• Search and rescue dogs perform well despite travel stress

    When disaster strikes, you want the very best tools, functioning at their peak. In the case of catastrophic earthquakes, tornadoes, or even bombings in war zones, those tools are search and rescue dogs. But researchers have found that getting dogs to disaster sites can add to the animals’ stress. search and rescue dogs fly on a moment’s notice to the site of a disaster, where they are expected to perform at the top of their game. But, just like for humans, flying can be stressful for dogs.

  • Making flood forecasting easier, faster

    Floods and tornadoes are the deadliest disasters in the world. In the United States alone, approximately eighty lives are lost every year due to flood related incidents. In addition to the loss of lives, the nation loses billions of dollars in property damage and spends billions on recovery and rebuilding efforts every year. With the help of the Internet of Things (IoT) and early alerts and warnings technology, flood forecasting is not impossible.

  • 20-story earthquake-safe buildings made from wood

    Engineering researchers are putting a two-story wooden structure through a series of powerful earthquake simulations, using a lab shake table. The goal is to gather the data required to design wood buildings as tall as twenty stories that do not suffer significant damage during large earthquakes.

  • Building to better weather the storm

    The Atlantic hurricane season has officially begun and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting “above normal” storm activity this year. That could mean significant damage to coastal communities — some of which are still recovering from last year’s hurricane season. New dashboard developed by the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub helps builders calculate the breakeven cost of hazard mitigation in hurricane-prone areas.

  • Dust Bowl redux: Increase in dust storms in the U.S.

    Could the storms that once engulfed the Great Plains in clouds of black dust in the 1930s once again wreak havoc in the United States? A new statistical model developed by researchers predicts that climate change will amplify dust activity in parts of the United States in the latter half of the 21st century, which may lead to the increased frequency of spectacular dust storms that have far-reaching impacts on public health and infrastructure.

  • Climate change to deplete some U.S. water basins, reduce irrigated crop yields

    A new study by MIT climate scientists, economists, and agriculture experts finds that certain hotspots in the country will experience severe reductions in crop yields by 2050, due to climate change’s impact on irrigation. The most adversely affected region, according to the researchers, will be the Southwest. Already a water-stressed part of the country, this region is projected to experience reduced precipitation by midcentury. Less rainfall to the area will mean reduced runoff into water basins that feed irrigated fields.

  • We worked out what it would take to wipe out all life on a planet – and it’s good news for alien hunters

    Earth has undergone at least five mass extinctions in its history. It’s long been thought that an asteroid impact ended the dinosaurs. As a species, we are rightly concerned about events that could lead to our own elimination – climate change, nuclear war or disease could wipe us out. So it’s natural to wonder what it would take to eliminate all life on a planet. There are many events, both astrophysical and local, that could lead to the end of the human race. Life as a whole, however, is incredibly hardy. As we begin our search for life away from Earth, we should expect that if life had ever begun on a planet, some survivors might still be there.

  • Extreme coastal sea levels more likely

    Extreme sea levels are typically caused by a combination of high tides, storm surges, and in many cases waves, Wahl said. When an extreme event collides with continually rising seas, it takes a less intense storm, such as a Category I hurricane, to inflict as much coastal damage as a Category II or III storm would have had when the seas were lower. Because of the rising sea levels, which research has confirmed has occurred steadily during the past century and is expected to accelerate in the future, extreme events that are now expected to happen, on average, only once every hundred years, could occur every decade or even every year, in many places by 2050, the study said.

  • Human fingerprints on Europe’s recent heat

    This June, Europe experienced some remarkable heat. Temperature records were smashed across the west of the continent with extremely hot days followed by warm uncomfortable nights for many. Research has found that excess deaths during recent European heatwaves can be attributed to the human influence on the climate. These extreme heat events are becoming more common in Europe and around the world. Researchers say that in order to be prepared for future severe heatwaves, we need to understand how and why they are changing.

  • Communication in times of crisis

    Researchers are experimenting with technologies designed to empower the civilian population in times of crisis. They aim to establish basic communications and means to share information, thus facilitating human cooperation and mutual aid even following wide-spread power and Internet outages.

  • Predicting natural disasters

    Predicting natural disasters remains one of the most challenging problems in simulation science because not only are they rare but also because only few of the millions of entries in datasets relate to extreme events. A systematic method for comparing the accuracy of different types of simulation models for such prediction problems has recently been developed by researchers.

  • Earthquake-proofing buildings in earthquake-prone regions

    Across the world, severe earthquakes regularly shake entire regions. More than two billion people live in danger zones – many of them in structures not built to withstand an earthquake. Engineers are developing building materials designed to prevent buildings from collapsing in a natural disaster.

  • Resilience study helps governments prevent disaster-related loss

    Hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis and other disasters cannot be stopped, but countries can plan for them — something some areas of the world seem to do better than others, according to a new study. The researchers derived 38 factors that affect a country’s resilience, using national and international databases which included the U.S. Census, the United Nations and the World Health Organization. The researchers used these databases to grade the resilience of each country and continent and develop a comprehensive index that includes indicators such as the number of disasters and their death tolls, as well as an area’s population, infrastructure, economy and educational system.

  • Resolving conflict in estimates of climate change

    Researchers have resolved a conflict in estimates of how much the Earth will warm in response to a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That conflict — between temperature ranges based on global climate models and paleoclimate records and ranges generated from historical observations — prevented the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from providing a best estimate in its most recent report for how much doubled CO2 emissions will warm the Earth.

  • New bracing for durable structures in earthquake-prone regions

    Across the world, severe earthquakes regularly shake entire regions. More than two billion people live in danger zones – many of them in structures not built to withstand an earthquake. Together with partners from industry, researchers are developing building materials designed to prevent buildings from collapsing in a natural disaster.