• Disaster warningWorst-case scenarios: Why we should welcome warnings

    By Peter Dizikes

    Nuclear accidents. Sea level rise. Terror threats. The world is full of potential catastrophes, but most of the time, most of us are oblivious to them. Still, at times, experts warn the rest of us about these potential crises. Sometimes those warnings work, but many times they go unheeded. Why do we ignore information we could use to stave off a disaster? Richard Clarke, the former chief counter-terrorism advisor on the National Security Council, says that we should be more receptive to the possibility of dire news, as well as more systematic about analyzing it. In his new book, Warnings, Clarke asserts that specialists in a range of fields can “see the thing buried in the data that other people don’t see. They see it first.”

  • DisastersImproving public safety during severe weather, other disasters

    Our ability to observe and predict severe weather events and other disasters has improved markedly over recent decades, yet this progress does not always translate into similar advances in the systems used in such circumstances to protect lives. A more cohesive alert and warning system that integrates public and private communications mechanisms and adopts new technologies quickly is needed to deliver critical information during emergency situations. At the same time, better understanding of social and behavioral factors would improve the ways we communicate about hazards, inform response decisions such as evacuations, develop more resilient urban infrastructure, and take other steps to improve weather readiness.

  • WildfiresWildfire early warning system could prevent spring blazes

    Researchers have developed a new early warning system to predict when and where human-caused wildfires are most likely to occur in the spring. Using satellite images of vegetation, the researchers can forecast where wildfire risk peaks in boreal forests by tracking moisture in fuel sources like leaves.

  • EarthquakesMachine-learning shows earthquake-prediction promise

    By listening to the acoustic signal emitted by a laboratory-created earthquake, a computer science approach using machine learning can predict the time remaining before the fault fails. The work not only has potential significance to earthquake forecasting, but the approach is far-reaching, applicable to potentially all failure scenarios including nondestructive testing of industrial materials brittle failure of all kinds, avalanches and other events.

  • EarthquakesFederal 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.

  • FloodsMaking 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.

  • EarthquakesDecision to defund the Earthquake Early Warning system criticized

    The Trump administration’s decision to defund the Earthquake Early Warning system is being criticized by experts. The “administration’s failure to fund the Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system threatens this vital program and potentially the lives of hundreds or even thousands of people on the West Coast from California to Alaska,” says one expert.

  • Seismic early warningNo funds for California's earthquake early-warning system in Trump's proposed budget

    The Trump administration’s proposed budget would eliminate federal funding for an earthquake early warning system being developed for the U.S. West Coast. Critics say that if the relevant clauses in the budget proposal become law, the long-planned seismic warning effort will be killed. Scientists say the withdrawal of federal funds would likely end the early-warning project, which aims to send smartphone tremor alert messages to West Coast residents.

  • Seismic early warningIsrael to install earthquake early-warning system

    Israel has selected Ottawa, Canada-based Nanometrics to build an earthquake early-warning system in Israel. The alert system will give a 10-to-30-second alert of an impending earthquake. The system’s success depends on the distinction between two types of waves an earthquake generates — P waves (for primary) and S waves (for secondary). P waves are very fast, traveling through rock at between four and seven kilometers per second, and are thus the first waves to arrive at a recording station following an earthquake. An S-wave has a shearing motion that makes the rock vibrate perpendicular to its path. This movement slows the S-wave, so that it travels at two to five kilometers per second, or about half the speed of the P-wave. It is S waves which are almost entirely responsible for the damage and destruction associated with earthquakes.

  • Seismic early warningMexico implements lessons from 1985 devastating earthquake

    Five years after the devastating 1985 quake, which killed more than 10,000 people, Mexico equipped itself with one of the world’s most effective early warning systems for earthquakes. SASMEX: The Seismic Alert System of Mexico comprises more than 8200 seismic sensors located in the most active earthquake zone that runs between Jalisco, Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Mexico City.

  • HackingHackers activate Dallas’s emergency sirens system

    Near midnight on Friday night the residents of Dallas, Texas were startled when, simultaneously, 156 emergency sirens sounded the unmistakable warning alarm. Dallas officials soon discovered the reason: The city’s alarms system had been hacked. Dallas’s mayor Mike Rawlings said: “This is yet another serious example of the need for us to upgrade and better safeguard our city’s technology infrastructure.”

  • Disaster predictionPredicting floods, hurricanes with social media

    Social media can warn us about hurricanes, storms, and floods before they happen – according to new research. Key words and photos on social media can signal developing risks – like water levels rising before a flood. Researchers, who analyzed posts on Flickr between 2004 and 2014, found certain words – such as river, water, and landscape - take on distinct meaning of forecast and warning during time periods leading to extreme weather events. Words can be used as ‘social sensors’, to create accurate early warning system for extreme weather, alongside physical sensors.

  • EarthquakesBetter communication key to reducing earthquake death toll

    A major problem in conveying earthquake risks to the public is that scientists are unable to predict when, where, and with what strength the next earthquake will strike. Instead, they use probabilistic forecasting based on seismic clustering. Earthquake experts have long grappled with the problem of how to convey these complex probabilities to lay persons.

  • Seismic detectionQuake-detection app recorded nearly 400 temblors worldwide

    UC Berkeley’s worldwide network of smartphone earthquake detectors has recorded nearly 400 earthquakes since the MyShake app was made available for download in February, with one of the most active areas of the world the fracking fields of Oklahoma. The Android app harnesses a smartphone’s motion detectors to measure earthquake ground motion, then sends that data back to the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory for analysis. The eventual goal is to send early-warning alerts to users a bit farther from ground zero, giving them seconds to a minute of warning that the ground will start shaking.

  • Seismic eventsMay 2012 North Korean seismic event an earthquake, not nuclear test

    A tiny seismic event that occurred in North Korea on 12 May 2010 appears to have been an earthquake rather than a small underground nuclear explosion, according to a new analysis. The new study contradicts the findings of a 2015 report which concluded that the magnitude 1.5 seismic 12 May event was a small nuclear explosion.