Natural disasters

  • Tiny smartphone sensors create an urban seismic network

    A tiny chip used in smart phones to adjust the orientation of the screen could serve to create a real-time urban seismic network, easily increasing the amount of strong motion data collected during a large earthquake. This urban seismic network could transmit in real-time ground motion data to a central location for assessment. The rich volume of data could help first responders identify areas of greatest potential damage, allowing them to allocate resources more effectively.

  • Building disaster-relief phone apps on the fly

    Researchers combine powerful new Web standards with the intuitive, graphical MIT App Inventor to aid relief workers with little programming expertise.

  • NYC enacts post-Sandy resiliency codes

    Last week the New York City Council enacted laws implementing five recommendations of the Building Resiliency Task Force, led by Urban Green Council following Superstorm Sandy. This first package of laws makes NYC better prepared for future hurricanes and extreme weather.

  • NSF awards first coastal sustainability grants

    More than half the world’s human population lived in coastal areas in the year 2000; that percentage is expected to rise to 75 percent by 2025. In wake of storms such as Hurricane Sandy, NSF grants will lead to better management of coastal environments.

  • view counter
  • How Sandy has changed storm warning procedures

    Superstorm Sandy slammed against the U.S. Eastern Seaboard in October 2012, inundating iconic communities. Those communities have been rebuilding since then and things are almost back to normal for most. Something else, however, has had to be rebuilt as well: the structured procedures for issuing warnings. The goal is to help communities better comprehend what natural disasters will bring their doorsteps.

  • Fracking in Ohio: tapping a valuable resource or invading the environment?

    A new study is examining methane and other components in groundwater wells, in advance of drilling for shale gas which is expected over the next several years in an Ohio region. A team of researchers spent a year doing periodic testing of groundwater wells in Carroll County, Ohio, a section of Ohio that sits along the shale-rich Pennsylvania-West Virginia borders. The study analyzed twenty-five groundwater wells at varying distances from proposed fracking sites in the rural, Appalachian, Utica Shale region of Carroll County.

  • view counter
  • Fracking does not cause quakes, but disposing water used in the process might: scientists

    Researchers say that human activity associated with oil and gas production may sometimes cause earthquakes, but the problem lies in the disposal of drilling fluids in the underground injection wells, not hydraulic fracturing. The vast majority of injection wells do not cause quakes.

  • Los Alamos National Lab describes storm damage to affected New Mexico areas

    Hours after a disaster declaration by Los Alamos County, Los Alamos National Laboratory officials on Friday described “millions” of dollars in damage to environmental monitoring stations, monitoring wells, access roads, and badly eroded canyon bottoms. “Last week we experienced an epic event,” said Dave McInroy, the laboratory’s program director for environmental corrective actions.

  • Deep earthquakes simulated in the laboratory

    More than twenty years ago, researchers discovered a high-pressure failure mechanism that they proposed then was the long-sought mechanism of very deep earthquakes (earthquakes occurring at more than 400 km depth). The result was controversial because seismologists could not find a seismic signal in the Earth that could confirm the results. Seismologists have now found the critical evidence. Indeed, beneath Japan, they have even imaged the tell-tale evidence and showed that it coincides with the locations of deep earthquakes.

  • California mulls costly earthquake early-warning system

    The price of an early warning system which would alert California officials about an earthquake within sixty seconds before a major temblor strikes would be $80 million. The California legislature passed a bill on 13 September, requiring the state to develop the earthquake warning system, but it is unclear whether Governor Jerry Brown will sign the bill.

  • NASA, DHS to demonstrate disaster rescue tool

    NASA and DHS are collaborating on a new radar device which detects heartbeats of victims trapped in wreckage. The device, known as the Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER), can locate individuals buried under as much as thirty feet of crushed materials, hidden behind twenty feet of solid concrete, or from a distance of 100 feet in open spaces.

  • Flood insurance is not available to Canadian homeowners – should it be?

    Canada is the only G8 country in which insurance against overland flooding is not available to homeowners — but does it have to remain that way? A study released Monday explores issues related to flooding and property insurance, aiming to advance informed discussion of the potential better to protect Canadian homeowners. It reveals that while insurance executives are concerned about the lack of flood insurance and agree on many of the associated issues, opinions remain mixed concerning its viability in Canada.

  • More equitable access to DNA identification after disaster or conflict needed: experts

    The April 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza Factory Building in Bangladesh, in which more than 1,130 people were killed, is only the latest in a long line of events that has made plain the plight of the families whose loved ones go missing after conflict and disaster. Experts argue that international structures are needed to promote more equal access to forensic identification technologies, ensure their fair and efficient use, and provide uniform protections to participants following large-scale conflict and disaster.

  • Calculating the cost of a ton of mountaintop removal coal

    To meet current U.S. coal demand through surface mining, an area of the Central Appalachians the size of Washington, D.C., would need to be mined every eighty-one days. This is about sixty-eight square miles — or roughly an area equal to ten city blocks mined every hour. A 1-year supply of coal would require converting about 310 square miles of the region’s mountains into surface mines.

  • Studying tsunami resilience in California

    While scientists cannot predict when a great earthquake producing a pan-Pacific tsunami will occur, thanks to new tools being developed by federal and state officials, scientists can now offer more accurate insight into the likely impacts when tsunamis occur. This knowledge can lead officials and the public to reduce the risk of the future tsunamis that will impact California.