HAZARDS

hazards

Treated water that's too pure lets arsenic sneak in

With California’s water resources dwindling to alarmingly low levels, the Orange County Water District (OCWD) has pioneered a high-tech approach for recycling wastewater into potable tap water instead of discharging it into the ocean. The purification process is so thorough, however, that it might actually make the water too clean: In a new study, researchers have found that the ultra-purified water is vulnerable to contamination by naturally occurring arsenic in underground storage aquifers.
 
03 Jan 2016

Modeling 'magma mush' could reveal volcanic histories

Volcanic eruptions can spew large amounts of molten rock and ash, putting nearby communities as well as aircraft at risk. Gas emissions and earthquakes sometimes offer clues of when an eruption will occur, but the internal workings of volcanoes are largely unobservable. In a recent study, researchers illuminated these internal processes with a computer simulation that models the flow of the part-liquid, part-solid “magma mush” beneath volcanoes.

18 Dec 2015

Nearly half of Americans in lower 48 at risk for potentially damaging quake shaking

An estimated 143 million Americans in the conterminous 48 states, or about 46 percent of the population, live in areas susceptible to potentially damaging ground shaking from natural earthquakes, according to a new study by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists published in the journal Earthquake Spectra. (The study did not assess hazards associated with human-induced quakes.)
 
16 Dec 2015

Earthquake changed Po River's course in 16th-century Italy

The Po River runs for 650 kilometers from west to east across northern Italy, tracing the cuff of the country’s famous boot-like shape. But the river has not always followed its present course. Over the past 3,000 years, uplift along a fault gradually moved the river’s course about 20 kilometers north, and new research shows that a magnitude-5.8 earthquake in 1570 catastrophically rerouted the Po River another 40 kilometers north to its present location. 
 
09 Dec 2015

Narratives from Nepal: Relief and rebuilding after the Gorkha Earthquake

When a magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, mountaineer Ben Erdmann was on a climbing expedition on Annapurna; meanwhile, seismologist Susan Hough and engineer Ajay Sitaula were at home in California and Colorado, respectively, watching the disaster unfold. Soon after, all would be on the ground in Nepal, involved in relief efforts or working to assess what happened — especially why the quake did not do as much damage as scientists expected it would.

06 Dec 2015

Working near Gorkha's epicenter

Hari Krishna Bhattarai works for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Nepal, as well as for Educating Nepal, an organization that aims to improve the education of Nepali schoolchildren. On Friday, April 24, Bhattarai was working at a field site in Gorkha, tending to various WWF-related projects and working with locals in the Gorkha region. The next day, April 25, was a Nepalese public holiday, so Bhattarai returned to his home city, Pokhara, near the Annapurna Massif. The Gorkha quake struck Saturday, doing little damage to Pokhara. On Monday, Bhattarai returned to the area near Barpak, where he had been working, to deliver relief supplies like beans and rice. 
 
06 Dec 2015

Ice sheet has had lasting effect on European earthquakes

“Modern Germany is not known for its earthquakes,” says Christian Brandes, a geoscientist at the University of Hannover in Germany. The country, after all, is in the middle of a tectonic plate, he says, away from any plate boundaries or other features that would cause tectonic strain to build up in underground faults. 
 
10 Nov 2015

Benchmarks: November 1, 1755: Earthquake destroys Lisbon

Today, the Carmo Convent in Lisbon, Portugal, stands half destroyed; the walls remain, but the roof has been gone for 260 years. On the morning of Nov. 1, 1755, the church was packed with people attending mass for All Saints’ Day, a Catholic holiday. At about 9:30 a.m., the ground heaved, and the church’s roof fell. A magnitude-8.7 earthquake had struck. Churchgoers not crushed by falling debris fled into the streets. Across the city, candles, stoves and oil lamps fell, igniting fires that eventually burned down about half the city. Along with the shaking, the fires drove people to the banks of the Tagus River — Lisbon’s main river — and to the city’s harbor, where many boarded ships in search of safety. About 45 minutes after the shaking began, however, a 5- to 10-meter-tall tsunami entered the Tagus from the Atlantic Ocean, smashing ships against one another and against the sea walls surrounding the city.
 
01 Nov 2015

The quake's impact on western thinking

The quake occurred on All Saints’ Day, and it destroyed almost every major church in Lisbon. This sparked debate among theologians about whether disasters like earthquakes were acts of divine judgment, or whether they should be seen more as indiscriminate natural phenomena.
 
01 Nov 2015

Santa Ana winds get a fiery boost from the stratosphere

Southern California’s Santa Ana winds have long been implicated in the region’s dangerous and destructive wildfires. Now, a new study in Geophysical Research Letters points the finger at an accomplice: a phenomenon called stratospheric intrusions, which are natural atmospheric events that bring warm, dry air from the upper atmosphere down to the surface. These intrusions may exacerbate fires, as well as the region’s infamously bad air pollution.
 
23 Oct 2015

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