• 15 years from now, our impact on regional sea level will be clear

    Coastal communities and industries require information on regional sea-level change to develop strategies for reducing the risk to population, infrastructure and the environment. This requires modeling projections of sea-level rise, estimating the costs and benefits of adaptation options, and understanding the impacts on coastal ecosystems. Inundation maps that can be used to identify areas that are most vulnerable to rising sea levels are particularly valuable. Adaptation measures may include land-use planning such as preventing building in low lying areas, increasing or maintaining a vegetated coastal margin that serves as a buffer zone against extreme sea levels, or using protective sea walls in the long run if certain sea level rise thresholds are exceeded.

  • Some states are better prepared than others for climate change challenges

    In recent years, a number of states have started taking action to prepare their communities for climate change. Many have even developed specific adaptation plans to guide their work. Until now, though, no one has been able to define how much progress states are actually making in implementing those plans. The Georgetown Climate Center’s (GCC) online tool, the State Adaptation Progress Tracker, changes that. A GCC release says that now, anyone will be able to quickly determine how much progress their state is making and decision-makers will be able to learn from innovative examples of actions other states are taking.

  • As sea level rises, coastal communities brace for more frequent, destructive tidal flooding

    Today, many coastal communities are seeing more frequent flooding during high tides. As sea level rises higher over the next fifteen to thirty years, tidal flooding is expected to occur more often, cause more disruption, and even render some areas unusable — all within the time frame of a typical home mortgage. An analysis of fifty-two tide gauges in communities stretching from Portland, Maine to Freeport, Texas shows that most of these communities will experience a steep increase in the number and severity of tidal flooding events over the coming decades, with significant implications for property, infrastructure, and daily life in affected areas. The report warns that given the substantial and nearly ubiquitous rise in the frequency of floods at these fifty-two locations, many other communities along the East and Gulf Coasts will need to brace for similar changes.

  • Blackout? Robots can help

    Big disasters almost always result in big power failures. Not only do they take down the TV and fridge, they also wreak havoc with key infrastructure like cell towers. That can delay search and rescue operations at a time when minutes count. Now, researchers have developed a tabletop model of a robot team that can bring power to places that need it the most. In addition to disaster recovery, their autonomous power distribution system could have military uses, particularly for Special Forces on covert missions.

  • New report identifies populations most vulnerable to extreme weather events

    Extreme weather events leave populations with not enough food both in the short- and the long-term. A new report has looked at which sections of the population are left most exposed to food shortages after extreme weather events, and concluded that better governance could have lessened the impact on the poorest and most vulnerable, and that affected populations have been let down by the authorities in the past.

  • New Orleans creates economic value out of environmental vulnerability

    Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have become so adept at dealing with disaster reconstruction, that their new-found skills are now seen as an economic asset to be shared, for profit, with other states and localities. The area’s new environmental awareness is also a source of economic growth, as analysts now consider “emerging environmental” as one of six key industries in the city and state to focus on development, along with coastal restoration and water management, disaster mitigation and management, hazardous waste disposal, advanced bio fuels and waste water treatment.

  • Assessing the damage of runaway barges at the Illinois River lock and dam

    It takes a synchronized lock and dam system — operating like a motorized flight of stairs on the Illinois River, using gravity to move the water — to maintain a minimum depth for boat traffic. A disastrous domino effect occurred on 19 April 2013, when heavy rain and runoff, strong winds, and river currents resulted in seven unmoored barges crashing into the dam at Marseilles, Illinois. Researchers say that the system of locks and dams on the Illinois River is vulnerable to changing climate and weather extremes. These more frequent and unpredictable conditions can cause shipping accidents, damage to lock and dam systems, streambank erosion, shipping accidents, and local flooding.

  • U.S. Northwest prepares for the Big One

    Seismologists believe the Pacific Northwest is overdue for an earthquake that could register at over 8.0 on the Richter scale, leading many emergency management professionals in the region to anticipate and prepare for the devastating impact such an event would have on the local economy. Experts talk about Triple 3 Resilience Target as a the goal for managing the aftermath of an earthquake: have emergency services running within three days; level of services to sustain the economy within three weeks; and a target of three years to stabilize the economy and prepare for future disasters.

  • Innovative projects seek emergency housing alternative to FEMA’s trailers

    Brownsville, Texas may soon become a model for other hurricane-ravaged cities as community groups institute new emergency housing measures in the wake of inexcusable hold-ups on the part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in providing reconstruction support to the South Texas coast after $1.35 billion in damage from Hurricane Dolly in 2008.

  • NIST plans new Centers of Excellence for disaster resilience, forensics

    Officials at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have announced plans to establish two new research Centers of Excellence to work with academia and industry on issues in forensic science and disaster resilience. NIST plans to hold merit competitions to establish the centers, tentatively planned to be funded at up to $4 million a year for five years.

  • Addressing international disaster resilience for U.S., partner countries

    While national security efforts seek to prevent terrorist attacks, the United States an partner countries should also prepare to work together to mitigate the effects of a terrorist attack, should such efforts fail. A new report from the National Research Council (NRC) discusses the challenges around the United States and partner countries responding cooperatively.

  • Could devastating floods help Bosnians heal their war wounds?

    The violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the subsequent war in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995 took the lives of more than 100,000 Bosnians and left two million homeless. Two decades later those survivors have been forced once again to abandon their homes — this time by floodwaters rather than bullets. The heaviest rainfalls ever recorded in the Balkans have led to catastrophic flooding in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Swelled by weeks of rain, the devastating floodwaters swamped more than 60 percent of the country last month, destroying more than 100,000 homes and displacing around 950,000 citizens. The floods also damaged vital infrastructure, destroyed industrial assets, and killed livestock. It is difficult to find a ray of light in this grim story of disaster, except this: Over the past weeks, media outlets have been flooded with stories and images of bravery, camaraderie, and community spirit where ethnicity suddenly became irrelevant. It remains to be seen how this feeling of camaraderie and community can be harvested to mobilize the people of Bosnia ahead of the general elections in October. Such a movement would have the potential to force corrupted political elites into the corner by draining them of their political capital.

  • Sandia to help cities be better prepared for, emerge stronger from, disasters

    Sandia National Laboratories says it will bring its experience solving problems with practical engineering and modeling complex systems to cities around the world under a new agreement to support the 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. The challenge, which will help thirty-three cities in its first year, seeks to make communities more resilient by being better prepared to withstand natural or manmade disasters, recover more quickly, and emerge stronger.

  • Roadmap outlines R&D path to reduce storm impacts

    A new measurement science research and development (R&D) roadmap, prepared for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) over the past two years by a private-sector group of hazard mitigation experts, provides a broad strategic approach and R&D objectives to reduce impacts from windstorms and coastal inundations, including storm surge during hurricanes and tsunamis.

  • NIST issues final Joplin tornado report

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released the final report on its technical investigation into the impacts of the 22 May 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri. The massive storm was the single deadliest tornado in the United States in the sixty years that official records have been kept. The NIST Joplin tornado study was the first to study scientifically a tornado in terms of four key aspects: storm characteristics, building performance, human behavior, and emergency communication — and then assess the impact of each on preventing injury or death.