• Harvey's cost could reach $100 billion: Insurance experts

    The floods caused by Hurricane Harvey are only going to worsen in the coming days, but insurance experts say that estimates based on the damage Harvey has already caused suggest that the financial cost of the devastating hurricane could be as high as $100 billion. The 2005 Hurricane Katrina-caused damaged reached $120 billion, of which $80 billion were insured losses. The 2012 Megastorm Sandy caused $75 billion in economic losses.

  • This is already Houston’s "worst flood." It’s only going to get worse.

    As swamped officials struggled to respond to a deadly crisis Sunday, southeast Texans were bracing for their troubles to multiply over the coming week. Harvey is on track to produce even more devastating floods. “The economic impact should be greater than any other flood event we’ve ever experienced,” says one expert. “And it’s going to take years for these residential communities to recover.” Some parts of Texas could receive up to 50 inches of rain in the coming days, an amount that would exceed state records. Two federally-owned reservoirs west of Houston meant to protect the city from catastrophic flooding were already reaching historic levels as of Sunday evening.

  • After Harvey, time to adapt to new climate reality: Experts

    Experts say that two signature effects of climate change likely helped intensify the rainfall associated with Harvey: (1) Warmer sea surface temperatures over the Gulf of Mexico allowed the storm to rapidly intensify, leading to stronger winds, more evaporation and more moisture in the atmosphere; (2) A warmer atmosphere is also able to hold more water vapor, such that when it does rain, more moisture can fall from the sky. “Natural assaults on our infrastructure present us with a ‘pay me now, or pay me later’ situation,” says an infrastructure expert. “Every disaster of this magnitude is a probe that shows us just where our infrastructure is weak.”

  • Is Hurricane Harvey a harbinger for Houston’s future?

    Houston, we have a problem: While it’s hard to pin the blame for Hurricane Harvey directly on climate change, we can say this: human-caused climate change has enhanced some of the impacts of the storm. As the region’s population grows, more and more of southern Texas is being paved with impermeable surfaces. This means that when there is extreme rainfall the water takes longer to drain away, prolonging and intensifying the floods. Hurricane Harvey is likely to end up being one of the most costly disasters in U.S. history. It is also likely that climate change and population growth in the region have worsened the effects of this major storm.

  • Post-Hurricane Katrina personal debt fell for those worst hit, but at a cost

    In the U.S., more than 200 weather and climate disasters have exceeded $1 billion in damages since 1980, with a total cost exceeding $1.2 trillion. Yet, relatively little is known about how people affected by natural disasters cope with the resulting financial shock.

  • Harvey likely to erode, over-wash, inundate 94 percent of Texas beaches

    New projections from the U.S. Geological Survey indicate Hurricane Harvey is likely to cause significant beach erosion along the Texas coastline, with water overtopping dunes and in some cases inundating areas. USGS Coastal Change Forecast model is predicting that 94 percent of Texas’s 367 miles of coastline will undergo some level of beach erosion from the storm surge and large waves Hurricane Harvey produces.

  • Why Houston isn't ready for Hurricane Harvey

    The brunt of Hurricane Harvey is projected to miss Houston, but the sprawling metropolis is likely to face massive flooding from its third crippling storm in the past three years. It underscores a new reality for the nation’s fourth-largest city: Climate change is making such storms more routine. Meanwhile, unchecked development in the Houston area is wiping out the pasture land that once soaked up floodwaters.

  • Federal funding boosts West Coast’s ShakeAlert system

    The University of Oregon has received $1 million from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to help strengthen the state’s monitoring and disaster-preparation efforts. The funds will be used to install, maintain and operate additional seismic-monitoring sites throughout Oregon, and for engaging pilot users of the ShakeAlert system and the public.

  • Post-earthquake losses: Devastating and costly

    Since 1900, 2.3 million people have died in 2,233 earthquakes, yet it is important to understand that 93 percent of the fatalities that occurred as a result of violent earthquakes happened in only 1 percent of key earthquakes. In other words, the worst devastation tends to happen in only a very few quakes and generally as a result of dire secondary effects. A new study recommends we shift our focus to learn from and prepare against the range of disasters that typically follow — and for which we are often unprepared.

  • Texans should take steps to prepare for heavy rains, flooding, high winds from Harvey: Experts

    With the probability of extensive rain and high winds throughout much of the state from the resurgence of Tropical Depression Harvey, experts are asking Texans to take measures to prepare their houses, farms and ranches for what may come. The experts said people in both urban and rural areas of the state should take steps to prepare for what may come from this storm system to minimize damage and reduce the impact of its aftermath.

  • USGS installs storm-tide sensors along Texas coast ahead of Harvey’s arrival

    Storm surge, coastal erosion and inland flooding are among the most dangerous natural hazards unleashed by hurricanes, with the capacity to destroy homes and businesses, wipe out roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and profoundly alter landscapes. The USGS has experts on these hazards, state-of-the-science computer models for forecasting them, and sophisticated equipment for monitoring actual flood and tide conditions. The agency is installing storm-tide sensors in advance of Hurricane Harvey.

  • Risk reduction: What drives preparedness?

    More targeted efforts are needed from both the public and private insurance sectors in order to encourage people to take action to reduce their risk of flood damage, according to a new study of three European countries. “Currently neither insurance nor governments successfully encourage risk reduction. Increased and more targeted efforts particularly from local authorities will be important, and have the capacity to change the picture. This will be exceedingly important considering extreme events from climate change,” says one expert.

  • Enabling communities to be disaster-proof

    S&T says that one of its “visionary goals” is to enable communities to be disaster-proof. S&T cannot eliminate disasters, but it can arm decision makers with tools and plans that will ultimately shield communities from negative consequences. A critical step towards building disaster-proof communities is being able to ask and receive help from a neighbor. Though most disasters begin and end locally, large-scale and catastrophic disasters require coordinated mutual aid from a broad range of partners across geographic boundaries.

  • A new map of seismic hazards in Brazil shows that new building code is required

    Researchers are working on a new national map of seismic hazards for Brazil. The survey under way seeks to help ensure earthquake-resistant construction becomes more widespread. Brazil’s seismic-resistant building standard, in force since 2006, was based on an outdated seismic hazard map, and the scientists conducting the new survey say that the Brazilian building code must be updated in order to prevent low-intensity tremors from causing damage.

  • Emergency communications in developing countries

    When major emergencies strike, effective communication is critical. Hundreds, if not thousands, of lives can be saved by rapid, clear and well-coordinated communication regarding impending risks, their mitigation, and how to respond when damage is done. Researchers have created a best-practice toolkit to help developing countries rapidly generate and implement life-saving communication plans in the event of local emergencies.