Stories tagged natural disaster

May
05
2008

Cyclone kills 4000+ in Myanmar

The death toll from a devastating cyclone in Yangon, Myanmar has risen to nearly 4,000. Almost 3,000 others are unaccounted for in Yangon. Older citizens said they had never seen Yangon, a city of some 6.5 million, so devastated in their lifetimes. The storm has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and without clean drinking water, a U.N. official has said.

Update on Myanmar disaster

A tropical cyclone named Nargis devastated the Yangon and Bogalay communities in Mayanmar. For 10 hours starting Friday night, millions of inhabitants endured 20 inches of rain, winds above 240 km/hr, and a 12 foot tidal wave that washed away 95% of the homes in Bogalay. The current count is over 22,000 dead and 41,000 missing.

up to a million people possibly homeless, some villages almost totally destroyed and vast rice-growing areas wiped out" (Associated Press)

Now, some four days later, humanitrian aid is standing by, waiting for the reclusive military rulers to give permission to provide help. Yangon, with its 6.5 million people, needs housing and clean drinking water. Without clean drinking water, the risk of disease spreading is the most serious concern.

Myanmar news updates and videos

CNN News and CNN Videos

Apr
16
2008

There's a 30% chance: That a strong earthquake will blow California 70 years back in time.
There's a 30% chance: That a strong earthquake will blow California 70 years back in time.Courtesy Nathan Callahan
A recent comprehensive study has given the probabilities of major cities in California suffering an earthquake of 6.7 magnitude or greater in the next 30 years.

The “Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast” predicts that, as a whole, there is a 99% chance that California will have a major earthquake sometime within the next 3 decades. As dramatic as this is, I’m not sure that it’s news. Show me a study that predicts California breaking off from the 48 before Christmas, and you got my interest, but this? Meh.

The UCERF does, however, give specific likelihoods for cities having big quakes, information which will be useful for policy makers determining earthquake insurance rates, local building codes, and emergency planning. The Los Angeles area, for instance, has a 67% chance of a 6.7 or greater quake in the next 30 years, and the SF Bay area has a 63% likelihood of such an incident.

As a point of reference, a 6.7 magnitude quake has the energy equivalent of 5,600,000 tons of dynamite exploding underground. The Northridge earthquake had a magnitude of 6.7, and it injured thousands of people, and caused 12.5 billion dollars in property damage to the L.A. area.

As a point of reference for the probabilities, there is approximately 65% chance that I will purchase a bag of generic brand frosted miniwheats sometime in the next three days. There’s a 99% chance that I will see a golden retriever in that time frame. It is 100% likely that I will stick my finger in my nose in the next 30 seconds… done. Now you know how that kind of thing works.

Apr
16
2008

Nevado del Huila: Huila, the highest active volcano in Colombia, is a stratovolcano constructed inside an old caldera. The volcano is seen here from the SW.
Nevado del Huila: Huila, the highest active volcano in Colombia, is a stratovolcano constructed inside an old caldera. The volcano is seen here from the SW.Courtesy Juan Carlos Diago, 1995 (Bernardo Pulgarín, INGEOMINAS, Colombia).
Nevado del Huila, a volcano in Columbia, erupted shortly before midnight on Monday forcing about 3,500 people to evacuate. The eruption was preceded by seismic activity that started on April 8.

Nevado del Huila last erupted in 2007, causing flooding and mud flows (lahars) as the eruption melted the snow and ice cap on top of the tallest active volcano in Columbia.

Before this recent activity, Nevado del Huila had been quiet since the 16th century.

In 1985 25,000 people were killed when another Columbian volcano, Nevado del Ruiz, erupted initiating a series of deadly lahars.

Apr
15
2008

Hurricanes and global warming: The debate over their connection continues.
Hurricanes and global warming: The debate over their connection continues.Courtesy NASA

In 2005, Dr. Kerry Emmanuel, a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published a paper claiming there was a link between rising global temperatures and increases in hurricane strength.

This year, Dr. Emmanuel has published another paper in which he reconsiders the evidence. He found that the models used to predict hurricane activity were not matching up with what was happening in the real world. The link between hurricanes and global warming may not be as strong as originally suspected, or may not exist at all.

This is precisely how science is supposed to work – examining evidence, coming up with theories to explain the evidence, testing those theories, and adjusting the theories if necessary.

In another three years, Emmanual may write another paper showing that he was right the first time. Or that the whole hurricane-warming link is a dead end. Or perhaps some other conclusion. But the important thing is to keep looking, and to report honestly what you find.

As economist John Keynes famously said, “When the facts change, I change my mind.” A good approach to any debate.

It's been announced that the first major tornado study in the past ten years will get underway next year during the tornado season. All the details are right here. What I found especially interesting is that tornadoes in the southern U.S. are more deadly than northern tornadoes because they occur more frequently at night when people are sleeping and less likely to hear warnings. I think we were talking about that here on Buzz a while back.

Predictors are making some pretty bold forecasts for the risk of a massive earth in California sometime in the next 30 years. You can get all the details right here. I'm still willing to settle for Minnesota's occasional tornadoes and blizzards rather than have to worry about the ground shaking under my feet.

Apr
09
2008

Noted hurricane forecaster Dr. William Gray has offered up his 2008 Atlantic hurricane season predictions. (The season begins on June 1 and runs through November 30.)

Hurricane Katrina, 8/29/05: This image was taken by NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES).
Hurricane Katrina, 8/29/05: This image was taken by NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES).Courtesy NOAA

Gray's team, working out of Colorado State University, is predicting an above-normal season, with 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes (category 3 storms or higher). Why? A La Nina pattern creates cool water conditions in the Pacific and warm sea surface temperatures in the eastern Atlantic. Warm sea surface temperatures are critical to the formation of hurricanes.

What's "above average"? An average hurricane season produces about 10 tropical storms and 6 hurricanes. In 2007, 14 tropical storms formed, and 6 of those strengthened into hurricanes. But 2005, of course, was a record-shattering year, with 28 storms, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Here's the Science Buzz feature on hurricanes.

Buzz thread on Hurricane Katrina, started on 8/29/2005.

Buzz thread on Hurricane Rita, started on 9/22/2005.

Buzz thread on the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season

Buzz thread on the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season

Do you know about the 1938 hurricane that crashed into New England?

Interesting weather websites

Share your natural disaster stories.

And, lastly, here are the hurricane names for 2008:

  • Arthur
  • Bertha
  • Cristobal
  • Dolly
  • Edouard
  • Fay
  • Gustav
  • Hanna
  • Ike
  • Josephine
  • Kyle
  • Laura
  • Marco
  • Nana
  • Omar
  • Paloma
  • Rene
  • Sally
  • Teddy
  • Vicky
  • and Wilfred

You're probably like me and always felt that urban core areas were pretty safe from tornadoes. I seem to remember hearing TV meteorologists talk about an urban heat shield that deflected stormy weather around the heart of cities. But looking over this, that just might not be the case. In fact, significant tornadoes have hit large urban downtowns five times in the past 11 years.

Mar
25
2008

Ice capade: Aerial views of the ice sheet breaking at the Wilkins Ice Sheet in Antarctica show the massive amount of ice that's come free in the past month.
Ice capade: Aerial views of the ice sheet breaking at the Wilkins Ice Sheet in Antarctica show the massive amount of ice that's come free in the past month.Courtesy National Snow and Ice Data Center/NASA
So we’ve been grumbling the past few days about the latest round of snow and ice that’s descended upon us in the early days of spring. At least we’re a long way from Antarctica.

The National Snow and Ice Center today reported, and released photos, of a huge ice sheet collapse from the cold continent. About 160-square miles of ice have broken free from the Wilkins ice sheet since Feb. 28 in some major league size pieces. While the Wilkins ice sheet is about the size of Connecticut, one large portion of broken ice sheet is seven times larger than the Manhattan district of New York City.

While that’s a big chuck of ice to break free, larger ice collapses have happened two other times since scientists have been monitoring the site: in 1995 and 2002. Yet, the experts are saying that this latest ice break is another sign of global climate change.

Other portions of the ice shelf are hanging on by thin margins and one expert predicts that the entire shelf could be gone in 15 years. Cracks in the thin ice fill with water, which accelerates the melting, and leads to more major ice breaks.

Here's a link to some great video of the fragile ice sheet area from National Geographic.

Some bees: Each and every one of them thinking about doing unspeakable things to that dog.
Some bees: Each and every one of them thinking about doing unspeakable things to that dog.Courtesy Greencolander
Millions of surprised honeybees are loose on a California highway, after a truck carrying crates of them flipped over in traffic this afternoon.

According to an officer on the scene, "several beekeepers driving by the accident stopped to assist in the bee wrangling."

It's nice to hear that the world is still doing great.