Natural disasters

  • Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves Doomsday Clock forward in dire warning

    TheBulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a 70-year old publication which monitors nuclear, security, and environmental developments, has pushed ahead its symbolic Doomsday Clock by two minutes — from five minutes to midnight to three minutes — amidst growing concerns about climate change and nuclear arsenal upkeep.

  • New climate change projections for Australia

    CSIRO and the Australian government’s Bureau of Meteorology the other day released climate change projections for Australia which provide updated national and regional information on how the climate may change to the end of the twenty-first century. The projections are the most comprehensive ever released for Australia and have been prepared with an emphasis on informing impact assessment and planning in the natural resource management sector. Information has been drawn from simulations based on up to forty global climate models.

  • Miami Beach to raise West Avenue in the face of sea-level rise

    City planners in Miami Beach will begin the first phase of a two-part project to raise West Avenue between 1.5 to two feet during the next few years in an effort to prepare the area in the face of sea-level rise. The project will coincide with stormwater drainage and sewer improvements which include installing more pumps to prevent flooding from rain and high tides.

  • Ohio helps resident pay for tornado safe rooms

    In recent years, Ohio has averaged twenty-three tornadoes annually. The state also experienced winds topping 70 mph during Hurricane Ike in 2008, 100 mph in the derecho during the summer of 2012, and near hurricane-force winds along Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio during superstorm Sandy in the fall of 2012. Many Ohio residents living along “Tornado Alley” have rehearsed their escape plans several times to prepare for the next time a tornado touches ground. To offer residents better protection, since 2013 the Ohio Emergency Management Agency(EMA) has been helping qualified homeowners pay for safe rooms which can withstand the most destructive windstorms.

  • Drawing disaster response lessons by comparing quake responses

    Following the devastating 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake which hit the Tohoku region of Japan, many local and provincial governments rushed to aid the people in the area with personnel and materials, providing important relief in a time of crisis. At a recent symposium, some were comparing the response to the 2011 disaster to the response to the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995 in order to draw lessons and offer guidelines in effective crisis management.

  • Fracking-induced tremors lead to changes in building codes, insurance rates

    For its upcoming National Seismic Hazard Map, used by engineers to update building and construction codes and by insurers to set policy rates, the U.S. Geological Survey(USGS) will take into account risks posed by induced or man-made earthquakes. For North Texas, where earthquakes are historically uncommon, an increase in earthquake risk is likely as the Dallas area has suffered more than 120 earthquakes since 2008. Scientists have attributed these earthquakes to nearby fracking operations.

  • Atmospheric rivers, cloud-creating aerosol particles, and California water situation

    In the midst of the California rainy season, scientists – using aircraft, research vessel, and ground stations — are embarking on a field campaign designed to improve the understanding of the natural and human-caused phenomena that determine when and how the state gets its precipitation. They will do so by studying atmospheric rivers, meteorological events that include the famous rainmaker known as the Pineapple Express. Atmospheric rivers, which produce up to 50 percent of California’s precipitation and can transport 10-20 times the flow of the Mississippi River.

  • Louisiana governor seeks to uphold law blocking wetlands damages lawsuit

    Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (R) has asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of Act 544, a law passed to block the wetlands damages lawsuit levied by the East Bank Levee Authority against more than eighty oil, gas, and pipeline companies for the damage their operations have inflicted on Louisiana wetlands. On 3 December of last year by the 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark declared the law unconstitutional.

  • FEMA paid cities for damages that should have been covered by insurance: Audit

    Though the hurricanes which ravaged much of Florida in 2004 and 2005 are 10-year-old events, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is still dealing with the damages and fallout, and a new audit reveals that the agency may have paid for city damages that should have been covered by insurance companies. It is estimated that $177 million in payments may be at issue. The audit also found that FEMA improperly waived the need for hurricane-stricken communities to buy insurance to protect against future events, meaning that the agency and taxpayers may have to pay to cover future damages that they would not have had to cover if the procedures had been followed. More specifically, the audit found that FEMA stands to lose roughly $1 billion in future damage costs because of this.

     

  • Sea level rise has been more rapid than previously understood: Study

    The acceleration of global sea level change from the end of the twentieth century through the last two decades has been significantly swifter than scientists thought, according to a new Harvard study. The study shows that calculations of global sea-level rise from 1900 to 1990 had been overestimated by as much as 30 percent. The report, however, confirms estimates of sea-level change since 1990, suggesting that the rate of change is increasing more rapidly than previously understood.

  • Rivers of meltwater on Greenland’s ice sheet contribute to rising sea levels

    As the largest single chunk of melting snow and ice in the world, the massive ice sheet that covers about 80 percent of Greenland is recognized as the biggest potential contributor to rising sea levels due to glacial meltwater. Until now, however, scientists’ attention has mostly focused on the ice sheet’s aquamarine lakes — bodies of meltwater that tend to abruptly drain — and on monster chunks of ice that slide into the ocean to become icebergs. A new study reveals, however, a vast network of little-understood rivers and streams flowing on top of the ice sheet that could be responsible for at least as much, if not more, sea-level rise as the other two sources combined.

  • Scientists try to find cause of early January Texas quakes

    A scientific team is adding twenty-two seismographs to an area in northern Texas after thirteen small earthquakes rattled the region on 1 January and on throughout the week. Despite the ongoing concern and the search for the cause of the tremors, the research team reassured residents that those worried about lots of little events leading to a bigger one can probably rest easy. “There are no large active faults in Texas, just smaller-type faults,” said geophysicist John Bellini. “Because of that, it’s not likely that Texas would have a large earthquake.

  • Coastal communities preparing for the next high tide

    The USC Sea Grant program is continuing the work it started three years ago to help coastal communities in Southern California incorporate “resilience” into their planning for adaptation to rising sea levels and climate change. From Santa Barbara to San Diego, Sea Grant works with researchers and community leaders to help governments, businesses and community groups know the resources available to help them plan ahead. The Sea Grant vulnerability report for the city was based on a pilot version of the USGS modeling system, called CoSMoS 1.0, which makes predictions of storm-induced coastal flooding based on a moderately severe storm that occurred in the region in January 2010. It models storm-driven sea level rise for two future climate scenarios, which can help emergency responders and coastal planners anticipate storm hazards and make plans to allocate resources to deal with them.

  • Ireland increasingly worried about effects of sea-level rise on coastal communities

    In recent years, coastal authorities in Ireland have grown increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change on the Irish coastline. In the northern counties, up to 3.5 percent of the entire land area could be underwater, and low-lying cities of Cork, Dublin, Belfast, and Galway will find it almost impossible to defend against storm surges and sea level rise. Experts say it will cost at least €5 billion to protect Ireland’s most populated cities.

  • Fracking in Ohio confirmed as cause of rare “felt” earthquake

    In March 2014, a series of five recorded earthquakes, ranging from magnitude 2.1 to 3.0, occurred within one kilometer (0.6 miles) of a group of oil and gas wells operated by Hilcorp Energy, which was conducting active hydraulic fracturing operations at the time. Due to the proximity of a magnitude 3.0 event near a well, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) halted operations at the Hilcorp well on 10 March 2014. A new study links the March 2014 earthquakes in Poland Township, Ohio to hydraulic fracturing that activated a previously unknown fault. The induced seismic sequence included a rare felt earthquake of magnitude 3.0.