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WEATHER | NATURAL DISASTERS | EARTHQUAKES | TSUNAMIS

WEATHER & NATURAL DISASTERS


Rainfall monitoring: Mobile phones are taking over

Agriculture, water resource management, drought and flood warnings, etc.: rainfall monitoring is vital in many areas. But the observation networks remain insufficient. This is not the case for antennas for mobile telephones, which cover 90% of the world’s inhabited areas. Besides transmitting radio signals, they record signal disturbances, which are partly due to precipitation, in order to monitor the quality of networks.

Mystery solved: ‘Sailing stones’ of Death Valley seen in action for the first time

Racetrack Playa is home to an enduring Death Valley mystery. Littered across the surface of this dry lake, also called a “playa,” are hundreds of rocks — some weighing as much as 320 kilograms (700 pounds) — that seem to have been dragged across the ground, leaving synchronized trails that can stretch for hundreds of meters.

Potential influences on recent UK winter floods investigated by new scientific review

A comprehensive review of all potential factors behind the 2013/2014 UK winter floods has been published by researchers. The paper does not definitively answer whether human activity played a role in the magnitude of the winter flood events. It does, however, examine how factors such as the state of the global oceans may have interacted with wind patterns and subsequent high-level atmospheric features.

How the sun caused an aurora this week

On the evening of Aug. 20, 2014, the International Space Station was flying past North America when it flew over the dazzling, green blue lights of an aurora. On board, astronaut Reid Wiseman captured this image of the aurora, seen from above.

Wildland fire modeling can lead to better predictions

If we can better understand scientifically how wildland fires behave, we’ll have a better chance to accurately predict their evolution, researchers say. When wildland fuel distribution and ignition potential can be assessed, and the regions within a fire where intense energy in the form of heat is released can be determined, the rate and area of a fire’s spread can be predicted days in advance. That will open doors to scientific advances from firefighting technologies to logistics, and can even influence the design of subdivisions, developments and homes.

Why global warming is taking a break

The average temperature on Earth has barely risen over the past 16 years. Researchers in Switzerland have now found out why. And they believe that global warming is likely to continue again soon.

Research improves temperature modeling across mountainous landscapes

New research provides improved computer models for estimating temperature across mountainous landscapes. Accurate, spatially based estimates of historical air temperature within mountainous areas are critical as scientists and land managers look at temperature-driven changes to vegetation, wildlife habitat, wildfire and snowpack.

EARTHQUAKES


Seismic hazards reassessed in the Andes

Although being able to predict the date on which the next big earthquake will occur is still some way off becoming a reality, it is now possible to identify the areas where they will occur. Researchers have just measured the current deformation in the northern part of the Andes for the first time using GPS, where the tectonics of the Pacific and South American plates govern the high seismic activity in the region. The scientists then identified the areas where the fault, located at the interface of these two plates, is capable of generating large earthquakes or not.

Likely near-simultaneous earthquakes complicate seismic hazard planning for Italy

Before the shaking from one earthquake ends, shaking from another might begin, amplifying the effect of ground motion. Such sequences of closely timed, nearly overlapping, consecutive earthquakes account for devastating seismic events in Italy’s history and should be taken into account when building new structures, according to new research.

Pacific plate shrinking as it cools

The Pacific tectonic plate is not as rigid as scientists believe, according to new calculations. Scientists have determined that cooling of the lithosphere — the outermost layer of Earth — makes some sections of the Pacific plate contract horizontally at faster rates than others and cause the plate to deform.

Severe drought is causing the western US to rise like a spring uncoiling

The severe drought gripping the western United States in recent years is changing the landscape well beyond localized effects of water restrictions and browning lawns. Scientists have used GPS data to discover that the growing, broad-scale loss of water is causing the entire western US to rise up like an uncoiled spring.

New mechanism of erosion: Gorges are eradicated by downstream sweep erosion

Local surface uplift can block rivers, particularly in mountainous regions. The impounded water, however, always finds its way downstream, often cutting a narrow gorge into the rocks. Subsequent erosion of the rocks can lead to a complete eradication of this initial incision, until not a trace is left of the original breakthrough. In extreme cases the whole gorge disappears, leaving behind a broad valley with a flat floodplain. Previously, the assumption was that this transition from a narrow gorge to a wide valley was driven by gorge widening and the erosion of the walls of the gorges.

Study of Chilean quake shows potential for future earthquake

Near real-time analysis of the April 1 earthquake in Iquique, Chile, showed that the 8.2 event occurred in a gap on the fault unruptured since 1877 and that the April event was not what the scientists had expected, according to an international team of geologists.

Foreshock series controls earthquake rupture

A long lasting foreshock series controlled the rupture process of this year’s great earthquake near Iquique in northern Chile. The earthquake was heralded by a three quarter year long foreshock series of ever increasing magnitudes culminating in a magnitude 6.7 event two weeks before the mainshock. The mainshock, which had a magnitude of 8.1. finally broke on April 1st a central piece out of the most important seismic gap along the South American subduction zone.

TSUNAMIS


Foreshock series controls earthquake rupture

A long lasting foreshock series controlled the rupture process of this year’s great earthquake near Iquique in northern Chile. The earthquake was heralded by a three quarter year long foreshock series of ever increasing magnitudes culminating in a magnitude 6.7 event two weeks before the mainshock. The mainshock, which had a magnitude of 8.1. finally broke on April 1st a central piece out of the most important seismic gap along the South American subduction zone.

Giant earthquakes help predict volcanic eruptions

Researchers have for the first time observed the response of Japanese volcanoes to seismic waves produced by the giant Tohoku-oki earthquake of 2011. Their conclusions reveal how earthquakes can impact volcanoes and should help to assess the risk of massive volcanic eruptions worldwide.

Extinct undersea volcanoes squashed under Earth’s crust cause tsunami earthquakes

New research has revealed the causes and warning signs of rare tsunami earthquakes, which may lead to improved detection measures. The new study reveals that tsunami earthquakes may be caused by extinct undersea volcanoes causing a “sticking point” between two sections of Earth’s crust called tectonic plates, where one plate slides under another.

Personal resiliency paramount for future disasters

Individuals need to build disaster readiness and resiliency in order to better recover from the effects of earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and other natural disasters, experts say. Those who prepare well for disasters are more likely to have a sense of spiritual and emotional well-being and be satisfied with their life.

Three years since Japan’s disaster: Communities remain scattered and suffering

While western eyes are focused on the ongoing problems of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor site, thousands of people are still evacuated from their homes in north-eastern Japan following the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency. Many are in temporary accommodation and frustrated by a lack of central government foresight and responsiveness to their concerns.

Australian tsunami database reveals threat to continent

Australia’s coastline has been struck by up to 145 possible tsunamis since prehistoric times, triple the previously estimated number, a new study reveals. The largest recorded inundation event in Australia was caused by an earthquake off Java in 2006. The continent was also the site of the oldest known tsunami in the world — an asteroid impact 3.47 billion years ago. Details of the 145 modern day and prehistoric events are outlined in a revised tsunami database.

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis: New design for enhanced safety, easier siting and centralized construction

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects — specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores, due to a shutdown of all power at the station — that caused most of the harm. A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms, modeled after those used for offshore oil drilling, could help avoid such consequences in the future.

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