Natural disasters

  • 2013 Colorado Front Range flood: Debris-flow a major hazard

    Between 9 and 13 September 2013, more than 1,100 debris flows occurred in an area of about 3,400 square kilometers in Colorado’s Front Range, most of which were triggered by two periods of intense rainfall. The massive flooding, and the concomitant landslides and debris flows, caused widespread damage across the Front Range.

  • The Big One will have frightening consequences for Los Angeles: Scientists

    Scientists cannot accurately predict when California’s next massive earthquake – or, the Big One – will strike, but they can predict the effects, and it is frightening. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) say these effects will include powerless rescue services, widespread fire damage, and no fresh water for months on end. The 1994 Northridge Earthquake was the region’s the last mega-quake, but scientists say that “When we have the San Andreas earthquake, that earth fault will probably be about 20 to 30 times larger than the fault that produced the Northridge earthquake [which still resulted in $20 Billion in damages].”

  • California communities running out of water

    Since January, a number of California communities in the Central Valley have been experiencing such extreme drought that they have been placed on a “critical water systems” list — a ranking indicating that the areas could run completely dry within sixty days. Many of these areas have had wells dried up since July.

  • Better planetary vital signs should replace 2° C warming goal as targets for climate action

    As climate instability increases across the planet, limiting global surface air temperature increase above pre-industrial levels to an average of 2° C (3.6° F) has become a popular metric for success in the public eye. Two researchers argue, however, that the goal is a misleading one. Though it is a relatively tangible concept to appreciate, the standard does not correlate well to prescribed government actions such as limiting fossil fuel use or establishing carbon markets. “Scientifically, there are better ways to measure the stress that humans are placing on the climate system than the growth of average global surface temperature — which has stalled since 1998 and is poorly coupled to entities that governments and companies can control directly,” the researchers say.

  • California agriculture faces greatest water loss ever seen

    California produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and nearly a quarter of the nation’s milk and cream. Across the nation, consumers regularly buy several crops grown almost entirely in California, including tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, almonds, walnuts, grapes, olives, and figs. Researchers show that California agriculture is weathering its worst drought in decades due to groundwater reserves, but the nation’s produce basket may come up dry in the future if it continues to treat those reserves like an unlimited savings account.

  • California crippling drought linked to climate change: Scientists

    The extreme atmospheric conditions associated with California’s crippling drought are far more likely to occur under today’s global warming conditions than in the climate that existed before humans emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases. Researchers used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

  • Los Angeles revises rule requiring flat rooftops for skyscrapers

    For more than forty years, the building code in Los Angeles required skyscrapers to have flat roofs in order to facilitate helicopter landing in cases of emergency. Now, however, with newer technological advances and techniques that enable Angelinos to be safe during an emergency, the flat-roof code is seen as outdated, and it was changed on Monday. Instead of helicopter pads, skyscraper designers will now focus on other safety features, including special elevators for fire fighters, special exit stairwells, advanced sprinkler systems, and video surveillance technologies.

  • L.A. considering first responses to the inevitable Big One

    Often referred to as the “Big One,” the inevitable cataclysmic earthquake that will eventually strike at the San Andreas Fault throughout the city of Los Angeles is expected to be incredibly destructive. According to seismologists, it is no longer a question of “if,” but more just “when.” Preparedness experts identify several key parts of the greater Los Angeles infrastructure that will need to have firm response plans in place to deal with the fallout of a major disaster, specifically transportation and communication —– the two things needed to coordinate and react to everything else.

  • Storm-surge app improves public and administration responses to flooding

    An environmental group called Wetlands Watch in Virginia has integrated crowd-sourcing into the Sea Level Rise app, allowing users to issue and receive alerts in real-time regarding waterlogged streets and improve public safety.The newest evolution of the app is expected to be launched within the next few weeks and the information provided and distributed to users will also be tracked by scientists and emergency planners to better grasp the flood patterns in the region and how to prepare for them.

  • Risks grow as Americans continue to build on eroding coast

    More than two million housing units have been built along the nation’s coast within the last twenty years, and as the American economy recovers after years of recession, development along the U.S. coastline is steadily increasing. Scientists warn, however, that building along coastlines could put life and property at risk due to erosion, rising sea levels, and storm damage.

  • Flying robots will go where humans cannot

    There are many situations in which it is impossible, complicated, or too time-consuming for humans to enter and carry out operations. Think of contaminated areas following a nuclear accident, or the need to erect structures such as antennae on mountain tops. These are examples of where flying robots could be used.

  • Blackout? Robots can help

    Big disasters almost always result in big power failures. Not only do they take down the TV and fridge, they also wreak havoc with key infrastructure like cell towers. That can delay search and rescue operations at a time when minutes count. Now, researchers have developed a tabletop model of a robot team that can bring power to places that need it the most. In addition to disaster recovery, their autonomous power distribution system could have military uses, particularly for Special Forces on covert missions.

  • South Carolina reflects on Hurricane Hugo anniversary

    The state of South Caroline has just eyed the twenty-fifth anniversary of Hurricane Hugo – the Category 4 storm that hit the coast on 21 September 1989 with sustained maximum winds of 138 mph. Many in the state still honor that event, and live with the memory of the severe coastal damage due to drastic storm surges and the forty-nine lives lost during the disaster. The storm also left 60,000 people homeless, with 270,000 temporarily unemployed and 54,000 residents seeking monetary assistance. Extending far beyond that were many others who did not have power for two weeks or longer.

  • Protecting the electric grid, communication systems from solar storms

    Considered the strongest solar storm on record, the 1859 Carrington Event disrupted telegraph operators and crippled communications systems. Today, even mild scale eruptions could disrupt communications technology and power grids, as bursts known as coronal mass ejections cause vibrations in the Earth’s magnetic field. According to NASA, those vibrations cause electric currents that can overwhelm circuitry and lead to prolong shutdowns. Solar researchers are working to develop monitors that can predict which solar storms can disrupt electric grids and global communications systems.

  • Emergency notifications will soon be issued through The Weather Channel

    The Weather Companywill soon issue emergency notifications to millions of U.S. residents before, during, and after disasters occur via a large-scale distribution network linked to its media properties and weather expertise. The company is forming partnerships with city and state emergency managers to build a localized alerting platform for state, local, and private emergency agencies to manage and distribute alerts via The Weather Channel, weather.com, and existing local distribution points.