Natural disasters

  • “Intra-seasonal” variability in sea-level change

    The effects of storm surge and sea-level rise have become topics of everyday conversation in the days and weeks following Hurricane Sandy’s catastrophic landfall along the mid-Atlantic coast; new research is throwing light on another, less-familiar component of sea-level variability — the “intra-seasonal” changes that occupy the middle ground between rapid, storm-related surges in sea level and the long-term increase in sea level due to global climate change

  • American West's changing climate means economic changes, too

    The State of the West Symposium, hosted by the Bill Lane Center for the American West and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, featured a discussion of the Western United States’ future of extreme heat, declining snowpack, and what it all means for the region’s industry, electricity generation, and policy

  • Technology to help weather bushfires, floods and more

    Natural disasters have increased in severity and frequency in recent years; in 2010, 385 natural disasters affected 217 million people worldwide at a cost to the global economy of $123.9 billion; there is an on-going research into digital technologies and services for disaster planning, preparation, rescue, and recovery; these technologies can help emergency services better manage natural disasters and minimize their effects on people, infrastructure, and the environment

  • Blame, responsibility, and demand for change following floods

    New research shows concerns about governmental failure to act effectively and fairly in the aftermath of extreme weather events can affect the degree to which residents are willing to protect themselves; the findings could prove key to establishing how society should evolve to cope with more turbulent weather and more frequent mega storms

  • 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