Natural disasters

  • World’s great rivers running on empty

    Four of the world’s great rivers are all suffering from drastically reduced flows as a direct result of water extraction, according to new research; the researchers found that in all four river basins, over a long period of time, outflows have greatly reduced as a direct result of increased water extractions, and that urgent changes in governance of water are needed to ensure the systems remain healthy and viable

  • Tetrapod robot developed for investigative, recovery work inside post-accident nuclear plants

    Toshiba has developed a tetrapod robot able to carry out investigative and recovery work in locations which are too risky for people to enter; the multiple joints of its legs are controlled by a dedicated movement algorithm which enables the robot to walk on uneven surfaces, avoid obstacles, and climb stairs, securing access into areas which are challenging to be reached by wheeled robots or crawlers

  • Student invents a wireless vibration sensor which harvests energy from earthquakes

    A wireless vibration sensor being developed by an engineering student could provide a low-cost solution for engineers to monitor the damage of buildings affected by earthquakes; currently, no sensor exists in the marketplace which does not rely on batteries or electricity supply to run

  • Humble microbes fighting harmful greenhouse gas

    The environment has a more formidable opponent than carbon dioxide; another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, is 300 times more potent and also destroys the ozone layer each time it is released into the atmosphere through agricultural practices, sewage treatment, and fossil fuel combustion; luckily, nature has a larger army than previously thought combating this greenhouse gas

  • Warming to shift heavy rainfall patterns across U.K.

    Researchers investigating the potential changes in extreme rainfall patterns across the United Kingdom as a result of global warming have found that in some regions of the country, the time of year when we see the heaviest rainfall is set to shift

  • “Soft infrastructure” as storm surge defense alternatives

    The flooding in New York and New Jersey caused by Superstorm Sandy prompted calls from Governor Andrew Cuomo and other officials to consider building storm surge barriers to protect Lower Manhattan from future catastrophes. Such a strategy, however, could make things even worse for outlying areas that were hit hard by the hurricane, such as Staten Island, the New Jersey Shore, and Long Island’s South Shore, a City College of New York landscape architecture professor warns; landscapers and engineers say that environmentally friendly “soft infrastructure” would mitigate flood damage without sending harm elsewhere

  • Outlasting Superstorm Sandy

    When hurricanes wander up the Atlantic Coast, Long Island’s topography is such that storms like Sandy, or last year’s Hurricane Irene, produce widespread, severe damage; effects can last for weeks, not only in the hardest-hit areas, but across the breadth of the island; Mark Zablocki, HSNW administrative editor, lives on Long Island, and he draws on his personal experience dealing with Sandy and its consequences to offer a few simple steps which, if followed, would help individuals analyze their own situation and the vulnerabilities and threats they face,  pointing them in the direction of the best course of action to take in preparation for an impending disaster

  • U.S. electric power grid “inherently vulnerable” to terrorist attacks: report

    The U.S. electric power delivery system is vulnerable to terrorist attacks which could cause much more damage to the system than natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, blacking out large regions of the country for weeks or months, and costing many billions of dollars, says a newly released report by the National Research Council

  • Con Ed overcame many obstacles to restore power to NYC

    On 29 October Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York City and took out the power in most of Lower Manhattan, even knocking out power to the headquarters of Consolidated Edison’s (Con Ed), the electricity supplier for NYC; due to the flooding in Lower Manhattan, employees had to use rafts to rescue coworkers trapped in the company’s East 13th Street power station; in the days after the storm, as with many other New Yorkers, Con Ed almost ran out of gas, but that did not stop the company from restoring power back to Lower Manhattan less than four days after the storm

  • Hurricane Sandy caused dramatic changes to hundreds of miles of East Coast shoreline

    The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has released a series of aerial photographs showing before-and-after images of Hurricane Sandy’s impacts on the Atlantic Coast; the photos, part of a USGS assessment of coastal change from as far south as the Outer Banks of North Carolina to as far north as Massachusetts, show that the storm caused dramatic changes to portions of shoreline extending hundreds of miles

  • “Black swans” and “perfect storms” are often lame excuses for bad risk management

    The terms “black swan” and “perfect storm” have become part of public vocabulary for describing disasters ranging from the 2008 meltdown in the financial sector to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but some argue that people in government and industry are using these terms too liberally in the aftermath of a disaster as an excuse for poor planning

  • New fluorescence technology pinpoints oil leaks at sea

    Cambridge Consultants uses fertility monitor technology in oil leak early warning system; the company has built an oil spill detection technology platform which is capable of detecting the natural fluorescence of even tiny amounts of oil in or on water

  • Plants, soils could exacerbate climate change as global climate warms

    Scientists have demonstrated that plants and soils could release large amounts of carbon dioxide as global climate warms; this finding contrasts with the expectation that plants and soils will absorb carbon dioxide and is important because that additional carbon release from land surface could be a potent positive feedback that exacerbates climate warming

  • Sea-level records reveal tight correlation between ice volume and polar temperature

    During the last few million years, global ice-volume variability has been one of the main feedback mechanisms in climate change, because of the strong reflective properties of large ice sheets. Ice volume changes in ancient times can be reconstructed from sea-level records; a new study has revealed a rapid response between global temperature and ice volume/sea-level, which could lead to sea-levels rising by over one meter

  • In 2009, engineers predicted surge threats to N.Y.-N.J. and offered detailed mitigation measures

    The leaders of the U.S. top engineering association, reflecting on the destruction inflicted by Superstorm Sandy, say that more than three years ago the association presented studies showing that a devastating storm surge in the region was all but inevitable; participants in the 30-31 March 2009 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) conference called on NYC officials seriously to consider whether to install surge barriers or tide gates in New York Harbor to protect the city