pollutants (POPs); these include several banned pesticides and the insect repellent DDT; they are dispersed around the planet by atmospheric patterns, do not degrade naturally, and are linked to hormonal, developmental, and reproductive disorders, and increased risk of diabetes, cancer, and dementia

  • Artificial tornadoes created to test Japanese homes

    Japan suffers from many natural disasters, and over the past few years the number of tornados hitting the country has been on the rise; researchers have built a tornado simulator which can generate maximum wind velocity of 15 to 20 meters per second, enough to simulate an F3-size storm; on Japan’s Fujita Scale, an F3 storm is one powerful enough to uproot large trees, lift and hurl cars, knock down walls, and destroy steel-frame structures

  • It's official: asteroids did kill the dinosaurs

    The prevailing scientific consensus is that at least one asteroid — possibly more — hit the earth about sixty-five million years ago, showering the planet with dust and debris, blocking sunlight, causing firestorms, and marking the end of the Cretaceous Period and the beginning of the Paleogene Period; most scientists believe the impact was directly responsible for the mass extinction of many species of plants and animals — most famously, the dinosaurs; geological evidence buried deep in the soil of New Jersey offers support for the impact theory of dinosaur extinction

  • Haiti's escalating crises come down to lack of clean water

    Haiti’s corrupt and indifferent government has done little to improve water and sanitation since a 12 January earthquake, making it likely that the cholera epidemic there will continue to spread; even before the quake, more than a third of Haitians lacked access to clean water; now, more than two-thirds of Haitians have no access to clean water; less than one-fifth of the population has access to a simple latrine or toilet

  • Royal Society paints unsettling picture of a world 4 °C warmer

    If present warming trends continue, the world could warm by 4 °C by 2060; a new, detailed study by the U.K. Royal Society would make global water shortages acute; most of sub-Saharan Africa will see shorter growing seasons, with average maize production will drop 19 percent and bean production by 47 percent compared with current levels; the extreme weather, sea-level rise, and water shortages will drive many people to migrate

  • LIDAR technology helps to map landslides

    Researchers use Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) to identify and accurately measure changes in coastal features following a catastrophic series of landslides that occurred in New Zealand in 2005; the findings are important for assessing geological hazards and reducing the dangers to human settlements