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hazards

Cape Town faces a waterless future

The city of Cape Town, South Africa, is bone dry. In 2017, after two straight years of drought, a third drought year offered more of the same.. This past January, city leaders announced that they would shut off the taps to the municipal water supply in April because that was when “Day Zero” — the day when the water supply would run dry — was predicted to occur. Day Zero has since been pushed back to sometime in 2019, but, for 4 million Capetonians, living under the specter of a day without water is the new normal, and signs of that reality litter the city. Sometimes literally.

22 May 2018

Geomedia: Books: "Quakeland" spotlights seismic risk

I was flying to Seattle when I finished Kathryn Miles’ 2017 book, “Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake.” I shut the book with a shudder of dread. There’s trouble brewing below the myriad coffee shops, not just in Seattle, but also across the Pacific Northwest. Seattle and the surrounding region sit atop the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), where the diminutive Juan de Fuca Plate dives eastward beneath the sizable North American Plate, producing a chain of stratovolcanoes arrayed along the coast like pearls on a string — an explosive geohazard.

16 May 2018

Geoscience on Film: The Burma Arc in Myanmar

Doug Prose has co-produced documentaries showcasing Earth and the geosciences with his partner and wife, Diane LaMacchia, through their nonprofit Earth Images Foundation since 1992. Their latest documentary, “The Himalaya Connection,” began airing on PBS stations in April. Prose has previously written and blogged for EARTH about the pair’s experience shooting and preparing “Connection,” which involved six separate trips to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Mongolia and Nepal from 2011 to 2016. They recently traveled back to the region for their next project.

02 May 2018

Geoscience on Film: Roadcuts and rockfalls in mountainous Mizoram

Doug Prose has co-produced documentaries showcasing Earth and the geosciences with his partner and wife, Diane LaMacchia, through their nonprofit Earth Images Foundation since 1992. Their latest documentary, “The Himalaya Connection,” began airing on PBS stations in April. Prose has previously written and blogged for EARTH about the pair’s experience shooting and preparing “Connection,” which involved six separate trips to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Mongolia and Nepal from 2011 to 2016. They recently traveled back to the region for their next project.

18 Apr 2018

Acid rain triggered deadly Chinese landslide

On June 5, 2009, a catastrophic landslide killed 74 people in southwestern China. But a lack of recent earthquake activity or heavy rainfall left geologists questioning what had triggered the slide. A new study suggests that China’s acid rain may have played a role in weakening the limestone and shale slope in unexpected ways.

13 Apr 2018

Residual strain explains later quakes

The largest earthquake in recorded history struck southern Chile on May 22, 1960. The magnitude-9.5 temblor was followed by a tsunami that, combined with the seismic shaking, killed 1,600 people and left more than 2 million homeless. New research suggests that, despite the staggering size of the event, the shaking didn’t dissipate all the strain accumulated at the time on the subduction fault between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates. The residual strain left on the fault may explain why a portion of this same section of fault ruptured again — 56 years later — on Dec. 25, 2016, in a magnitude-7.6 event.

26 Mar 2018

Creeping danger: Landslide threatens Peruvian village, especially when the earth quakes

A massive landslide has been encroaching on the village of Maca, Peru, since the 1980s. Today, it provides geologists with a laboratory to study slow-moving landslides, especially how they react to rainfall and earthquakes.
27 Feb 2018

Arizona road hazard has surprising source

Blowing dust is one of Arizona’s deadliest weather-related hazards. Between 1955 and 2011, brownout conditions created by dust storms caused more than 1,500 motor vehicle accidents across the state, resulting in 157 fatalities and more than 1,300 injuries, according to a 2016 NOAA Technical Memorandum.

25 Jan 2018

Climate change linked to specific weather events for the first time

Three extreme weather events that occurred in 2016 would not have been possible in Earth’s pre-industrial climate, according to the sixth annual report on the attribution of extreme weather events issued Dec. 13 by NOAA and the American Meteorological Society (AMS). This marks the first time that researchers have concluded that a specific weather event would not have been possible without the influence of humans.

14 Dec 2017

Both urban flooding and rural drying to intensify

In a comprehensive global analysis, including data from more than 43,000 rainfall stations and 5,300 river monitoring stations in 160 countries, researchers report that global rainfall is increasing, likely due to warming air temperatures that allow more moisture into the atmosphere, causing more intense rainfall. Rural areas tend to absorb excess water during storms, preventing widespread flooding in rural zones, but between storms, rising temperatures also mean more evaporation from exposed soils, creating drier conditions over the long term, the team noted in Scientific Reports. Meanwhile, in urban environments, more intense rainfall often overwhelms stormwater catchments in places with less exposed soil, leading to a higher incidence of flooding.

11 Dec 2017

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