Natural disasters

  • Quake Summit 2013: showcasing research on earthquakes, tsunamis

    Members of a national earthquake simulation research network next week will gather at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), for Quake Summit 2013, a scientific meeting highlighting research on mitigating the impact of devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. Titled “Earthquake & Multi-Hazards Resilience: Progress and Challenges,” the annual summit of the 14-site George E. Brown Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), will run from 6 August through 8 August at UNR’s Joseph Crowley Student Center.

  • Online tools accelerate progress in earthquake engineering, science

    A new study has found that on-line tools, access to experimental data, and other services provided through “cyberinfrastructure” are helping to accelerate progress in earthquake engineering and science. The cyberinfrastructure includes a centrally maintained, Web-based science gateway called NEEShub, which houses experimental results and makes them available for reuse by researchers, practitioners, and educational communities. NEEShub contains more than 1.6 million project files stored in more than 398,000 project directories and has been shown to have at least 65,000 users over the past year.

  • Simulations help in studying earthquake dampers for structures

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    Researchers have demonstrated the reliability and efficiency of “real-time hybrid simulation” for testing a type of powerful damping system that might be installed in buildings and bridges to reduce structural damage and injuries during earthquakes. The magnetorheological-fluid dampers are shock-absorbing devices containing a liquid that becomes far more viscous when a magnetic field is applied.

  • Tornadoes do not take weekends off

    Do tornadoes take the weekends off? Some scientists had hypothesized that aerosols, which are more common in the atmosphere during the work week due to increased vehicle and manufacturing pollution levels, were also responsible for increased tornadic activity during Monday-Friday period. New research finds that the numbers of tornadoes that occurred on any given day of the week varied, with no clear pattern showing that weekends had significantly less activity.

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  • U.K. winter flooding to get more severe, frequent

    Winter flooding in the United Kingdom is set to get more severe and more frequent under the influence of climate change as a result of a change in the characteristics of atmospheric rivers (ARs). ARs are narrow regions of intense moisture flows in the lower troposphere of the atmosphere that deliver sustained and heavy rainfall to mid-latitude regions such as the United Kingdom.

  • Feds give upstate New York counties $5 million money to repair roads, bridges

    The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) has approved $5 million in emergency funding to help fifteen upstate New York counties make repairs to their roads and bridges damaged in a flood late last month.

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  • La. flood protection agency sues 97 energy companies for wetland destruction

    A Louisiana state agency on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against ninety-seven energy companies, charging that the companies have inflicted severe damage on fragile coastal wetlands, damage which left New Orleans and other Louisiana cities more vulnerable to hurricanes and storm surges. The agency wants the court to order these companies to pay steep penalties which would help the state restore the wetlands and thus recreate the natural buffer which had protected New Orleans.

  • Changes to levee system would reduce storm surge risks to New Orleans: study

    Historically, the design of Southeast Louisiana’s hurricane flood risk reduction system has hinged on raising and adding levees in response to river or hurricane events that impact the region. A new study shows that the lowering of man-made levees along 55-kilometer section of the west bank of the Lower Plaquemines river to their natural state, to allow storm surge to partially pass across the Mississippi River, will decrease storm surge upriver toward New Orleans.

  • Natural disasters caused $85 billion global economic loss during first half of 2013

    Data show that economic losses from global natural disasters during the six month period ending 30 June totaled $85 billion (2012: 75 billion) — around 15 percent lower than the 10-year (2003-2012) average of $100 billion. Insured losses for the period reached $20 billion (2012: $25 billion) — approximately 20 percent below the 10-year average of $25 billion. Roughly 50 percent of the insured losses resulting from natural disaster events were recorded in the United States.

  • Earthquake can have devastating long-distance impact

    In 2006 the island of Java, Indonesia was struck by a devastating earthquake followed by the onset of a mud eruption to the east, flooding villages over several square kilometers, and which continues to erupt today. Until now, researchers believed the earthquake was too far from the mud volcano to trigger the eruption. Researchers used computer-based simulations to show that such triggering is possible over long distances because the seismic waves can be focused like in a parabolic reflector.

  • Wildfires to get more common, harder to control

    Wildfires are getting worse, as evidenced by the devastation caused in Australia in 2009 and again last year, in Russia in 2010, in Canada’s Slave Lake and Colorado Springs in 2011, and in Arizona earlier this year. The world’s wildfires annually burn between 350 million and 600 million hectares of forest, an area equivalent to the size of India. Researchers predict that global warming will increase severity of wildfires threefold by end of century.

  • Predicting what could happen if Hurricane hits

    A Sandia National Laboratories team is gearing up for hurricane season, readying analyses to help people in the eye of a storm. The team has two jobs: conducting annual “hurricane swath” analyses of probable impacts on the Gulf Coast and East Coast, and providing quick analyses of crisis response in the face of an imminent hurricane threat to the United States. A swath analysis looks at how a hurricane might interrupt critical services and at impacts to infrastructure specific to an area, such as petroleum and petrochemical industries in Houston or financial services in New York City. It also looks at such things as the economic impact of the storm or how it could upset food deliveries.

  • 130-year old seawall protected New Jersey town from Sandy's storm surges

    Bay Head and Mantoloking sit side-by-side in Ocean County, facing the ocean. In Bay Head, Sandy flooded 88 percent of the oceanfront homes, with just one oceanfront home destroyed. In Mantoloking, more than half of the oceanfront homes were damaged or destroyed. The reason for the difference between minor structural impacts and widespread destruction: a relatively small coastal obstacle — a forgotten, 1,260-meter seawall, built in 1882 and buried beneath the beach – which reduced potential wave loads by a factor of two.

  • Dealing with man-made earthquakes

    Between 1967 and 2000, central and eastern United States experienced on average 20 earthquakes above a magnitude 3.0 a year. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of earthquakes above a magnitude 3.0 in these regions has dramatically increased to an average of 100 a year. This increase in earthquakes prompts two important questions: Are they natural, or man-made? And what should be done in the future as we address the causes and consequences of these events to reduce associated risks?

  • Mother Nature offers best protection for coastal communities’ infrastructure

    Extreme weather, sea-level rise, and degraded coastal ecosystems are placing people and property at greater risk of damage from coastal hazards. The likelihood and magnitude of losses can be reduced by intact ecosystems near vulnerable coastal communities. Scientists say that natural habitats such as dunes and reefs are critical to protecting millions of U.S. residents and billions of dollars in property from coastal storms.