• Keeping buildings functioning after natural disasters

    After an earthquake, hurricane, tornado or other natural hazard, it’s considered a win if no one gets hurt and buildings stay standing. But an even bigger victory is possible: keeping those structures operational. This outcome could become more likely with improved standards and codes for the construction of residential and commercial buildings.

  • Asteroid-deflection mission passes key development milestone

    The first-ever mission to demonstrate an asteroid deflection technique for planetary defense has moved into the final design and assembly phase, following NASA’s approval on 16 August. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will test what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique — striking an asteroid to shift its orbit — and take a critical step in demonstrating how to protect our planet from a potential impact.

  • Natural disasters widen racial wealth gap

    Damage caused by natural disasters and recovery efforts launched in their aftermaths have increased wealth inequality between races in the United States, according to new research.

  • Groundwater loss drives more California land sinking

    Despite higher-than-normal amounts of rain in early 2017, the large agricultural and metropolitan communities that rely on groundwater in central California experienced only a short respite from an ongoing drought. When the rain stopped, drought conditions returned and the ground has continued to sink, by up to a half-meter annually.

  • Wildfire risk does not depress housing demand in wildfire-prone areas

    Demand for real estate rebounds in high-risk areas within one to two years of a wildfire, a new study finds. The study found that real estate prices for homes in wildfire-prone areas fall relative to homes in low-risk areas immediately following a blaze. But the effect is only temporary: Sale prices in risky areas rebound within one to two years.

  • California: New planning tools to prepare state for devastating climate change impact

    Warning that two-thirds of Southern California’s beaches could completely disappear and the average area burned by wildfires could nearly double by 2100, the State of California the other day released California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, which details new science on the devastating impacts of climate change and provides planning tools to support the state’s response.

  • A milestone for forecasting earthquake hazards

    Earthquakes pose a profound danger to people and cities worldwide, but with the right hazard-mitigation efforts, from stricter building requirements to careful zoning, the potential for catastrophic collapses of roads and buildings and loss of human lives can be limited. All of these measures depend on science delivering high-quality seismic hazard models. And yet, current models depend on a list of uncertain assumptions, with predictions that are difficult to test in the real world due to the long intervals between big earthquakes. Researchers have come up with a physics-based model that marks a turning point in earthquake forecasting.

  • Catastrophic floods may trigger human resettlement away from rivers

    Flooding is one of the most damaging natural hazards, and its negative impacts have markedly increased in many regions of the world in recent decades. In the period 1980-2014, floods generated economic losses exceeding $1 trillion and caused more than 226,000 casualties. The increasing trend of global flood losses has mainly been attributed to the increasing exposure of people and assets due to rising populations in flood-prone areas.

  • Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo partly caused by Indonesian volcanic eruption

    Electrically charged volcanic ash short-circuited Earth’s atmosphere in 1815, causing global poor weather and Napoleon’s defeat, says new research. Historians know that rainy and muddy conditions helped the Allied army defeat the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo. The June 1815 event changed the course of European history. Two months prior, a volcano named Mount Tambora erupted on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, killing 100,000 people and plunging the Earth into a ‘year without a summer’ in 1816.

  • Climate change, sea level rise to cause more devastating tsunamis worldwide

    As sea levels rise due to climate change, so do the global hazards and potential devastating damages from tsunamis, according to a new study. Even minor sea-level rise, by as much as a foot, poses greater risks of tsunamis for coastal communities worldwide.

  • Wildfires are inevitable – increasing home losses, fatalities and costs are not

    Wildfire has been an integral part of California ecosystems for centuries. Now, however, nearly a third of homes in California are in wildland urban interface areas where houses intermingling with wildlands and fire is a natural phenomenon. Just as Californians must live with earthquake risk, they must live with wildfires. Focusing on traditional approaches like fighting fires and fuels management alone can’t solve the wildfire problem. Instead, California must become better prepared for inevitable fires and change how it develops future communities.

  • Climate change and wildfires – how do we know if there is a link?

    Once again, the summer of 2018 in the Northern Hemisphere has brought us an epidemic of major wildfires. These burn forests, houses and other structures, displace thousands of people and animals, and cause major disruptions in people’s lives. To many people, it has become very clear that human-induced climate change plays a major role by greatly increasing the risk of wildfire. There is huge complexity and variability from one fire to the next, and hence the attribution can become complex. The way to think about this is from the standpoint of basic science – in this case, physics: Global warming does not cause wildfires, but it exacerbates the conditions which make wildfires more likely, thus raising the risk of wildfire.

  • What are coastal nuclear power plants doing to address climate threats?

    Flooding can be catastrophic to a nuclear power plant because it can knock out its electrical systems, disabling its cooling mechanisms and leading to overheating and possible meltdown and a dangerous release of radioactivity. At least 100 U.S., European and Asian nuclear power stations built just a few meters above sea level could be threatened by serious flooding caused by accelerating sea-level rise and more frequent storm surges. More than 20 flooding incidents have been recorded at U.S. nuclear plants since the early 1980s. A number of scientific papers published in 2018 suggest that climate change will impact coastal nuclear plants earlier and harder than the industry, governments, or regulatory bodies have expected, and that the safety standards set by national nuclear regulators and the IAEA are out of date and take insufficient account of the effects of climate change on nuclear power.

  • Disaster relief: Can AI improve humanitarian assistance?

    The unique topic of artificial intelligence (AI) for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) was in the spotlight last week, as leading minds from academia, industry and the federal government met to discuss how modern technology can help victims of disasters around the globe.

  • Flood thy neighbor: Who stays dry and who decides?

    When rivers flood now in the United States, the first towns to get hit are the unprotected ones right by the river. The last to go, if they flood at all, are the privileged few behind strong levees. While levees mostly are associated with large, low-lying cities such as New Orleans, a majority of the nation’s Corps-managed levees protect much smaller communities, rural farm towns and suburbs such as Valley Park. Missouri. Valley Park’s levee saga captures what’s wrong with America’s approach to controlling rivers.