Taxonomy term

natural disasters

Setting sail on unknown seas: The past, present and future of species rafting

The 2011 Japanese tsunami set adrift tons of debris, some of it carrying live plants and animals that landed in North America more than a year later. It isn’t the first time species have traveled the globe on ersatz rafts, and it won’t be the last. But it is concerning.

24 Feb 2013

The dangers of solar storms: That which gives power can also take it away

Were a massive solar storm to strike Earth, the impacts could rival or exceed the worst natural disasters humans have ever faced. In last month’s issue of EARTH, we explored what is known about solar activity, the sun and its interaction with Earth. This month, we examine the possible effects of solar activity and the vulnerability of power grids and satellites, as well as what is being done to reduce that vulnerability.

21 Jan 2013

Disaster debris hotlines and fast grants

Two years after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, debris set adrift by the destructive waves continues to wash up on beaches along the west coast of the United States and Canada.

Beachcombers can report tsunami-related or hazardous debris by emailing DisasterDebris@noaa.gov or calling 1-855-WACOAST in Washington or 211 in Oregon. As of Dec. 13, NOAA had received 1,432 reports of debris, 17 of which were confirmed as tsunami-related.

01 Jan 2013

Highlights of 2012: Climate 2012 - A window into what to expect for 2013 and beyond?

July 2012 was the hottest month by far for the lower 48 states. Much of the nation faced drought conditions that grew steadily worse throughout the summer, and there were major repercussions for crop yields and food prices. Wildfires were also rampant. The record low snowpack in May 2012 in the Colorado Rockies set the stage for major wildfires in June, with more than 600 homes lost in Colorado alone. Wildfires developed in other regions in July as well, as tremendous record-breaking heat developed in Oklahoma and surrounding areas. Considered individually, the record temperatures, droughts, fires and diminished snowpack are not necessarily alarming and may not signal anything beyond the natural occurrence of a hotter-than-average year. But combined, these indicators are much more significant from a climate standpoint. They highlight that there is more than just natural variability playing a role: Global warming has reared its head in a way that can only be a major warning for the future. So, what can we expect?

25 Nov 2012

Voices: Judged unfairly in L'Aquila - roles and responsibilities should have been considered

Earlier this week, an Italian judge summarily convicted seven participants in a meeting of the Italian Serious Risks Commission who evaluated the hazard posed by the L’Aquila earthquake swarm before the magnitude-6.3 earthquake on April 6, 2009, for the same offense and to the same penalty: six years in prison. Much has been written about this court decision, but the very different roles played by the seven defendants and their different expertise have not been discussed. Is there no difference among the roles of the “L’Aquila Seven” in the communication disaster?

26 Oct 2012

Hazardous Living: Italian seismologists tragically convicted of manslaughter

Today, six seismologists and one government official were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison. The seismologists and official had been on trial for not adequately warning the public about the danger of a potential earthquake prior to the L'Aquila earthquake in April 2009 that killed 309 people.

22 Oct 2012

Voices: Italian quakes and deaths point to industrial facilities as death traps

On May 29, eighteen people died in northern Italy when a magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck near the town of Mirandola. Arguably, these deaths were preventable, and they bring up the questions of how we can prevent such deaths in the future. Building codes are key in protecting people. If the most modern buildings collapse while old ones remain standing, something is wrong.

06 Jun 2012

Blogging on EARTH: AGU: Japan tsunami actually made population more vulnerable?

Usually, when a major natural disaster strikes, a population becomes more alert and aware. People know what warning signs to watch for; they know what to do should such an event occur again. They increase their chances of staying alive. For example, intergenerational knowledge of tsunamis passed down by island tribes around the Indian Ocean is credited with saving lives during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

05 Dec 2011

Highlights of 2011: New Zealand: After 8,000 aftershocks, when will it stop?

During the past year, many of the 386,000 inhabitants of New Zealand’s second-largest city, Christchurch, have thought and said one phrase over and over again: “When will it stop?” Starting in September 2010, several major earthquakes and more than 8,000 aftershocks have rocked the city and region. Rebuilding has started, been interrupted, started again and been halted again. People have been living without water, sewer, roads, offices and homes for so long that it may be hard to remember what “normal” is.

23 Nov 2011

Cantabrians keep humor in the hardship

Even though the inhabitants of Christchurch (Cantabrians) have had a nonstop year of hardships, they have kept their humor. A local named Bruce Raines started a “You know you are from Christchurch when…” Facebook page and solicited comments, from which he then published a book.

“You know you are from Christchurch when…”

  1. Half the kids are from broken homes.

  2. You tell the kids that Santa will land on the lawn where the chimney is now.

23 Nov 2011

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