Natural disasters

  • Improved weather, climate predictions strengthen the U.S. economy

    The economic costs of damaging weather events have an immense and increasing impact on the U.S. economy. These costs could be anticipated and mitigated by improved weather and climate predictions, say a range of experts in the public and private sectors. These experts will meet in early April in an American Meteorological Society event to discuss the economic benefits of how environmental forecast, prediction, and observation programs and services strengthen the U.S. economy.

  • Hidden dune filters treat coastal stormwater runoff

    When it rains, untreated stormwater can sweep pollutants into coastal waters, potentially endangering public health. Now researchers have developed low-cost filtration systems that are concealed beneath sand dunes and filter out most of the bacteria that can lead to beach closures.

  • Does warmer climate mean stormier, or only wetter, weather?

    Many scientists argue that the climate has warmed since people began to release massive amounts greenhouse gases to the atmosphere during the Industrial Revolution. These scientists, however, are less sure that warming climate creates stormier weather. The reason: nobody has done the quantitative analysis needed to show this is indeed happening. Until now.

  • Helping coal miners escape underground disasters

    Recent advances in mining research and practices have improved the safety and health of underground coal miners and extensive rescue strategies are in place, but more coordinated planning and training are needed better to prepare miners to escape in the event of a mine emergency, says a new report from the National Research Council.

  • 2012 economic losses from disasters set new record at $138 billion

    The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) reported that for the first time in history, the world has experienced three consecutive years in which annual economic losses have exceeded $100 billion. The losses are the result of an enormous increase in exposure of industrial assets and private property to extreme disaster events.

  • New structure for regulation of geoengineering research needed: experts

    Geoengineering, the use of human technologies to alter the Earth’s climate system — such as injecting reflective particles into the upper atmosphere to scatter incoming sunlight back to space — has emerged as a potentially promising way to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Such efforts, however, could present unforeseen new risks. This inherent tension has thwarted both scientific advances and the development of an international framework for regulating and guiding geoengineering research.

  • Predicting landslides

    A landslide can seriously injure or even kill people. Now, a new early warning system will be the first to employ geological data in tandem with the latest weather forecasts to provide a concrete warning in emergency situations.

  • Urgent need to find asteroids that threaten Earth: expert

    The impact from a 100-meter long asteroid hitting Earth would be equal to detonating a 100-megaton hydrogen bomb. Several large asteroids have zipped dangerously close to Earth in the past month. There are millions of these near-Earth-orbit (NEOs) asteroids longer than 100 meters. Because they are relatively small, and because they spend so much time far from Earth, scientists tend to find them only by chance.

  • Russia embarking on a program to thwart asteroid threat

    Officials from Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear agency, and from Russia’s space agency, yesterday (Tuesday) told a special conference at the Russian Federation Council, the Russian upper house, that Russia was embarking on an ambitious program – estimated to cost about $2 billion – to shield Russia from the threat of asteroids and meteors. The first steps will be taken by the end of the year, but the comprehensive set of measures will not be available until 2018-20. The officials discussed various possible measures, ranging from planting beacon transmitters on asteroids to megaton-sized nuclear strikes to destroy asteroid or divert them from a course which would lead to a collision with the Earth.

  • The benefits of multi-state catastrophic risk pool

    A modeling platform from Kinetic Analysis Corp. enabled researchers to drill deeply into large volumes of storm-related data spanning nine states and 140 years. Study finds that multi-state catastrophic risk pools offer significant benefits in major tropical events.

  • Making future sea-level predictions more accurate

    Sea-level rise is a major issue facing those in charge of infrastructure protection in coastal communities. New research into radiocarbon dates of tiny fossilized marine animals found in Antarctica’s seabed sediments offers new clues about the recent rapid ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and helps scientists make better predictions about future sea-level rise. 

  • Arctic ice loss intensified Superstorm Sandy ferocity

    If you believe that last October’s Superstorm Sandy was a freak of nature — the confluence of unusual meteorological, atmospheric and celestial events – then Cornell and Rutgers researchers suggest you should think again. The researchers report that the severe loss of summertime Arctic sea ice — attributed to greenhouse warming — appears to enhance Northern Hemisphere jet stream meandering, intensify Arctic air mass invasions toward middle latitudes, and increase the frequency of atmospheric blocking events like the one that steered Hurricane Sandy west into the densely populated New York City area.

  • Norfolk, Virginia, tries to cope with sea-level rise

    Norfolk, Virginia, is home to the largest U.S. naval base in the country, and the second biggest commercial port on the U.S. Atlantic coast. Floods are an ever-present problem, a problem which has become worse in recent decades. The relative sea level around Norfolk has risen 14.5 inches (.37 meter) since 1930, when the low-lying downtown area routinely flooded. The frequency of storms-induced surges has increased as well.

  • The impact of sea-level rise on coastal military installations

    The Pentagon says that climate-related effects are already being observed at Department of Defense (DoD) installations in every region of the United States and its coastal waters. The effects of climate change will adversely impact military readiness and DoD natural and built infrastructure unless these risks are considered in DoD decisions. A new white paper developed by the Pentagon’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) identifies key climate-related policy questions that need to be addressed.

  • People remain optimistic even after experiencing devastating tornados

    Even in the face of a disaster, we remain optimistic about our chances of injury compared to others, according to a new study. Residents of a town struck by a tornado thought their risk of injury from a future tornado was lower than that of peers, both a month and a year after the destructive twister. Such optimism could undermine efforts toward emergency preparedness.