HAZARDS

hazards

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

Toxic Gardens: The long legacy of urban lead

Many urban soils, including those in parks, playgrounds and community gardens, remain contaminated with lead from its historic use in gasoline and house paint. But there are ways to mitigate the risks of this legacy lead.
 
11 Oct 2015

Vital seconds: The journey toward earthquake early warning for all

People living along the U.S. West Coast are keenly aware that they live near faults that could quake at any moment. The good news is that earthquake early warning — providing warnings seconds to minutes before damaging seismic waves hit — is progressing from being just a good idea to reality. 
17 Sep 2015

Ancient floods degassed Lake Kivu

The deep, cold waters of Lake Kivu — a stratified volcanic lake in the East African Rift Valley on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — hold 300 cubic kilometers of carbon dioxide gas and 60 cubic kilometers of methane, which seep from magmatic sources below the lake. An overturning of the thermally stratified waters could release those deadly gases onto a population of nearly 2 million.
 
16 Sep 2015

Hurricane wrath may be reduced by rainfall

Meteorologists have gotten better and better at forecasting the paths of hurricanes and tropical storms, but predicting how intense a storm will be when it makes landfall has proved more difficult. Now, a new study offers a detailed look at how the energetic contributions of rain — once thought to be a trivial factor in such systems — can dramatically affect storm windspeeds and intensity.
 
14 Aug 2015

Volcanic lightning turns ash into glass

Within the ash plumes of explosive volcanic eruptions, collisions among countless pyroclastic particles sometimes lead to the buildup of static charges that discharge dramatically as volcanic lightning. In a new study, researchers have found that this lightning can, in turn, melt and fuse ash particles into distinctive glassy grains called spherules.

07 Aug 2015

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