• East U.S. vs. West Coast earthquakes

    Why was an earthquake in Virginia felt at more than twice the distance than a similar-sized earthquake in California? The answer is one that many people may not realize. Earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains can cause noticeable ground shaking at much farther distances than comparably-sized earthquakes in the West.

  • Next California's Big One could kill hundreds, cause $100 billion in losses, trap 20,000 in elevators

    What will happen when the next big earthquake hits northern California? Researchers say that if a tremor similar in magnitude to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake were to hit today, it could kill 800 people, cause more than $100 billion in economic losses from the shaking and subsequent fires, and trap roughly 20,000 people in elevators across northern California.

  • California suffering: Severe climate future for the state

    California is headed for a future of precipitation extremes. Researchers say that the state will experience a much greater number of extremely wet and extremely dry weather seasons — especially wet — by the end of the century. The authors also predict that there will be a major increase in the likelihood of severe flooding events, and that there will be many more quick changes from one weather extreme to the other.

  • The HayWired scenario: a major earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area

    Last week the USGS, along with approximately sixty partners, released a new fact sheet that summarizes a report from a larger study of what could happen during a major earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area along the Hayward Fault – arguably one of the most urbanized and interconnected areas in the nation. Earthquakes pose a threat to the safety of more than 143 million people living in the United States, and estimated long-term annualized earthquake losses in the United States are more than $6.1 billion per year.

  • Coastal surveillance benefits from enterprise information sharing

    Initially, DHS S&T wanted to empower maritime responders with better surveillance technology. Adding more radars and cameras alone was expected to make the difference, but further evaluation of the input from operational sponsors told a different story—it extended the benchmark for what S&T was asked to provide. Today, the Integrated Maritime Domain Enterprise - Coastal Surveillance System (IMDE-CSS) has evolved well beyond the initial information-gathering requirement into an information-sharing capability.

  • Hurricane Harvey: Most fatalities occurred outside flood zones

    Researchers found that most Houston-area drowning deaths from Hurricane Harvey occurred outside the zones designated by government as being at higher risk of flooding: the 100- and 500-year floodplains. Drowning caused 80 percent of Harvey deaths, and the research showed that only 22 percent of fatalities in Houston’s 4,600-square-kilometre district, Harris County, occurred within the 100-year floodplain.

  • Portable device to sniff out trapped humans

    The first step after buildings collapse from an earthquake, bombing or other disaster is to rescue people who could be trapped in the rubble. But finding entrapped humans among the ruins can be challenging. A new, inexpensive sensor is light and portable enough for first responders to hold in their hands or for drones to carry on a search for survivors.

  • Planning for hurricanes as weather patterns change

    We’re all aware of the impact of intense weather systems that make headlines, like 2017’s hurricanes Harvey and Irma. But even slight adjustments to weather patterns—like historic changes in precipitation levels and the increasing frequency of heat waves—can drastically change living conditions.

  • The 100th meridian, where the Great Plains begin, shifting eastward

    In 1878, the American geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell drew an invisible line in the dirt—the 100th meridian west, the longitude he identified as the boundary between the humid eastern United States and the arid Western plains. Now, 140 years later, scientists that the line appears to be slowly moving eastward, due to climate change. They say it will almost certainly continue shifting in coming decades, expanding the arid climate of the western plains into what we think of as the Midwest. The implications for farming and other pursuits could be huge.

  • Federal funding moves ShakeAlert closer to reality

    A recent boost in federal funding will move the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system closer to completion. The omnibus spending package allocates $12.9 million for continued development and limited public rollout of the system. It also appropriates $10 million for capital costs to add more earthquake sensors and improve system infrastructure.

  • Predicting East Coast hurricane flooding risks

    A model developed at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory will soon make its debut in the real world, helping to characterize and predict the paths and impacts of hurricanes on the East Coast.

  • Shoring up beaches by just adding sand

    New research is shedding light on how mechanically placed sand on San Diego County beaches moves and its potential impacts. The study could help planners develop beach nourishment projects that will reach their intended goals without causing unintended problems.

  • Space weather threatens high-tech life

    In September 1859, parts of the United States were crippled by a fierce space weather storm. Today’s even more sensitive electronics and satellites would be devastated should an event of that magnitude occur again. In 2008, a panel of experts commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences issued a detailed report with a sobering conclusion: The world would be thrown back to the life of the early 1800s, and it would take years – or even a decade – to recover from an event that large.

  • Separating factual from fake messages during a crisis

    How well can you tell facts from fake on social media? How about in a crisis? DHS S&T, together with Canadian partners, concluded the fifth Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE V) event last year, running drills involving the hypothetical eruption of Mt. Baker, an active volcano in the Pacific Northwest. As part of the simulation, a group of digital disaster services volunteers practiced separating fact from fiction on the web, with the mission of keeping responders informed during the event.

  • Socio-hydrology: Flood protection is everyone's responsibility

    We have an impact on water - through dams, regulations and agriculture. And the risk of flooding affects us and our economic decisions. Researchers are investigating the complicated interplay of these factors. “The field of hydrology has been investigating the impact of agriculture and building work on the risk of flooding for decades,” says a researcher. “But research on the two-way interactions between water systems and society is an extremely young field of research.”