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8 October 2014

How rain falls – not just how much – may alter landslide risk

New research finds that it’s not just the amount of rain that falls on a hillside, but the pattern of rainfall that matters when trying to determine how likely a slope is to give way. This new information could improve forecasts of landslides, which are typically hard to predict, said the scientists conducting the research.
Different rainfall patterns—a short, heavy deluge, a light, steady downpour, or sporadic showers—will trigger different numbers of landslides with varying amounts of debris, according to the new study published today in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

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5 August 2014

Sea-level spikes can harm beaches worse than hurricane

Unforeseen, short-term increases in sea level caused by strong winds, pressure changes and fluctuating ocean currents can cause more damage to beaches on the East Coast over the course of a year than a powerful hurricane making landfall, according to a new study. The new research suggests that these sea-level anomalies could be more of a threat to coastal homes and businesses than previously thought, and could become higher and more frequent as a result of climate change.

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24 July 2014

Dropped cell phone calls become rain gauges in West Africa

A shaky cell phone connection during a rainstorm can be an annoying nuisance. But now scientists are showing that these weakened signals can be used to monitor rainfall in West Africa, a technique that could help cities in the region better prepare for floods and combat weather-related diseases.

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22 July 2014

Oso disaster had its roots in earlier landslides

The disastrous March 22 landslide that killed 43 people in the rural Washington state community of Oso involved the “remobilization” of a 2006 landslide on the same hillside, a new federally sponsored geological study concludes.

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13 June 2014

Go Local or Go Home

By Beth Bartel, Outreach Specialist, UNAVCO Okay, maybe that title is a bit harsh. When it comes to delivering a message about hazards and risk, there’s certainly benefit in delivering broad messages, to a broad public. But what I’d like to focus on is the power of targeting communication about natural hazards and risk to a local audience, and connecting with your audience through stories. So let’s start with one. …

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12 June 2014

Where it burns, it floods: predicting post-fire mudslides in the West

By Alexandra Branscombe WASHINGTON, DC – Just a week after a 21,000-acre wildfire between Sedona and Flagstaff, Arizona, residents there are already bracing for mudslides that could surge down the burned slopes. These water-fueled flows of burned-out trees, loose rocks and mud can pack enough power to wipe out homes and roads. A new online hazard assessment system could help threatened communities in central Arizona and elsewhere in the western …

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10 June 2014

Hypothetically Speaking: Using Scenarios to Anticipate the Unanticipated

Kris Ludwig, Staff Scientist, US Geological Survey Natural Hazards Mission Area We all use some form of hypothetical situations to plan our daily lives: What if it rains? Bring an umbrella. What if you’re in an accident? Buy insurance. What if there’s traffic? Learn alternate routes. On some level, we understand and accept the risk of discrete events like a storm, an accident, or a travel delay that may adversely …

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2 June 2014

The Challenges of Seismic Mitigation in Oregon: Where Science and Policy Meet

By Jeff Rubin, Emergency Manager, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Tigard, OR We’re justifiably concerned about terrorism, but natural hazards still generate far greater risk in terms of number of incidents, geographic spread, casualties, and economic impact. On the positive side, Mother Nature is not an adaptive opponent (Gaiaism notwithstanding), which means that our actions to reduce natural-hazard impact can actually yield useful results. Earthquake Country has a distinctly different …

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30 May 2014

Sonar could spot oil spills hidden by Arctic ice

By Alexandra Branscombe WASHINGTON, DC –Melting summer sea ice is opening up new shipping and drilling opportunities in the Arctic, bringing with them the potential for oil spills that could become trapped under the remaining sea ice and go unseen by current oil-detection methods. Now, a team of scientists is investigating a way to use sound waves to find this elusive oil. Scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts …

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9 May 2014

Tornadoes and Climate Change: Challenges in Interpreting the Record and Looking Forward

By Harold E. Brooks, Senior Research Scientist, NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory With the release of the new National Climate Assessment, the scientific community has put forward our best understanding of the changes that have occurred and are expected to occur as the planet continues to warm. Noticeably, little is said about tornadoes in this document. There’s good reason for this absence. Despite a wide variety of speculation in the online …

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19 September 2013

Resilient Communities Move Forward with the Help of Science

September marks the 10th annual National Preparedness Month. The President, FEMA, and disaster organizations encourage communities to prepare for and become more resilient to emergencies. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate recognizes that preparedness seems difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. “Preparedness is more about a state of mind than a stack of supplies,” he suggested during a recent National Academies meeting on Disaster Resilience in America.  This includes using the information around us …

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14 August 2013

Around the world in four days: NASA tracks Chelyabinsk meteor plume

Atmospheric physicist Nick Gorkavyi missed witnessing an event of the century last winter when a meteor exploded over his hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia. From Greenbelt, Md., however, NASA’s Gorkavyi and colleagues witnessed a never-before-seen view of the atmospheric aftermath of the explosion.

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14 June 2013

Asteroids and Tsunamis and Space Weather, Oh My!

What are the odds that tomorrow you walk out of your home to see a meteor burning up in Earth’s atmosphere as it hurtles toward our planet at breakneck speed? Luckily, chances are pretty low. But, as evidenced by the recent large fireball – or “superbolide” if you speak Astrophysics – seen by many (and captured by many video cameras) near Chelyabinsk, Russia, this does happen. That relatively small meteor …

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10 June 2013

Risky Business

  We only have to turn on the news to see the need for better risk reduction in the United States and worldwide. Recent tornadoes in Oklahoma have killed dozens, and many people across the country were surprised to learn that sometimes local policy does not require tornado shelters in areas known for tornado outbreaks. Natural disasters can destroy livelihoods as well. On average, extreme weather events, including hurricanes, tornadoes, …

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4 June 2013

Return to Tohoku – Taking a big quake’s temperature

There’s a hole in the bottom of the ocean near Japan, the deepest ever drilled for science. It leads to the heart of one of the world’s most dangerous faults, the one that unleashed the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which devastated Japan’s east coast. The earthquake’s power astonished geologists, who didn’t think the fault was capable of such destruction.To find out why the quake was so massive, an international team drilled through more than 800 meters of rock, seven kilometers beneath the waves, to take the fault’s temperature.

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3 June 2013

Hurricane Sandy took highly unusual path, but climate change doesn’t get the blame – yet

Hurricane Sandy’s peculiar path was exceedingly rare, but whether or not climate change influenced the trajectory remains unknown, new research suggests. Sandy differed from most North Atlantic hurricanes by veering west over the northeastern United States and merging with a winter storm. But nothing proved more unusual about the “superstorm” than the nearly perpendicular angle at which it approached the New Jersey shoreline and collided with the coast on October 29, 2012. Usually, hurricanes graze the coast rather than plunging into it head on.

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7 April 2013

Future trends in natural hazard losses – the Powerpoint file from my Geographical Association 2013 conference talk

A talk from the Geographical Association annual conference on future losses from natural hazards, focusing on storms, floods, earthquakes and volcanoes

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14 March 2013

AGU Video: Lightning strike jumps the rails

The famous “kite with key” experiment Ben Franklin conducted in 1752 is more than just a legend for lightning researchers around the world—it’s a procedure. Sure, the kite has been replaced by a rocket, and the string-with-key contraption by a spool of wire, but the intent is still the same—to better understand nature’s flashes of electricity. Recently, an unusual rocket-triggered lightning strike was caught on video by lightning researchers in Florida, and its curious course from cloud to ground is described in a new scientific paper.

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7 December 2012

Calculating the Cost of Erosion for Coastal Homeowners

Erosion takes the “beach” out of beachfront property. And when the sand drifts away, so do the property values. With climate change predictions that include rising sea levels and more intense storms, the beaches won’t get better.

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5 December 2012

20th Century newspapers, historical documents help improve hurricane predictions

When a storm looms in a hurricane-prone area, coastal residents want to know its strength. Will it be a monster Category 5? A meager Category 1? One research team is taking a low-tech approach to try to give people better advance warning.

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