• Israel worries about its own Big One

    The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal, leaving more than 4,000 people dead, has alerted earthquake experts in Israel about the country’s own seismic risk, which could result in a large quake months or a few years from now. Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan are sitting on a major fault line which constitutes “a real, as well as a current, threat to the safety, social integrity, and economic well-being of the people in the region,” reads a 2007 earthquake report.

  • Preventing a Fukushima-like disaster in Europe

    In 2005, Europe was exposed to a potential risk of a nuclear disaster caused by the flooding of the Loviisa nuclear power plant in Finland. Sea levels rose by 1.73 meter above normal levels, due to a storm. As a result, flood defenses have been reinforced. Floods are likely to occur more frequently than anticipated when nuclear power plants where built, due to climate change. Improved safety management and further collaboration between experts are required to minimize the risk of flooding at coastal nuclear plants in Europe.

  • Flood disaster risk is more complex than expected

    Researchers have shed further light on the complex issue of flood risk, with the latest findings showing the potential for flood risk to both increase and decrease in the same geographic area. There are two major types of floods from rivers: one is caused by heavy rain sustained over long periods of time that might affect large catchments over a wide geographic area; the other is caused by short but extremely heavy rain events, which might only last for thirty minutes and is usually localized, often called “flash flooding.” “At the global scale we’re increasingly confident that flood risk will change, because a warming atmosphere means more heavy rain. However, for any individual location the changes to flood risk will depend on each region’s rainfall patterns. Under certain circumstances the flood risk may actually decrease,” says one researcher.

  • More than half of hot extremes are the result of climate change

    Torrential rains and blazing heat have been mentioned even in the oldest manuscripts and have always been part of the climate. A substantial proportion of today’s extreme high-temperature and heavy rainfall events, however, can be attributed to the observed warming. Scientists say it would be wrong to conclude that climate change has no effect on the frequency of such events based simply on the fact that weather extremes existed in the past. However, it is also clear that what is often referred to as “global weirding,” or the idea that all weather phenomena are becoming increasingly extreme, falls short.

  • Miami Beach luxury real estate market is booming in the face of rising sea levels

    By 2100, sea levels could rise by as much as six feet. Miami Beach, with its dense population and low altitude, is on the list of U.S. cities at greatest risk. This recognition has not slowed down the region’s luxury real estate market. To help drain city streets during high tides and floods, Miami Beach is installing an eighty pumping system units expected to cost between $300 and $500 million.Scientists are skeptical of plans to solve the city’s flood and tackle sea level rise problem with pumps, saying the only solution is rebuilding and retrofitting some city infrastructure at higher levels – and moving some neighborhood inland. “If you spend [the money] on the easy stuff, you’re not going to have any money left for the hard stuff,” says one geologist. “So my concern is the longer-term sea level rise that’s going to get real expensive — and if we’re all broke because we blew all that money saving a few places that should have been moved.”

  • As climate warms, vast amounts of carbon may be release from long-frozen Arctic soils

    Scientists estimate there is more than ten times the amount of carbon in the Arctic soil than has been put into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution. To look at it another way, scientists estimate there is two and a half times more carbon locked away in the Arctic deep freezer than there is in the atmosphere today. Now, with a warming climate, that deep freezer is beginning to thaw and that long-frozen carbon is beginning to be released into the environment.

  • Nepal shows its vulnerability after devastating earthquake

    For some time scientists have realized that the Kathmandu valley is one of the most dangerous places in the world, in terms of earthquake risk. And now a combination of high seismic activity at the front of the Tibetan plateau, poor building standards, and haphazard urbanization have come together with fatal consequences.

  • Oklahoma scientists warn about fracking-induced earthquakes

    Using stronger language than in the past, the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) announced on Tuesday that the state’s ongoing waves of earthquakes are “very unlikely to represent a naturally occurring process.” The OGS says that fracking was likely a cause for the increased seismicity. The state’s seismicity rate in 2013 was seventy times greater than the rate before 2008, and rapidly grew to about 600 times greater today, according to the OGS. The average oil well in Oklahoma requires about ten barrels of saltwater to be injected for every barrel of oil that can be pumped out.

  • Building healthier communities essential for recovering from disasters

    U.S. communities and federal agencies should more intentionally seek to create healthier communities during disaster preparation and recovery efforts — something that rarely happens now, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. By adding a health “lens” to planning and recovery, a community can both mitigate the health damage caused by disasters and recover in ways that make the community healthier and more resilient than it was before.

  • Climate change will worsen natural catastrophes’ impact on corporate creditworthiness: S&P

    Generally, companies have so far managed to mitigate the effects of natural catastrophes through liquidity management, insurance protection, natural disaster risk management, and post-event recovery measures. The more frequent and extreme climatic events many scientists predict, however, could adversely affect companies’ credit profiles in the future. Standard & Poor’s says that greater disclosure of firms’ exposure to extreme natural catastrophes should encourage them to bolster their resilience to these events and thereby aid transparency.

  • U.S. action on climate change hobbled by economics and politics, not divided science: Study

    The U.S. Congress successfully hears the “supermajority” consensus on the reality and causes of climate change, according to new research, which analyzed 1,350 testimonies from 253 relevant congressional hearings from 1969 to 2007. Among expert witnesses who expressed a view, 86 percent say that global warming and climate change is happening and 78 percent say it is caused by human activity. Under Republican-controlled Congresses, a three-quarter supermajority of scientists say that global warming and climate change are real and anthropogenic. Most significant of all, 95 percent of scientists giving testimonies support action to combat it. “Different perceptions and claims among lawmakers are a major hurdle to agreeing on action to address global warming and these were thought to simply reflect scientific uncertainty,” says one of the authors. “However, our findings show that congressional testimonies are in fact consistent with agreement in the climate science community and that the sources of controversies must lie elsewhere.”

  • New insights on man-made earthquakes

    Earthquake activity has sharply increased since 2009 in the central and eastern United States. The increase has been linked to industrial operations that dispose of wastewater by injecting it into deep wells. Significant strides in science have been made to better understand potential ground shaking from induced earthquakes, which are earthquakes triggered by man-made practices.

  • More than 143 million Americans at risk from earthquakes

    More than 143 million Americans living in the forty-eight contiguous states are exposed to potentially damaging ground shaking from earthquakes, with as many as twenty-eight million people in the highest hazard zones likely to experience strong shaking during their lifetime, according to new research. The research puts the average long-term value of building losses from earthquakes at $4.5 billion per year, with roughly 80 percent of losses attributed to California, Oregon, and Washington. By comparison, FEMA estimated in 1994 that seventy-five million Americans in thirty-nine states were at risk from earthquakes. In the highest hazard zones, the researchers identified more than 6,000 fire stations, more than 800 hospitals, and nearly 20,000 public and private schools that may be exposed to strong ground motion from earthquakes.

  • Alpine fault earthquake in New Zealand will produce challenges

    A New Zealand geological sciences researcher says an alpine fault earthquake is likely to be markedly different to the Canterbury, New Zealand earthquakes, with infrastructure losses potentially exposing the regional economy rather than the concentrated building losses seen in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011. The geologist says post-disaster recovery for an alpine fault earthquake will need to focus on rapid re-installation of critical lifelines in order to sustain the South Island economy.

  • A large Ventura Fault quake could trigger a tsunami

    Earthquake experts had not foreseen the 2011 magnitude-9 Japan earthquake occurring where it did, so soon after the disaster, scientists in Southern California began asking themselves, “What are the big things we’re missing?” For decades, seismic experts believed the Ventura fault posed only a minor to moderate threat, but new research suggests that a magnitude-8 earthquake could occur on the fault roughly every 400 to 2,400 years. The newly discovered risk may even be more damaging than a large earthquake occurring on the San Andreas Fault, which has long been considered the state’s most dangerous. Unlike the Ventura fault, the San Andreas Fault is so far inland in Southern California, that it does not pose a tsunami risk. A large earthquake on the Ventura fault, however, could create a tsunami that would begin “in the Santa Barbara Channel area, and would affect the coastline … of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, down through the Santa Monica area and further south.”