Taxonomy term


Hurricane hunters fly toward improved storm forecasts

Hurricanes are one of the few natural disasters that strike with some advance notice. Forecasts can be made hours or even days ahead of landfall, giving communities time to prepare and evacuate. Nevertheless, the forecasts are not exact, and improving their accuracy — in terms of timing, location of landfall and wind intensity — poses an ongoing challenge. Two recent studies detailing the latest advances in data collection and assimilation may help improve forecasting as early as this year.
04 Aug 2013

Hurricanes suppressed by air pollutants

Understanding how often devastating tropical storms like Superstorm Sandy occur, and how humans may play a role in their frequency, is a major goal among climate scientists. Now, a new study indicates that aerosols may suppress storm formation over the Atlantic. Thus, researchers say, more frequent storms at the end of the last century might have been an unintended side effect of cleaning up the air.

25 Jun 2013

The past is key to the future: Historical observations strengthen modern science


Written records of natural phenomena come from personal journals and diaries, newspaper accounts, ship logs and government documents, among other sources. Such accounts often offer descriptive details and context that cannot be matched by other methods, and they can prove extremely useful in broadening records both temporally and geographically. Given that they predate the sort of widespread instrumental readings that scientists have come to depend on, sometimes there is simply — and literally — no substitute for historical data. Despite their advantages, historical records are used infrequently in modern physical sciences. That may be changing, however.

29 May 2013

Lofted by hurricanes, bacteria live the high life

With cold temperatures, low humidity and high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, conditions 10 kilometers above Earth’s surface may seem inhospitable. But next time you’re flying, consider this: The air outside your airplane window might be filled with an array of microscopic life that affects everything from weather and climate to the distribution of pathogens around the planet.

05 May 2013

Risky business: Modeling catastrophes

Natural hazards — earthquakes, tropical cyclones and thunderstorms, for example — occur with considerable frequency around the world. Fortunately, most events are either not intense enough or too remote to cause damage. But the probability that a given natural hazard could become a natural disaster is higher today than at any previous point in history.

30 Sep 2012

Benchmarks: October 13, 1947: A disaster with Project Cirrus

Two days after clipping Cuba and Florida, a hurricane was drifting out into the Atlantic. All predictions had it remaining at sea without further landfall, making it the perfect test subject for the newly minted Project Cirrus, a U.S. government- backed project bent on discovering a way to disable deadly hurricanes. The researchers planned to seed the hurricane’s clouds with dry ice, hoping that the ice would interact with the clouds and disrupt the cyclone’s internal structure, thus weakening it. So on Oct. 13, 1947, a plane flew over the storm and dumped 80 kilograms of dry ice into the storm’s swirling clouds.
04 Oct 2010

Is it time to invest in entrepreneurial geoengineering?

Government research and development has its limits: Time, money and bureaucracy can all hamper the timely progress of research. As a result, many federal agencies are looking to private companies to help drive new innovation and keep costs down — but it’s never that simple. Two current hot-button topics — returning humans to space and geo­engin­eer­ing — highlight a range of issues related to how private and public investment in science can coexist. Last month, we looked at NASA’s push toward privatization.

02 Aug 2010

Biophysical economics: The Mississippi Delta as a lens for global issues

With a global economic slowdown and growing environmental concerns, it is worthwhile to take a look at the future and think about how we can better manage development relative to society, natural ecosystems, climate and energy. These global issues can be viewed through the lens of the Mississippi Delta.

24 Nov 2009

Court rules against Army Corps in New Orleans flooding case

A district court judge ruled Wednesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is liable for much of the flooding in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The ruling puts the Corps and the U.S. government on the hook for millions if not billions of dollars in damages and punitive penalties, and could open the floodgates for more such lawsuits nationwide, experts say.

19 Nov 2009

Report from Ground Zero

How geoscientists aid in the aftermath of environmental disasters

01 Oct 2009