Taxonomy term

natural disasters

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

Benchmarks: May 8, 1902: The deadly eruption of Mount Pelée

At the turn of the 20th century, the town of St. Pierre was known as the “Paris of the Caribbean.” Nestled into the northwest coast of the French island of Martinique, it boasted a bustling harbor where ships hauled away precious loads of sugar and rum, and it had usurped the official capital — Fort-de-France — as the colony’s cultural center. But St. Pierre had a problem: it lay in the shadow of a massive volcano.

 
08 May 2015

El Niño disaster stunted children's growth

In 1997 and 1998, warmer-than-average temperatures brought on by El Niño weather patterns led to copious rainfall and extensive flooding in northern Peru. The rising waters wiped out crops, drowned livestock, cut off bridges, and caused prolonged famine in many rural villages. Now, a new study that tracked long-term health impacts on children from the affected region has found that those born during or soon after the floods continued, a decade later, to bear signs of the hardship endured early in their lives.

 
03 Mar 2015

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

Oso landslide report yields some answers

Early on March 22, 2014, the most damaging landslide in U.S. history devastated the community of Oso, Washington. Forty-three people perished, most inside their homes, when a saturated hillside nearby gave way and a massive mudflow swept over their neighborhood. On July 22, a search crew recovered the last of the 43 bodies, exactly four months after the landslide, and coincidentally on the same day, a team of scientists and engineers released an exhaustive report detailing the event and its implications.

01 Aug 2014

Longmenshan fault zone in the spotlight after two major quakes in five years

In May 2008, a magnitude-7.9 earthquake struck near Wenchuan, China, killing more than 80,000 people in the country’s biggest quake since 1950. Then, in April 2013, the magnitude-6.6 Lushan earthquake hit just 90 kilometers to the south — also within China’s Longmenshan Fault Zone, which separates the Tibetan Plateau to the west from the Sichuan Basin to the east — and caused another 200 deaths. Now, scientists have found that a roughly 60-kilometer segment of the fault zone between the epicenters of the two big temblors could be the next to rupture, although no one knows when or how big it might be.

05 Jun 2014

Comment: The Oso landslide shows need for insurance and better planning

The deadly landslide that struck near Oso, Wash., in March killed more than 40 people and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, most of which was not covered by insurance. The landslide was not a surprise to geologists. Could this disaster have been prevented — or can future disasters be prevented?

06 May 2014

Benchmarks: March 27, 1964: The Good Friday Alaska Earthquake and Tsunamis

During the Cold War, many Americans lived in fear of the day their town would be shaken by an atomic bomb blast. On Good Friday 1964, some Alaskans thought that day had come. Beginning at 5:36 p.m., intense ground shaking continued for almost five minutes as the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in North America struck 22.5 kilometers beneath Prince William Sound, where the Pacific Plate is subducting beneath the North American Plate. The shaking — felt over an area of more than 1.3 million square kilometers — was so severe and long-lived that some survivors later said they first thought the Soviet Union had dropped a nuclear bomb on Anchorage, 120 kilometers northwest of the epicenter.

27 Feb 2014

Tsunamis from the sky: Can meteotsunamis be forecast?

The Great Lakes, along with the U.S. East Coast, the Mediterranean, Japan and many other parts of the world, have a long history of mysterious large waves striking unsuspecting coastlines. Such waves have characteristics similar to tsunamis triggered by earthquakes or landslides. Only recently, however, have scientists unraveled how a storm can create and propagate these far-traveling waves — called meteorological tsunamis or meteotsunamis. 

19 Feb 2014

A history of tsunami-like waves on the Great Lakes

Severe and deadly seiche events are rare on the Great Lakes. In the last century, about 10 major waves have hit the shores of the Great Lakes, but smaller anomalous waves occur much more frequently. Many of the deadliest have occurred on Lake Michigan, but Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie have also experienced them. In addition to the June 26, 1954, event, some others were: 

18 Feb 2014

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