HAZARDS

hazards

Benchamrks: December 4, 1992: The Seattle Fault Zone is described

Since the early 1900s, scientists, boaters and residents have known that a ghostly, submerged forest of dead trees lurked just below the surface of Lake Washington, on Seattle’s eastern edge. The trees were mostly too deep to bother anyone until the Lake Washington Ship Canal opened in 1916, connecting the lake and Puget Sound and dropping the level of the lake three meters. Then the dead trees — many of which were still upright — became hazardous to boaters. In response, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted and chained down 186 trees in one submerged forest. Forty years later, when a diver visited a different underwater forest in 28 meters of water, he found himself in a dense grove of dead trees — predominately Douglas fir — the largest of which had a circumference of 9 meters. 
 
04 Dec 2012

Benchmarks: November 29, 1991: The Interstate 5 dust storm injures hundreds

It was about 2:30 p.m. on the day after Thanksgiving and traffic was heavy on Interstate 5, which connects Northern and Southern California. A 31-year-old substitute teacher was traveling southbound on I-5 with her husband, 32, and their two sons, ages 4 and 1. They were a little north of Coalinga, a farming town in the San Joaquin Valley about 250 kilometers south of San Francisco. 
 
01 Nov 2012

Down to Earth With: Volcanologist John Eichelberger

The 2010 eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull showed that volcanic hazards are blind to international borders. After the eruption ended and air traffic returned to normal, discussion among the public of “ash” and “jet turbine blades” cooled. Not so for volcanologist John Eichelberger, who, as the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Volcano Hazards Program Coordinator, deals with volcanic hazards daily, while working to improve monitoring of the United States’ many dangerous volcanoes and to internationalize research and risk reduction

13 Aug 2012

On the web: Shake, rattle and roll: What does an earthquake sound like?

The sounds we associate with earthquakes tend to be those induced aboveground. Low-pitched rumbles, rattling windows and car alarms might be heard during small temblors, while more terrifying sounds like the crumbling of concrete and the cacophony of people trying to reach safety sometimes accompany large earthquakes. But what does an earthquake itself sound like, as rock grinds against rock in a rupturing fault and large amounts of energy are released? Thanks to some recent efforts, we may be starting to get an idea.
 

08 Aug 2012

2012: The end of the world or just another year of living in harm's way?

We live on a knife-edge, separated from an ocean of super-heated rock by a wafer-thin and perpetually rupturing crust, swinging our way through a cosmic minefield of lethal debris around a nuclear furnace prone to tantrums. For doomsayers, the end of the Mayan long-count calendar, set against such a backdrop, is a gift. Though Mayan culture never spoke of a cataclysm, Dec. 21, 2012 — the purported last day of a 5,125-year cycle in the Mesoamerican calendar — has been added to an endless list of days when the world has been predicted to end.

24 Jul 2012

Benchmarks: June 10, 1886: New Zealand’s Mount Tarawera erupts

On June 10, 1886, Mount Tarawera on New Zealand’s North Island erupted catastrophically, killing more than 100 people. With few warning signals, the explosive basaltic eruption caught many people by surprise as it rocked the mountain, forming fissures that extended for 17 kilometers into the adjacent Lake Rotomahana and Waimangu Valley. 
 
04 Jun 2012

Better warnings for the consequences of earthquakes: Bringing seismic hazard and risk assessments to policy

Although seismologists and engineers have generated a world map of seismic hazard, which shows the level of ground shaking not likely to be exceeded, the ground motions and death tolls of several recent large quakes have far exceeded expectations. It’s time to change the way we measure seismic hazard and seismic risk.

29 May 2012

Kilauea's Explosive Past - and Future

The explosive history of Kilauea is not well known. Today, it’s renowned for lobes of slow-moving, calm lava, which ooze out of cracks in the flanks of the volcano, pour downslope and eventually flow into the sea, where the lava cools and gradually enlarges the island. But in the past, Kilauea has erupted violently — more often and for much longer periods than was previously thought. Now, researchers have learned that over the past 2,500 years, violent eruptive periods lasting centuries have alternated with periods of quiet flows. Once an explosive period has begun, conditions on the Big Island will be very different from those on which the past hazard assessment was based.

17 May 2012

Voices: Making tough decisions in a changing climate

World leaders are beginning to realize that planning for and adapting to our changing climate must become a priority of national governments. But what does that mean, in practical terms, for planning and policymaking, and for the day-to-day business of government? Do standard decision-making practices need to change? If so, how?

07 May 2012

Benchmarks: May 15, 1909: The Northern Great Plains earthquake

In Culbertson, Mont., at a quarter past nine on a Saturday evening, Ralph Bush and H.G. Walsh were resting in the third-floor apartment of the Reed Cash Grocery when the floor began to rock, vibrating a small penknife right off their table, and sending a candle lamp clattering to the floor. At the nearby Evans Hotel, confusion reigned as the quake shook the two-story brick building, causing frightened guests to flee into the streets. On the second story of the Farmers & Merchants bank, a piano player was entertaining a social gathering at the home of Professor Dale when the shaking sent a vase crashing to the floor. The 15 seconds of quivering was so pronounced at Skelley’s barbershop that, “It rang up a 50-cent cash sale on the cash register, and it has been keeping me guessing how I can balance the darned thing,” Skelley told a reporter from the Culbertson Republican.
 
02 May 2012

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