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Natural Disasters
Still hundreds unaccounted for after Colorado floods...survivors sleeping in cars
September 17, 2013
colorado flooding disaster
The emergency airlifts of flood victims waned Tuesday, leaving rescue crews to systematically search the nooks and crannies of the northern Colorado foothills and transportation officials to gauge what it will take to rebuild the wasted landscape.

More than 3,000 people have been evacuated by air and ground since last week's devastating floods, but calls for those emergency rescues are now dwindling, federal and state emergency officials said
 
Colorado Disaster: What Is a 100-Year Flood?
September 14, 2013
colorado flooding 2013
A massive amount of rain has fallen in the region surrounding Boulder, Colo., causing widespread flooding that's killed at least three people and taken out roads and houses, according to news reports. The event has sent 20-foot "walls of water" rushing down mountainsides, destroying bridges and isolating entire towns, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said in a statement.

The extreme rain and flooding in Colorado was caused when a slow-moving weather system sucked in an unusually large mass of moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, and has been called a "100-year storm." That terminology is a little confusing, though, and requires some explanation.
 
Why Has It Been So Long Since a Major Hurricane Hit the US?
September 12, 2013
hurricanes 2013
he United States hasn't been any stranger to hurricanes in the last eight years. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused about $50 billion in damage and was responsible for more than 150 U.S. deaths last year, although the storm was technically an extra-tropical cyclone when it hit.

But surprisingly, not a single major hurricane, defined as a Category 3 storm or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale —with minimum wind gusts of at least 111 mph (178 km/h) — has directly hit the United States in nearly eight years. That's twice as long as any major hurricane landfall "drought" since 1915, and by far the longest on record since data began being collected prior to 1900. As of today (Sept. 12), it's been 2,880 days since Hurricane Wilma, the last major hurricane to strike the United States, made landfall on Oct. 24, 2005.

 
Largest Volcano on Earth Lurks Beneath Pacific Ocean : Tamu Massif
September 05, 2013
Tamu Massif Largest Volcano
A University of Houston (UH) professor led a team of scientists to uncover the largest single volcano yet documented on Earth. Covering an area roughly equivalent to the British Isles or the state of New Mexico, this volcano, dubbed the Tamu Massif, is nearly as big as the giant volcanoes of Mars, placing it among the largest in the Solar System.

Located about 1,000 miles east of Japan, Tamu Massif is the largest feature of Shatsky Rise, an underwater mountain range formed 130 to 145 million years ago by the eruption of several underwater volcanoes. Until now, it was unclear whether Tamu Massif was a single volcano, or a composite of many eruption points. By integrating several sources of evidence, including core samples and data collected on board the JOIDES Resolution research ship, the authors have confirmed that the mass of basalt that constitutes Tamu Massif did indeed erupt from a single source near the center.
 
Tsunami: Facts versus Movie Myths
September 05, 2013
tsunami fact vs myth
A tsunami or tidal wave is one of those disasters that are rare, difficult to prep for, but interesting to discuss. If you live inland, you might still be interested in this article, in case you are on vacation near the ocean, or simply because it is a fascinating topic. This particular prepping and survival post discusses the difference between a tidal wave in movies and recent real tidal waves. There are several significant differences between the movie version and a real tsunami, and knowing the differences might affect your response.

The height of tidal waves is one thing that movies get wrong or exaggerate. The typical movie tsunami is hundreds of meters high, taller than many skyscrapers. Strictly-speaking, it’s not impossible for a tidal wave to be that high. A comet or asteroid impact in the deep ocean can generate a tsunami hundreds of feet high, 100 km or more from the site of impact. See the Impact: Earth! effects calculator at Purdue University. But the typical tsunami, caused by an undersea earthquake, is several meters in height, or less. See the NOAA Tsunami site. The largest tsunami in recorded history is said to be the 2004 Indonesia tsunami, with a height of 33 meters (per Wikipedia). [PREP-BLOG]
 
Tsunami would swamp California's economy
September 04, 2013
tsunami California disaster
If a monster earthquake struck off Alaska's coast, tsunami waves would rush toward California, crippling the nation's busiest port complex and flooding coastal communities, a report released Wednesday suggests.

The potential impacts, based on a hypothetical magnitude-9.1 jolt off the Alaskan peninsula, were detailed by a team led by the U.S. Geological Survey to help emergency responders prepare. Tsunamis are a rare but real threat in California. After the 2011 Japan disaster, tsunami waves raced across the Pacific and damaged boats and docks in the commercial fishing village of Crescent City.
 
Incredible Technology: How to Fight Wildfires
September 03, 2013
fight wildfires technology
Wildfires, like the Rim Fire raging in Yosemite, Calif., are some of nature's most awesome, and devastating, spectacles, devouring large swaths of forest and grassland in hours.

Battling such blazes requires firefighters to pair traditional techniques, such as firebreaks, to contain the voracious flames, with newer technologies like drones and satellite imaging, to monitor the fire's progress. Wildfire activity has been 50 percent above average for the last five years, said Julie Hutchinson, battalion chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). If uncontained, these fires pose a threat to human life and property.
 
The big one: Natural disasters in the SCV
September 02, 2013
1994 california earthquake damage
As devastating as it may be for local residents, every earthquake provides scientists with a wealth of new information about faults, ground movement and the reactions it causes.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake, for example, measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, puzzled geologists for years because of its scattered pattern of damage, hitting particularly hard in Sherman Oaks and Santa Monica – relatively distant communities from the epicenter. Seismologists concluded an anomaly in the bedrock underlying the area was responsible for the unexpected pattern of damage. But the question most residents of earthquake-prone areas would like answered is this: How do we know when the big one will hit?
 
Why It's So Hard To Predict Hurricanes
August 29, 2013
hurricane predictions
At 6:10am on August 29, 2005, the eye of Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Buras-Triumph, La., going on to devastate much of the Gulf Coast. In a report only a few months later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) called it one of the strongest storms to hit the U.S. coast in the last 100 years.

Katrina didn't start out that way. After entering the Gulf of Mexico, it intensified rapidly, going from a Category 1 hurricane when it passed through southern Florida on August 25, 2005, then gaining momentum and jumping from a Category 3 all the way up to Category 5 status over the span of about a day later that weekend.
 
Calm Before the Storm? What August Hurricane Lull Mean
August 26, 2013
NOAA 2013 hurricane season
Calls for an active 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, with six to nine hurricanes, have been met with silence by Mother Nature so far. Deadly typhoons pounded the Pacific Rim this month, but the Atlantic basin has been hurricane-free through late August. Six named tropical storms have appeared in the Atlantic since the beginning of hurricane season on June 1, but none have approached hurricane strength.

Yet even though no hurricane has menaced the Atlantic, the 2013 hurricane season is on track for tropical storms. In an average year, the fifth named storm does not show up until Aug. 31, but it did so this year on Aug. 15 with Tropical Storm Erin, according to Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Tropical storms have wind speeds between 39 to 73 mph (62 to 117 km/h). Once the winds reach a sustained 74 mph (119 km/h), the storm is classified as a hurricane.
 
Slowest Start To A Hurricane Season On Record
August 24, 2013
As we approach the end of August, there have been no Atlantic hurricanes. By this date in the year 1886, there had already been seven hurricanes – including three major hurricanes, one of which wiped the city of Indianola, Texas off the map.
 
Underwater Avalanche! Melting Ice Caps Could Trigger Tsunamis
August 16, 2013
underwater tsunami disaster
If melting ice caps trigger rapid sea level rise, the strain that the edges of continents could experience might set off underwater landslides, new research suggests. Submarine landslides happen on every continental margin, the underwater parts of continental plates bordering oceanic plates. These underwater avalanches, which can happen when underwater slopes get hit by earthquakes or otherwise have too much weight loaded onto them, can generate dangerous tsunamis.

A staggering half of all the Earth moved by submarine landslides over the past 125,000 years apparently happened between 8,000 and 15,000 years ago. "This time period coincides with the period of most rapid sea level rise following the end of the last ice age," said study co-author Daniel Brothers, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass.
 
Slow Earthquakes May Foretell Larger Events
August 16, 2013
slow earthquake larger
Monitoring slow earthquakes may provide a basis for reliable prediction in areas where slow quakes trigger normal earthquakes, according to Penn State geoscientists. -- "We currently don't have any way to remotely monitor when land faults are about to move," said Chris Marone, professor of geophysics. "This has the potential to change the game for earthquake monitoring and prediction, because if it is right and you can make the right predictions, it could be big."

Marone and Bryan Kaproth-Gerecht, recent Ph.D. graduate, looked at the mechanisms behind slow earthquakes and found that 60 seconds before slow stick slip began in their laboratory samples, a precursor signal appeared. Normal stick slip earthquakes typically move at a rate of three to 33 feet per second, but slow earthquakes, while they still stick and slip for movement, move at rates of about 0.004 inches per second taking months or more to rupture. However, slow earthquakes often occur near traditional earthquake zones and may precipitate potentially devastating earthquakes.
 
One-Shot Volcanoes Can Be Explosively Dangerous
August 15, 2013
dangerous one shot volcanoes
Volcanoes with multiple eruptions get all the glory, earning top spots on lists of the world's most dangerous and most famous fiery mountains. But monogenetic volcanoes, which erupt briefly and then die, are more common on land than volcanoes such as Mount St. Helens and Mt. Etna, which periodically outpour their lava.

Now, a new study of these single-shot volcanoes in Spain finds they are surprisingly complex. With a technique called electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), researchers peered deep inside several volcanoes, including two called Puig d'Adri and Montsacopa, and found lava flows, explosive deposits and even the underground plumbing.
 
Storms Aplenty, But Hurricanes Rare in Hawaii
July 29, 2013
tropical storm Hawaii
Tropical Storm Flossie is expected to make landfall in Hawaii today (July 29), battering the state's black sand beaches and tall, tropical volcanoes with 45 mph (75 kph) winds and localized rainfall of up to 15 inches (38 centimeters).

Though it may not seem like it to those living on the mainland, in the Hawaiian Islands, Pacific tropical storms are pretty common events, said Steve Businger, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. "There have been several in the 20 years I've lived here. They're not so terribly rare," Businger told LiveScience. (Tropical storms have winds between 39 and 65 mph [63 to 105 kph].)
 
Pardon Me! Mother Earth Burps Up Methane Bubbles During Earthquakes
July 28, 2013
Earth Burp Methane Earthquake
The long-suspected link between earthquakes and underwater methane bursts has finally been confirmed, reports a study published today (July 28) in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Though the temblor wasn't caught in the act, the strong shaking left clues in methane-rich mud and sand offshore of Pakistan, where two of Earth's tectonic plates collide at the Makran subduction zone. In 1945, a magnitude-8.1 earthquake struck along the subduction zone, killing at least 300 people and triggering a tsunami. Recently, researchers studying methane seeps in the Arabian Sea discovered unexpectedly large quantities of methane gas and minerals such as barite and sulfate just below the seafloor surface, on a ridge near the Makran subduction zone. The minerals and gas accumulate at a certain rate, so the team could calculate when the methane indicators first appeared — between 1916 and 1962. Combined with other clues, such as seismic surveys of disturbed sediments, the scientists concluded that the 1945 earthquake released methane gas into the ocean.
 
Top 10 Deadliest Canadian Disasters (INFOGRAPHIC)
July 26, 2013
 
FAULTLINE: L.A. council OKs soaring Hollywood skyscrapers
July 24, 2013
LA earthquake risk
The Los Angeles City Council has approved a plan that would radically alter the Hollywood skyline despite warnings from state officials about the project's proximity to a major earthquake fault line.

The 13-0 vote Wednesday in favor of the Hollywood Millennium project allows New York-based developer Millennium Partners to build two skyscrapers and more than 1 million square feet of office, hotel and retail space on several vacant parking lots surrounding the iconic Capitol Records building. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was a leading champion of new development in Hollywood during his three terms representing the neighborhood on the City Council, announced Wednesday that he would sign the deal.
 
China earthquake: death toll rises with thousands left homeless
July 23, 2013
china earthquake 2013
The death toll from two earthquakes in China's western Gansu province has climbed to 89, with more than 500 people severely injured, after 1,200 buildings collapsed and tens of thousands more were badly damaged, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The quakes hit eight towns in the remote and mountainous Minxian and Zhangxian counties, about 105 miles (170 kilometres) south-east of the provincial capital, Lanzhou, from 7.45am on Monday (12.45am BST), Xinhua said. -- "Many have been injured by collapsed houses," said a Minxian county doctor surnamed Du. "Many villagers have gone to local hospitals along the roads."
 
Dozens reported dead in China earthquake
July 22, 2013
Gansu China Earthquake
A strong earthquake struck a rural part of western China on Monday morning, killing at least 75 people, according to state media.

The quake hit near the city of Dingxi in Gansu province, a region of mountains, desert and pastureland with a population of 26 million. That makes it one of China's more lightly populated provinces, although the Dingxi area has a greater concentration of farms and towns, with a total population of about 2.7 million. The government's earthquake monitoring service said an additional 459 people were injured.
 
Earthquake Sends Kiwis Screaming From Wellington Buildings
July 22, 2013
new zealand earthquake 2013
New Zealanders ran screaming from buildings in Wellington yesterday as a magnitude 6.5 earthquake blew out windows and caused part of the city’s port to slide into the sea.

The earthquake struck at 5:09 p.m. local time and was centered offshore, 57 kilometers (35 miles) south-southwest of the capital city, at a depth of 14 kilometers, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was New Zealand’s biggest quake since a magnitude 6.3 killed 185 people in the South Island city of Christchurch two years ago, and the strongest to hit the central region of the country since 1942, GNS Science seismologist John Ristau said.
 
Catastrophic Mud Eruption Had Natural Causes, Study Finds
July 21, 2013
Mud eruption Indonesia
A catastrophic mud eruption in Indonesia blamed on drilling by an oil company might instead have natural causes, new research suggests.

In 2006, the largest mud volcano on the planet was born when steam, water and mud began erupting on the Indonesian island of Java. At its height, it spewed 6.3 million cubic feet (180,000 cubic meters) of boiling mud per day, enough to submerge a football field under nearly 110 feet (34 m) of earth. The mud volcano still erupts with outbursts like a geyser.
 
South Asia disunity 'hampers flood warnings'
July 19, 2013
south asia flooding warning
A lack of co-operation between South Asian countries is preventing timely flood warnings that could save lives and property during the monsoon season.

Erratic and extreme rainfall is causing catastrophic flooding, most recently in northwest India and Nepal following heavy rainfall in June. But the sharing of hydrological data can be a sensitive issue because of disputes over water use. Officials say a network is required to share data across borders. Experts and officials told the BBC that countries in the region are doing very little to help each other forecast floods.
 
More Than 5,700 Feared Dead
July 17, 2013
India floods 2013
A day after the government said it would treat more than 5,700 people missing in floods in northern India last month as presumed dead, relatives said Wednesday they still held out hope that their loved ones had survived.

The provisional death toll - officials said some of the missing still could turn up alive - would make the Uttarakhand floods the worst natural disaster in India since more than 10,000 people were killed here in the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. The toll was worsened by the presence of tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims visiting the state's temples and the many vacationers who head to its cool hills to escape the summer heat. The government said it was presuming those missing for a month were dead so it could start giving compensation to their families.
 
How 'Brown Oceans' Fuel Hurricanes
July 17, 2013
brown ocean hurricane
Hurricanes and tropical storms typically gather strength while moving over warm oceans, where the energy released by evaporating water fuels these storms' high winds. These storms usually weaken rapidly as they move over land and are cut off from their fuel source.

But researchers are now gaining a better understanding of tropical cyclones that don't conform to the mold and grow stronger over continental land masses, even hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean. Under certain conditions, continents act as "brown oceans" that keep a tropical cyclone from weakening and, in some cases, make the storm even stronger than it was over the ocean, according to a news release from NASA.
 
Distorted GPS Signals Reveal Hurricane Wind Speeds
July 15, 2013
hurricane hunter airplane
By pinpointing locations on Earth from space, GPS systems have long shown drivers the shortest route home and guided airline pilots across oceans. Now, by figuring out how messed up GPS satellite signals get when bouncing around in a storm, researchers have found a way to do something completely different with GPS: measure and map the wind speeds of hurricanes.

Improved wind speed measurements could help meteorologists better predict the severity of storms and where they might be headed, said Stephen Katzberg, a Distinguished Research Associate at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and a leader in the development of the new GPS technique. On a global scale, experts hope to use the new measurement method to better understand how storms form and what guides their behavior.
 
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