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hazards

Human-triggered landslides on the rise

Between 2004 and 2016, an estimated 56,000 people were killed by landslides worldwide. A newly developed tool, the Global Fatal Landslide Database, reveals that, of the 4,800 fatal landslides over that 12-year period, more than 700 were caused by human intervention through activities such as construction, mining and digging.

14 Dec 2018

Benchmarks: December 7, 1988: A Massive Earthquake Devastates Armenia

Thirty years ago this month, on Dec. 7, 1988, a magnitude-6.8 earthquake shook the northern region of the then-Soviet republic of Armenia. At 11:41 a.m., the earthquake damaged nearly a third of the small country and destroyed the town of Spitak near the epicenter.

07 Dec 2018

New tool predicts probability of earthquake-triggered landslides

Landslides are the third-leading cause of death in earthquakes, after building collapses and tsunamis. Unlike tsunamis, however, which usually arrive minutes to hours after an earthquake, earthquake-triggered landslides tend to occur simultaneously with ground shaking, so a landslide warning system is not possible. But a new model that predicts where landslides may be triggered during earthquakes could help emergency aid and rescue efforts.

07 Dec 2018

Geomedia: Books: "This Gulf of Fire" recounts the 1755 Lisbon disaster

In the panoply of history-altering natural disasters, Lisbon’s destruction on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, 1755, stands out. You may have heard of this Portuguese calamity in the context of tsunami coverage, but it was a sequence of three disasters — an earthquake, a tsunami and a fire — that combined to level much of the city and claim tens of thousands of lives. Some scholars suggest a fourth calamity was the way the aftermath was handled, but author Mark Molesky seems more charitably inclined on that front. In “This Gulf of Fire: The Destruction of Lisbon, or Apocalypse in the Age of Science and Reason,” Molesky, a historian at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, has written the definitive scholarly account — if not the most accessible one — of that fateful day and its historical aftermath.

19 Nov 2018

Geologic Column: A cautionary tale about "sleeping" natural hazards

The author ruminates on the sometimes underappreciated risks of natural hazards and recalls a trip to a remote Hawaiian campsite where a 1975 magnitude-7.7 quake later proved fatal.
12 Nov 2018

Where will the San Andreas Fault rupture next?

In 1906, the San Andreas Fault Zone ruptured, and the shaking that followed brought the city of San Francisco to its knees. Buildings toppled and fires raged and, in the end, more than 3,000 people died as a result. Since then, Californians have often wondered aloud when and where the next “Big One” will strike. Geologists do not know the answers, but recent research has offered a new clue: Field mapping of the San Andreas’ southernmost reaches, near the Salton Sea, reveals a type of fault structure that researchers think may be just right for triggering a big earthquake.

08 Oct 2018

Sunny Southern California burns, missing its coastal clouds

Coastal Southern California is famous for cloudless blue skies all summer long, but it hasn’t always been that way. A new study indicates that cloud cover has decreased dramatically over the beaches between Los Angeles and San Diego since the 1970s. And that could affect fires in the region.

01 Oct 2018

New measurement shakes up earthquake estimates

As tectonic plates collide and sink in subduction zones, huge megathrust earthquakes can produce devastation above. Yet, there are many unknown factors that control how much energy is released in each earthquake. Now, a team of scientists has come up with a new model to help crack the complexity and nature of megathrust earthquakes using global historical records.

13 Sep 2018

Benchmarks: September 6, 1869: Pennsylvania's Avondale coal mine fire kills 110, igniting reform

In the mid-19th century, American industry was fueled by coal, which was provided largely by the anthracite coal mines of eastern Pennsylvania. The work drew tens of thousands of immigrants, including experienced English and Welsh miners, and many fleeing the Irish Potato Famine. But the work was dangerous, and each year thousands of workers died in the mines and many thousands more were seriously injured. 

06 Sep 2018

Comment: Out of bounds: Rethinking U.S. flood risk delineation

The 100-year floodplain — the area of land projected to be covered by water during a flood event that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year — has become the primary mechanism for determining flood insurance premiums and conveying flood risk, but perhaps it shouldn’t be.

04 Sep 2018

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