• New Zealand volcanoWhy White Island Erupted and Why There Was No Warning

    By Shane Cronin

    White Island is one of several volcanoes in New Zealand that can produce sudden explosive eruptions at any time. In this case, magma is shallow, and the heat and gases affect surface and ground water to form vigorous hydrothermal systems. In these, water is trapped in pores of rocks in a super-heated state. Any external process, such as an earthquake, gas input from below, or even a change in the lake water level can tip this delicate balance and release the pressure on the hot and trapped water. The resulting steam-driven eruption, also called a hydrothermal or phreatic eruption, can happen suddenly and with little to no warning.

  • Thoughts and prayersPrayers May Crowd Out Donations for Disaster Victims

    People who offer prayers for victims of natural disasters may be less likely to donate to those victims, according to research. “The results suggest that the act of praying is a substitute for material help — in other words, prayers crowd out donations, at least in some contexts,” Professor Linda Thunstrom says.

  • Perspective: Post-disaster reconstructionBans on Rebuilding in Disaster-Prone Areas Ignore Homeowners Preferences – Raising Costs Works Better

    As California’s wildfire season intensifies, a growing number of residents in the state want to ban people from building in areas at greatest risk. That’s because taxpayers bear the burden of protecting homes in dangerous areas when fire breaks out – and they often help foot the bill when it’s time to rebuild. A recent assessment showed that 1 in 4 Californians live in an area at “high risk” of wildfire. And people tend to want to rebuild in the same spot that was hit by a disaster. Alexander Smith writes that as a behavioral economist who studies the psychology of decision-making, he tries to understand people’s motivations before taking a position in a policy debate. He believes there’s a better way for policymakers to achieve the same goal of getting people to avoid building in disaster-prone areas without forcing people from their homes.

  • ResilienceHelping an Iowa Town Recover from Tornado Through Research, Outreach

    In the months following the tornado which hit Marshalltown, Iowa, faculty and students in Iowa State University’s sustainable environments interdisciplinary graduate program examined the housing recovery experience of different groups of Marshalltown residents. The goal is to finalize a toolkit that communities can use to examine social and economic challenges that exacerbate a disaster’s damage and slow recovery efforts.

  • HurricanesDorian Lashes U.S. Carolinas after Pounding Bahamas, Weakens to Category 1 Storm

    Hurricane Dorian weakened into a Category 1 hurricane Friday, after generating tornadoes and flooding roads in North and South Carolina. Dorian is moving with maximum sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour. Dorian will remain a potent storm straight into the weekend, however, with tropical storm warnings posted as far north as Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, according to the National Hurricane Center.

  • Energy securityBoosting Energy Security: Lessons from Post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico

    By Mariela Santos-Muñiz

    It took nearly a year for the government-run Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which is the only power company in Puerto Rico, to restore electricity throughout the island. This was the biggest and longest power outage in U.S. history.As scientists suggest that weather will probably become more extreme and weather-related natural disasters are likely to intensify in the coming decades,we can learn some valuable lessons from what Puerto Rico has gone through in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

  • Disasters & electricityOptimizing use of future wave electricity generators during disaster

    When hurricanes strike, loss of electricity ranks as one of the top concerns for relief workers. Blackouts lasting a week or more can hamper recovery efforts, shutter hospitals, threaten public health and disrupt transportation. The months-long effort to restore power to Puerto Rico following the 2017 hurricane season has led to renewed interest in finding innovative ways to get affected power grids back online. Researchers look to develop a strategy for how floating devices that harness the energy of the oceans’ waves might be able to provide this much needed aid.

  • EarthquakesSatellite observations help in earthquake monitoring, response

    Researchers have found that data gathered from orbiting satellites can provide more accurate information on the impact of large earthquakes, which, in turn, can help provide more effective emergency response.

  • ResilienceCities can save lives, resources by using a vulnerability reduction scorecard

    A new planning tool enables communities to effectively reduce their vulnerabilities to hazards across their network of plans – including transportation, parks, economic development, hazard mitigation, emergency management and comprehensive land use.

  • Nuclear safetyRobots help in the demanding Fukushima cleanup efforts

    In 2011, a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake all but decimated the Pacific Coast of Tohoku, Japan, including the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. A catastrophic meltdown ensued. Many tons of nuclear fuel, boiled down to a radioactive lava, corroded the steel surrounding the facility’s three reactors. Today, the cleanup effort is still projected to take several decades. S&T and NIST developed standard test methods for robots, which the Japanese government is now beginning to apply directly to their Fukushima cleanup efforts.

  • Infrastructure protectionTechnology assesses bridge safety after powerful storms

    Hurricanes and heavy rains often cause strong, overflowing river currents that can damage critical infrastructure, such as bridges. For example, after Hurricane Katrina, many National Guard convoys loaded with aid did not drive on bridges for fear the bridges could not support the heavy trucks. To safely transport, they had to use roundabout roads or boats to reach Katrina survivors. Loose or loosening soil is often the culprit in weakening bridge stability. Thus, an instrument that can quickly assess the soil conditions around bridge pillars is a top priority.

  • ResilienceCulture strongly influences coping behaviors after natural disasters

    Demographic and cultural differences strongly influence the coping styles young people use when they’re affected by a natural disaster, and these disparities should be taken into account when providing services to help them recover from these traumatic experiences, a new study found.

  • Grid protectionProtecting the national electrical grid from space weather

    It’s not often geology and national security wind up in the same sentence. Most people don’t think about electrical power in connection to either the ground under their feet or solar flares overhead, but one researcher says that connection presents a clear and present risk that power utilities need to consider.

  • ResilienceThe importance of community networks to disaster resilience

    Research finds that community networks and better official communication could aid in response and resilience to disasters. Researchers who worked in Houston and Corpus Christie after Hurricane Harvey write that they found “first, missed opportunities to harness social capital for disaster preparedness and, second, a greater need for government agencies and disaster relief organizations to effectively communicate with the public before, during and after disasters.”

  • ResilienceKeeping 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.