• Maximum height of extreme waves up dramatically in Pacific Northwest

    A new assessment concludes that the highest waves in a “100-year event” along the Pacific Northwest’s coast may be as much as 46 feet, up from estimates of only 33 feet that were made as recently as 1996, and a 40 percent increase; the new findings raise special concerns for flooding, coastal erosion, and structural damage; “The Pacific Northwest has one of the strongest wave climates in the world, and the data clearly show that it’s getting even bigger,” says one of scientists involved

  • Haitian architects, urban planners say the need is to build a better Haiti

    A group of Haitian architects, engineers, and urban planners has met every day since the devastating quake, discussing not how to rebuild the country, but how to start anew; they should start with the country’s building code; one high government official participating in the meetings says dismissively: “There is a two-page building code [in Haiti]… that nobody used”

  • Cities say new FEMA flood maps contain many errors

    In 2004 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) started the $200 million-per-year project as a way to utilize advances in mapping technology better to identify areas susceptible to flooding; FEMA officials say the new maps will allow for better zoning and help prevent future catastrophes like the June 2008 flood in Iowa, which caused an estimated $10 billion in damage; cities, developers, and residents say new FEMA flood plain maps are full of mistakes that could prove costly

  • Engineers urge overhaul of Haiti's archaic, anarchic building practices

    In Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, building codes, if they even exist, exist on paper only; all governments in Haiti, including the present one, have been corrupt, predatory, and utterly indifferent to the welfare of the people; a recent OAS report detailed a litany of flaws in Haiti’s attitude to buildings: weak or missing reinforcement, structures on steep slopes with unstable foundations, inadequate or nonexistant inspections, poor designs, materials, and techniques; Kit Miyamoto, a California structural engineer who went to Haiti last week: “No code, no engineering, means death”

  • Army engineers: Haiti's bad roads not damaged by quake

    Engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say that many of Haiti’s roads are not any worse than they were before because they have always been in poor condition; 80 percent of the major destruction is around the city’s capital; 200 million cubic yards of debris will need to be removed from Port-au-Prince

  • Scientists: Only nukes can stop planet-threatening asteroids

    A new report by the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) says that the United States is not doing enough to protect itself – and the world – from Near Earth Objects (NEOs); the panel says that the only hope humanity has to against the larger asteroids – those bigger than 1 km; if they hit Earth, they would release energies in the hundred-thousand-megaton range – is to use nuclear weapons to try and push them off course

  • Panel calls for global asteroid defense agency

    Existing surveys are incapable of finding 90 percent of near-Earth asteroids that are 140 meters across or larger by 2020 — a goal set by the U.S. Congress in 2005; a panel of scientists recommends setting up an international body that would be prepared to spring into action and defend the planet if an asteroid is discovered on a likely impact course

  • More money needed to boost England's flood defenses

    The U.K. floods of 2007 caused £3.2 billion in damage and recovery costs; U.K. Environment Agency (EA) says that there is a need to double the country’s investment in flood defenses to £1 billion a year by 2035 – or damages from future floods further - disruption, damage to infrastructure, and loss of business — could rise by 60 percent

  • Seabed cable signals to sense tsunamis

    The current tsunami warning system relies on a global seismometer network to detect earthquakes that may indicate that a tsunami has formed; deep-ocean pressure sensors and coastal tide gauges are the only tools available to detect and measure an actual tsunami; the electric current induced in submarine cables may provide an additional way to confirm and track a tsunami; researchers suggest monitoring voltages changes across the vast network of communication cables on the seabed to enhance the current tsunami warning system

  • NOAA produces images of Haiti for first responders

    The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) is using its geographic surveillance UAVs to help provide first responders on the ground in Haiti with high resolution images of disaster sites

  • Quake-proofing U.S. buildings

    An Indian civil engineer has invented a sleeved column braces which help buildings withstand earthquakes; the sturdy brace apparatus surrounds a core of high-performance steel, but is spaced from the sides of the core; the sleeve thus absorbs and dissipates energy, but does not buckle under pressure; several large buildings in California, built in the last few years, have adopted the technology

  • U.S. structural engineers begin on-site damage assessments in Haiti

    U.S. engineers are going to Haiti to study the earthquake and its ramifications for structural engineering; the structural engineers emergency response committee (SEER) of the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) — the SEER consists of volunteer structural engineers trained in the structural engineering aspects of emergency response to earthquakes, hurricanes, and other disasters — is in talks with the U.S. government and the private sector to identify ways in which the structural engineering community can lend its talents, skills and experience

  • Scientists anxious about other big quakes

    The Haitian earthquake may have increased the chance of a future quake in the neighboring Dominican Republic and other parts of the Caribbean; during the Haitian quake, only 30 to 60 miles of the 300-mile fault near Port-au-Prince ruptured and slid; the rest of it stayed stuck, still glued together by friction; the area that ruptured is likely to have increased the amount of strain — and the risk of quake — in other parts of the fault

  • Haiti’s lack of building standards major contributor to scope of disaster

    One of the major contributors to the magnitude of the disaster in Haiti was the fact that there were no building codes in the country – a study done by the Organization of American States (OAS) concluded last month that many of the buildings in Haiti were so shoddily constructed that they were unlikely to survive any disaster, let alone an earthquake like the one that devastated Port-au-Prince last Tuesday

  • WHOI expert: Haiti quake occurred in complex, active seismic region

    Most of the time, the earth’s plates do not slide smoothly past one another; they stick in one spot for perhaps years or hundreds of years, until enough pressure builds along the fault and the landmasses suddenly jerk forward to relieve the pressure, releasing massive amounts of energy throughout the surrounding area; in Haiti, the tremor was centered just 10 miles southwest of the capital city, Port au Prince, and the quake was shallow — only about 10-15 kilometers below the land’s surface