• Searching for Earth-threatening dark objects in space

    NASA’s WISE — for Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer — search for “dark” objects in space like brown dwarf stars, vast dust clouds, and Earth-approaching asteroids; WISE finds them by sensing their heat in the form of infrared light most other telescopes can not pick up

  • New theory: a comet swarm struck America 13,000 years ago

    One way to prevent an asteroid from hitting Earth is to blast it with a large nuclear weapon; trouble is, the blast would cause a barrage of asteroid debris to fall to Earth; indeed, there is a new suspect in the quest to understand what might have killed the ice-age megafauna of North America — a shower of debris from a disintegrating comet

  • Chile's concrete code for buildings called into question

    Since 1985, some 10,000 buildings three stories or higher were built in Chile — constructed in compliance with a strict building code introduced after a power earthquake which rocked the country; only 1 percent will have to be demolished as a consequence of the magnitude-8.8 earthquake that struck on 27 February; still, engineers who inspected the damage in many of the bearing-wall concrete frames of 12- to 26-story buildings say the damage calls into question the effectiveness of Chile’s building code, which does not require confinement reinforcing steel for concrete members

  • Does toad behavior predict earthquakes?

    Italian researchers studying toads’ mating habits noticed that a large number of toads left L’Aquila province of Italy a few days before it was hit with a devastating earthquake last April; the researchers suggest that toads sense changes in radiation emitted from Earth’s ionosphere, changes which typically precede earthquakes; other researchers say: not so fast

  • Researchers say a global database is needed to identify victims of mass disasters

    Hundreds of thousands of people may die in natural disasters such as the Asian tsunami or the Haiti earthquake; many of the bodies of victims are never recovered because of collapsed buildings, mud slides, and more; but there are difficulties even with the recovered bodies: many of them cannot be identified and, often, entire families are killed, leaving no one behind to identify the remains; researchers say that forensic anthropology may be of help here

  • Chile Earthquake shifted Earth's axis by 3 inches

    The 27 February 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile has shifted the Earth’s axis by three inches, causing each day to be shorter by 1.26 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second); the Earth is not a perfect sphere, with continents and oceans distributed unevenly around the planet — there is more land in the north, more water in the south; NASA scientists calculate that the Chilean quake shifted enough material to change the mass balance of the entire planet

  • U.S. accelerating move toward disaster insurance reform

    Premium increases, against a backdrop of increasing weather disasters and strained state finances, will focus Congress’s attention on weaknesses in the current U.S. catastrophe insurance framework; this is likely to stimulate reform, leading to the creation of a national disaster insurance/reinsurance pool and federal guarantees for certain catastrophe bonds

  • More than a third of the U.S. faces historic, possibly deadly flooding this spring

    Forecasters say wet winter, El Nino could cause major flooding; Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): “We are looking at potentially historic flooding”

  • No way to tell whether last Tuesday's L.A. earthquake was a precursor to the Big One

    Experts say it is impossible to tell whether small quakes are a sign that bigger ones may follow; thus, it is not possible to say whether or not last Tuesday’s 4.4 magnitude earthquake in California is a sign that the Big One is around the corner

  • Chilean economy faces major slowdown

    The two areas hit hardest by the 27 February quake account for 13 percent of Chile’s gross domestic product and 20 percent of its industrial output, and some sectors of the economy will have to rebuild from scratch

  • Researchers build a mini river delta, making catastrophic flooding more predictable

    Slow deposition of sediment within rivers eventually fills channels, forcing water to spill into surrounding areas and find a new, steeper path; the process is called avulsion; the result, with the proper conditions, is catastrophic flooding and permanent relocation of the river channel; researchers offer new insights into avulsion

  • Software turns laptops, PCs into earthquake early-warning system

    Harnessing the power of accelerometers — tiny devices that detect movement, allowing, for example, iPhones to flip from vertical to horizontal and Wii devices to function as tennis rackets — and embedding them in laptops and PCs would create a local, regional, or even global network of “quake catchers” who would use their computers to map tremors

  • Worry: gravitational force would cause nuked asteroids to reform

    The only way to prevent large asteroids from hitting Earth is to use nuclear weapons to blast them to pieces; scientists find that this is not good enough: the gravitational force among the asteroids fragments would cause the asteroid to reform, “Terminator”-like, within hours

  • National insurance for natural disasters: a necessity or "beach house bailout"

    Supporters of national disaster insurance program say it is better to plan ahead than do a bailout after a natural disaster; opponents say it would be a subsidy for owners of coastal mansions and encourage people to live in disaster-prone areas

  • Washington State, federal officials in dam-related disaster resilience exercises

    Officials from the Tri-Cities area of Washington State, neighboring areas, and federal agencies participate in a exercise aiming to develop a strategy to improve disaster resilience and preparedness in the event of severe flooding along the Columbia River, flooding which leads to overtopping and subsequent breaching of levees in the Tri-Cities area