Natural disasters | Homeland Security Newswire

  • New technology aids hurricane response

    The 2017 hurricane season was catastrophic. Hurricane Harvey, plaguing Texas with floods, was followed quickly by Irma, whose winds battered Florida and the Caribbean. Hurricane Maria then raged upon Puerto Rico and other islands already reeling from previous storms. In the buildup and aftermath, Lincoln Laboratory quickly assembled teams and technology to aid federal agencies in managing these disasters. Lincoln Laboratory staff deployed tools to help FEMA plan evacuations, monitor storms, and assess the damage wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

  • South Africa can avoid a national water crisis

    Even if South Africa uses less water and applies all of government’s existing plans, the country will still face a water crisis in the next twenty years. Solutions are within reach – but turning things around will take significant financial investment and political will. A new study sets out aggressive measures to offset guaranteed water shortages in the future.

  • More homes built near wild lands lead to greater wildfire risk

    More than 10 million acres burned across the country during the 2017 U.S. wildfire season at a cost of more than $2 billion — the largest bill ever. And while many factors affect the risk for wildfires, new research shows that a flurry of homebuilding near wild areas since 1990 has greatly increased the number of homes at risk from wildfires while increasing the costs associated with fighting those fires in increasingly dense developments.

  • Warm Arctic means colder, snowier winters in Northeastern U.S.

    Scientists have linked the frequency of extreme winter weather in the United States to Arctic temperatures. “Warm temperatures in the Arctic cause the jet stream to take these wild swings, and when it swings farther south, that causes cold air to reach farther south. These swings tend to hang around for awhile, so the weather we have in the eastern United States, whether it’s cold or warm, tends to stay with us longer,” one scientist explains.

  • Several ways limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C

    There are several ways to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2100, new research says. The study is the first to look at how socioeconomic conditions such as inequalities, energy demand, and international cooperation might affect the feasibility of achieving these goals, and also considers technological and resource assumptions.

  • Small differences in the rate of global warming make a big difference in coastal areas

    The risk from extreme events is exacerbated by the rising global sea level, which in turn depends on the trajectory of global mean surface temperature. Even if global temperatures are stabilized, sea levels are expected to continue to rise for centuries, due to the long residence time of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, the thermal inertia of the ocean, and the slow response of large ice sheets to forcing. Higher temperatures will make extreme events much more common. In New York City, for example, they estimate that “100-year floods” will become annual events under a 1.5 degree rise and twice-annual events with a 2.0 degree rise.

  • Man-made earthquake risk reduced if fracking is 895m from faults

    Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – is a process in which rocks are deliberately fractured to release oil or gas by injecting highly pressurized fluid into a borehole. This fluid is usually a mixture of water, chemicals and sand. The risk of man-made earthquakes due to fracking is greatly reduced if high-pressure fluid injection used to crack underground rocks is 895m away from faults in the Earth’s crust, according to new research.

  • Sinking ground in San Francisco Bay exacerbates flooding from rising sea levels

    New research shows that sections of the San Francisco Bay shoreline are sinking at rates of nearly half an inch (10 millimeters) a year. But knowledge of where the ground in the Bay Area is sinking, and by how much, is not included in the official planning maps that authorities use to assess the local flooding risk from rising sea levels. The researchers used radar imaging to measure elevations to discover important gap in planning for sea level rise in Bay Area.

  • Sea level rise requires new forms of decision making

    U.S, cities facing sea level rise need to look beyond traditional strategies for managing issues such as critical erosion and coastal squeeze, according to new research. Civil society initiatives must now play a crucial role in adapting society to climate change, and decision makers must seriously consider the tradeoff among three options: sea wall; beach-nourishment; and relocating coastal infrastructure.

  • Making U.S. health sector more resilient to major disasters

    The health sector in the United States would be far better positioned to manage medical care needs during emergencies of any scale by empowering existing healthcare coalitions to connect community resilience efforts with a network of hospitals equipped to handle disasters, according to a new report. The report’s authors found that while the U.S. health sector is reasonably well prepared for relatively small mass injury/illness events that happen frequently (for example, tornadoes, local disease outbreaks), it is less prepared for large-scale disasters (e.g., hurricanes) and complex mass casualty events (for example, bombings) and poorly prepared for catastrophic health events (for example, severe pandemics, large-scale bioterrorism).

  • Extreme weather tests U.K. gas security to the limit

    The National Grid, which manages the U.K.’s energy network, warned that it might not have enough gas to meet demand on March 1, due to plummeting temperatures and issues with supply. It has since withdrawn the warning, saying the market response has boosted supplies. But Britain’s lack of flexible energy supply is a serious issue. This isn’t the first time such a warning has been issued and it probably won’t be the last.

  • Flood risk for Americans is greatly underestimated

    A new study has found that forty-one million Americans are at risk from flooding rivers, which is more than three times the current estimate—based on regulatory flood maps—of thirteen million people. The study is based on a new high-resolution model that maps flood risk across the entire continental United States, whereas the existing regulatory flood maps produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cover about 60 percent of the continental United States. Avoiding future losses is particularly important as average flood losses in the United States have increased steadily to nearly $10 billion annually.

  • U.S. firefighters and police turn to an Israeli app to save lives

    When Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys in September 2017, the new First Response app from Israeli-American company Edgybees helped first-responders identify distress calls in flooded areas. When wildfires hit Northern California a month later, the app steered firefighters away from danger. This lifesaving augmented-reality app — designed only months before as an AR racing game for drone enthusiasts — is now used by more than a dozen fire and police departments in the United States, as well as the United Hatzalah emergency response network in Israel.

  • It pays to build to withstand disasters

    For every dollar the government spends to make existing buildings more resistant to wildfires, earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, $6 is saved in property losses, business interruption and health problems, according to a new study. The study also found that for every $1 spent to exceed building codes and make structures more hazard-resistant in the future, $4 would be saved. In all, over the next 75 years, these measures could prevent 600 deaths, 1 million injuries and 4,000 cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, the report concludes.

  • Sea levels rising more than previously expected

    Studying twenty-five years’ worth of satellite data, scientists paint a grim picture of global warming. Sea levels are going up at a faster rate each year, and even sooner than projected. The calculate that at the current pace, the total sea level rise could be twice as high as previous projections by 2100.