Natural disasters

  • Forecasting long-lived wildfires

    Scientists have developed a new computer modeling technique that offers the promise, for the first time, of producing continually updated daylong predictions of wildfire growth throughout the lifetime of long-lived blazes. The technique combines cutting-edge simulations portraying the interaction of weather and fire behavior with newly available satellite observations of active wildfires.

  • The Philippines is victim of geography, poor infrastructure, poverty

    Owing to its location and geography, the Philippines is one of the most natural disaster-prone countries in the world. On average the country experiences nine major typhoons and 900 earthquakes annually, and it has twenty-five active volcanoes. Poor infrastructure and pervasive poverty exacerbate the impact of disasters, making them even more deadly and destructive. “In a cruel cycle, poverty and underdevelopment make disasters worse, and disasters make poverty and underdevelopment worse,” one observer notes.

  • Past as prologue: Insights from past natural disasters relevant today

    The increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters constitute a daunting challenge to modern society, which is characterized by a heavy infrastructure and increasing population density. Until now, coping with natural disasters has involved expensive state intervention and technology-aided approaches, but researchers believes that the past contains a wealth of unexploited resources which could also provide solutions to the problems communities face when dealing with need to cope with, and recover from, natural disasters.

  • Japan hopes off-shore wind turbines can replace shut-down nukes

    Japan inaugurated a floating offshore wind turbine on Monday, symbolizing the country’s effort to reduce its dependency on nuclear energy and fossil fuels and shift to renewable energy sources. The floating platform is anchored thirteen miles offshore from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which has been out of commission since the reactor’s meltdown disasterof March 2011. The platform is anchored to the seabed 400 feet below surface. It is the first project of its kind in Japan, and it aims to show that the country can exploit the country’s powerful offshore winds to create a sustainable energy source.

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  • Calif.’s earthquake early warning system bill approved

    California’s earthquake early warning system, State Senate Bill 135, was approved by Governor Jerry Brown. The bill requires the Office of Emergency Services (OES) to develop a comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system to alert Californians in advance of shaking from an earthquake.

  • National grid in mock power emergency drill today and tomorrow

    North American power companies will participate in a mock power emergency scenario today and tomorrow (13-14 November) to test their ability to respond to physical or cyberattacks that may lead to widespread power outages and long term blackouts. The exercise, known as GridEx II, is the second emergency response exercise conducted by North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) intended to task North American electric utility companies with reviewing their security and crisis response strategies.

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  • Philippines prepares for worse disasters to come

    On average, the Philippines experiences about twenty typhoons a year, including three super-typhoons and many incidents of flooding, drought, earthquakes, tremors, and occasional volcanic eruptions, making the country one of the most naturally disaster-prone areas in the world. Filipino government agencies, with the help of international disaster and relief agencies, have created new strategies for disaster preparedness, response, and mitigation which may well have potential applications in other parts of the world. As the impact of climate change grows more pronounced, the Philippines is becoming a hothouse for developing new methods and systems in the growing business of disaster relief.

  • Sunlight-activated nanogrid breaks down pollutants in water

    Oil spills do untold damage to the environment — to the waters they pollute and to marine and other wildlife. The Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, for example, the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, flowed unabated for three months. Typically, such oil spills are extraordinarily difficult to clean up. Soon, however, the process may become infinitely easier and ecologically friendly, the result of a new invention — “nanogrid” — a large net consisting of metal grids made of a copper tungsten oxide, that, when activated by sunlight, can break down oil from a spill, leaving only biodegradable compounds behind.

  • Chelyabinsk meteor explosion a "wake-up call," scientists warn

    Three new studies have revealed details of the meteor that exploded above Russian city, Chelyabinsk, in February this year. Their findings provide information about the meteor’s origin, trajectory, power and damage by the airburst (the shock wave that travelled through the air from the explosion). These findings may help to refine theoretical models about the likely frequency of such events, the potential damage they could cause and hazard mitigation strategies needed for planetary protection.

  • Wildfire science returns to California’s Rim Fire

    The challenging job of managing wildfires rests with other agencies, but the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provides the underlying science for sound land management decisions, before, during, and after wildfires. The USGS role studying natural hazards such as floods, landslides, earthquakes, and volcanoes is well known, but fewer people are aware of the USGS scientific work in major wildfire events, which are one of the most regular and sometimes most devastating natural hazards in the West.

  • Scientists: we should prepare for hell and high water

    An international team of climate and social scientists say a new approach to climate preparedness is essential to help people adjust to coming changes. As climate-driven changes get more pronounced, people everywhere will have to adjust. In this week’s issue of the journal Science, an international group of researchers urge the development of science needed to manage climate risks and capitalize on unexpected opportunities.

  • Flickr photos reflect Hurricane Sandy's impact

    A new study has discovered a striking connection between the number of pictures of Hurricane Sandy posted on Flickr and the atmospheric pressure in New Jersey as the hurricane crashed through the U.S. state in 2012.

  • Resources on disaster preparedness, resilience

    One year after Superstorm Sandy hit the eastern United States, local, state, and federal agencies as well as community groups and businesses are working to strengthen the U.S.s resilience to future disasters. A National Research Council (NRC) has issues a series of studies and reports, and has put together workshops and study groups, which should advance the national conversation on preparedness and resilience.

  • Rising temperatures threaten Salt Lake City’s water supply

    In an example of the challenges water-strapped Western cities will face in a warming world, new research shows that every degree Fahrenheit of warming in the Salt Lake City region could mean a 1.8 to 6.5 percent drop in the annual flow of streams that provide water to the city. By midcentury, warming Western temperatures may mean that some of the creeks and streams that help slake Salt Lake City’s thirst will dry up several weeks earlier in the summer and fall.

  • 2012 sees slowdown in the increase in global CO2 emissions

    Actual global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached a new record of 34.5 billion tons in 2012. Yet, the increase in global CO2 emissions in that year slowed down to 1.1 percent, which was less than half the average annual increase of 2.9 percent over the last decade. This is remarkable, as the global economy grew by 3.5 percent. This development signals a shift toward less fossil-fuel-intensive activities, more use of renewable energy, and increased energy saving. Increases in fossil-fuel consumption in 2012 were 2.2 percent for natural gas, 0.9 percent for oil products, and 0.6 percent for coal.