• U.S. to face five-fold increase in extreme downpours across parts of the country

    At century’s end, the number of summertime storms that produce extreme downpours could increase by more than 400 percent across parts of the United States — including sections of the Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast, and the Southwest. The intensity of individual extreme rainfall events could increase by as much as 70 percent in some areas. That would mean that a storm that drops about 2 inches of rainfall today would be likely to drop nearly 3.5 inches in the future.

  • Climate change to drive stronger, smaller storms in U.S.

    The effects of climate change will likely cause smaller but stronger storms in the United States, according to a new framework for modeling storm behavior. Though storm intensity is expected to increase over today’s levels, the predicted reduction in storm size may alleviate some fears of widespread severe flooding in the future. The new approach uses new statistical methods to identify and track storm features in both observational weather data and new high-resolution climate modeling simulations.

  • USGS, DoD partner in preparing for major natural disasters

    In 2003, USGS partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) - U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) to establish a liaison between the two organizations to facilitate science support in the event of a major natural disaster. The USGS liaison coordinates requests for science information and expertise, and general civil support and humanitarian assistance activities. This science support enables USNORTHCOM to perform critical national defense and civil support missions, as well as understand the impacts of natural disasters.

  • Is climate change responsible for increasing tornado outbreaks?

    Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms kill people and damage property every year. Estimated U.S. insured losses due to severe thunderstorms in the first half of 2016 were $8.5 billion. The largest U.S. impacts of tornadoes result from tornado outbreaks, sequences of tornadoes that occur in close succession. New research shows that the average number of tornadoes during outbreaks—large-scale weather events that can last one to three days and span huge regions—has risen since 1954. But the researchers were not sure why.

  • Better way for coastal communities to prepare for devastating storms

    As of 2010, approximately 52 percent of the United States’ population lived in vulnerable coastal watershed counties, and that number is expected to grow. Globally, almost half of the world’s population lives along or near coastal areas. Coastal communities’ ability to plan for, absorb, recover, and adapt from destructive hurricanes is becoming more urgent.

  • Record-breaking hot days ahead

    If society continues to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the current rate, Americans later this century will have to endure, on average, about fifteen daily maximum temperature records for every time that the mercury notches a record low, new research indicates. That ratio of record highs to record lows could also turn out to be much higher if the pace of emissions increases and produces even more warming.

  • How social media is energizing crisis response

    Natural disasters, such as the recent Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean, present a huge challenge for governments, non-governmental organizations, and of course the individuals and communities affected. But studies of the effectiveness or otherwise of the responses to these disasters typically focus on official activities, producing a top-down view of what unfolded. Researchers studying the 2011 Thailand flooding disaster – the world’s fourth most severe natural disaster at that time instead looked at how individuals on the ground used social media to share information and offer support, often in areas where the official response was lacking or ineffective.

  • Satellite confirmation: San Francisco's Millennium Tower is sinking

    The Sentinel-1 satellites have shown that the Millennium Tower skyscraper in the center of San Francisco is sinking by a few centimeters a year. Studying the city is helping scientists to improve the monitoring of urban ground movements, particularly for subsidence hotspots in Europe. Completed in 2009, the 58-storey Millennium Tower has recently been showing signs of sinking and tilting. Although the cause has not been pinpointed, it is believed that the movements are connected to the supporting piles not firmly resting on bedrock.

  • The geometry of subduction zone indicates mega-earthquake risks

    Mega-earthquakes (with a magnitude greater than 8.5) mainly occur on subduction faults where one tectonic plate passes under another. But the probability of such earthquakes does not appear to be even across these zones. Researchers show that mega-earthquakes mostly occur on the flattest subduction zones. Thus, the Philippines, Salomon Islands and Vanuatu areas would not be favorable to mega-earthquakes, unlike South America, Indonesia and Japan. The discovery of this new indicator should improve earthquake monitoring and seismic and tsunami risk prevention.

  • Invisibility cloaks could protect buildings from earthquakes

    Earthquakes travel in waves, much as sound and light do. Scientists have previously designed materials with internal structures that interfere with the propagation of sound and light, and now researchers are working on making bigger versions of these structures, which could be used to control the propagation of earthquakes.

  • Hurricane risk to Northeast U.S. coast increasing

    New research suggests the Northeastern coast of the United States could be struck by more frequent and more powerful hurricanes in the future due to shifting weather patterns caused by manmade industrial emissions. The researchers found that hurricanes have gradually moved north from the western Caribbean towards North America over the past several hundred years.

  • At forum, MIT community tackles tough ethical questions of climate change

    An MIT panel discussed The ethical challenges presented by climate change and the question of what individuals — and academic institutions like MIT — can do to affect change. “Science has performed its role adequately,” said Vice President for Research Maria Zuber, “[but] it cannot tell us what our obligations are to future generations. Determining how to respond to climate change is a question for all of us.”

  • Japan lifts Tsunami advisories

    The Japanese authorities have lifted tsunami advisories issued after a powerful earthquake struck the northeast of the country early Tuesday, injuring twenty people. The magnitude 7.4 earthquake occurred at 5:59 a.m., local time, off the coast of Fukushima prefecture. There were no deaths or major damage, but transportation was disrupted and residents of low-lying areas were instructed to leave their homes for higher ground. The quake was felt in Tokyo, about 150 miles away. Nearly 16,000 people were killed and more than 2,500 remain missing from the magnitude 9.1 earthquake that struck Japan’s northeastern regions on 11 March 2011.

  • Japan’s latest tsunami reaction shows lessons learned from previous disasters

    Parts of Japan were on tsunami alert today following a magnitude 6.9 earthquake off the east coast of the country. This was the first real test for Japan since the 2011 earthquake which led to a deadly tsunami. The lessons learned from 2011 saw higher seawalls, more effective public education and evacuation protocols, a beefed-up response from the nuclear industry and so on, but would it pass the test? The good news is that Japan came through this with flying colors. It wasn’t long after the earthquake hit that the tsunami warnings were later downgraded. Undoubtedly there will have been one or two glitches, but the tsunami was managed well by a country that has experienced more of these events that any of us would ever like to contemplate.

  • Human, economic costs of disasters underestimated by up to 60 percent

    The impact of extreme natural disasters is equivalent to a global $520 billion loss in annual consumption, and forces some twenty-six million people into poverty each year, says a new report from the World Bank. “Severe climate shocks threaten to roll back decades of progress against poverty,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “Storms, floods, and droughts have dire human and economic consequences, with poor people often paying the heaviest price. Building resilience to disasters not only makes economic sense, it is a moral imperative.”