HAZARDS

hazards

1912 not an exceptional iceberg year

A new study disputes the notion that an exceptional number of icebergs were floating in the North Atlantic the year the Titanic collided with one at roughly 42 degrees North latitude and quickly sank, killing more than 1,500 people. However, the study also suggests that weather conditions around the time of the sinking likely pushed icebergs farther south than normal for that time of year.

08 Jan 2015

Lead-up to Icelandic earthquakes seen in groundwater chemistry

Scientists tracking groundwater in Iceland have reported that significant shifts in the water’s chemistry occurred months prior to earthquakes in 2012 and 2013. It’s far too early to apply the findings to earthquake hazard assessment, researchers say, but the results suggest that precursory groundwater changes may also herald earthquakes elsewhere and point toward a potential means of future seismic monitoring.

31 Dec 2014

Twister season comes earlier to tornado alley

Recent studies have examined whether tornadoes are increasing in intensity or number, but a consensus has not yet been reached. Now, a new study looking at a different aspect of tornadoes — when they occur — has found that the severe storm systems that spawn tornadoes may be peaking earlier in the spring than in the past in the infamous tornado alley.

29 Dec 2014

Benchmarks: December 26, 2004: Indian Ocean tsunami strikes

On Dec. 26, 2004, a magnitude-9.2 earthquake ruptured the seafloor off Indonesia, sending the most destructive tsunami in recorded history across the Indian Ocean. A wall of water and debris slammed the shores of South Asia; some witnesses described it as sounding like a freight train. Tourists and locals alike scrambled to safety inland and atop tall hotels, recording videos of the surging water that inundated their communities. Many were unable to reach higher ground.

26 Dec 2014

Comment: Preparing for the volcano in your backyard: New Zealand sets an example

Preparing and planning for a potential volcanic eruption can help communities cope with fallout and manage the human response when eruptions do happen. Auckland, New Zealand, is working on just such a plan that can serve as an example to other cities facing potential volcanic hazards now or in the future.

26 Dec 2014

Hazard lingers after South Napa earthquake

The magnitude-6 earthquake that shook buildings and rattled wineries in California’s Napa Valley on Aug. 24, 2014, continues to affect homes in at least one neighborhood in the city of Napa more than three months later. The quake’s epicenter was about 6 kilometers south of the city, but post-quake movement, or afterslip, along the principal fault line to the north of the epicenter is ongoing, according to a fast-track report prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Scientists involved in producing the 51-page report — released to the public on Tuesday — discussed it at a press conference at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

17 Dec 2014

Better flood forecasts eyed from space

Satellite measurements of total water storage in river basins — including surface waters, snow, groundwater and soil moisture — may help indicate, months in advance, whether those basins will be predisposed to major flooding, according to new research published in Nature Geoscience. Thus, they could help improve on conventional flood forecasts, which are often based on shorter-term weather forecasts combined with incomplete estimates of basin saturation and offer abbreviated lead times for predictions.

09 Dec 2014

Inland earthquake triggers distant tsunami

On Sept. 24, 2013, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake struck southern Pakistan, killing more than 800 people. The quake made global headlines in part due to the birth of a small island it triggered just off the coast — a mound of mud dubbed Quake Island that has since washed away. A new study has found evidence of another curious event linked to the quake: a small tsunami that appears to have been remotely triggered by a submarine landslide far from the earthquake’s inland epicenter.

26 Nov 2014

Comment: How much hazard mitigation is enough?

Given society’s finite resources, communities face the tough challenge of deciding how much mitigation is enough. Prioritizing is always hard, but it is especially difficult because of the limited ability to forecast future natural hazards. But there are ways to figure out the optimal amount of mitigation.

20 Nov 2014

Solar storms cause spike in electrical insurance claims

On March 13, 1989, a geomagnetic storm spawned by a solar outburst struck Earth, triggering instabilities in the electric power grid that serves much of eastern Canada and the U.S. The storm led to blackouts for more than 6 million customers and caused tens of millions of dollars in damages and economic losses. More than 25 years later, the possibility of such a catastrophe still looms, and the day-to-day effects of space weather on electrical systems remain difficult to quantify. Now, a new study correlating electrical insurance claims with geomagnetic data suggests that even moderate space weather may play a significant role in destabilizing the power grid.

09 Nov 2014

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