Stories tagged natural disaster

Feb
07
2011

Mt. St. Helens erupts in 1980: Yellowstone's supervolcano has erupted with one thousand times the power of the blast pictured here.
Mt. St. Helens erupts in 1980: Yellowstone's supervolcano has erupted with one thousand times the power of the blast pictured here.Courtesy USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory
The gigantic volcano seething under Yellowstone National Park could be ready to erupt with the force of a thousand Mt. St. Helenses! Large parts of the U.S. could be buried under ash and toxic gas!

Or, y'know, not.

This story has popped up in a couple of places recently, including National Geographic's website and, more sensationally, the UK's Daily Mail. Shifts in the floor of Yellowstone's caldera indicate that magma may be pooling below the surface, a phenomenon that might be the very earliest stages of an eruption. Then again, it's difficult to predict volcanic eruptions with much accuracy because there's no good way to take measurements of phenomena happening so far below the earth's surface.

Incidentally, the contrast in tone between the two stories makes them an interesting case study in science reporting: The Daily Mail plays up the possible risk and horrific consequences of an eruption, while National Geographic is much more matter-of-fact about the remoteness of that possibility. Which do you think makes better reading?

In the quest for developing better building methods to withstand hurricane winds, this experiment with about 100 high-powered fans shows what happens to a non-hurricane-proofed home vs. one that's using special building methods. It's estimated the winds got up to 96 mph in this test, equal to a Category 2 hurricane.

Rain and rivers

by Liza on Sep. 30th, 2010

Alright, it's absolutely beautiful outside today. So what's up with this predicted flooding?

Remember all that rain the week of September 20th? (We got 2-4" here in the Twin Cities, but areas to the southwest of us got as much as 10".)

Rainfall map
Rainfall mapCourtesy National Weather Service

It all had to go somewhere, and that somewhere was the Minnesota River. Why does that affect us here in St. Paul? Take a look at another map:

St. Paul and the rivers
St. Paul and the riversCourtesy NASA (Landsat)

Remember: rivers don't necessarily flow south. The reddish line is the Minnesota River. The blue is the Mississippi. And that little blip just north of where the two rivers come together is downtown St. Paul. (The yellow elipse is the area of highest rainfall.)

All that rain is flowing right past us. And it should be impressive. The river's at 15.4' this morning (moderate flood stage), and predicted to crest at 18' (major flood stage) on Saturday morning. But the recent spate of lovely weather means that the flooding should pass quickly--today's prediction has the water level back under 17" by Monday morning.

St. Paul police have closed all the river roads and parks, and are discouraging people from walking down by the river. But you can get a stellar view of everything from outside the Museum on Kellogg Plaza, or inside the museum from the Mississippi River Gallery on level 5.

A major earthquake (magnitude 7.0) has struck near Christchurch, the second-largest city in New Zealand. Early reports describe extensive damage, but few injuries.

Wonder what magnitude really means?

Twin Cities TV meteorologists can only dream about reporting on this. It's pretty amazing footage of a fire tornado forming in Brazil in an area experiencing wild fires.

Aug
19
2010

Pakistan flood
Pakistan floodCourtesy Nadir B

Millions of Pakistan flood victims desperate for aid

United Nation claims more than four million Pakistanis have been made homeless by nearly 3 weeks of flooding.

The number of Pakistani flood victims in need of urgent humanitarian relief has risen from six million to eight million, the U.N. said."

Water every where but none safe to drink

Outbreaks of cholera are common in large floods. Getting safe drinking water to many millions of people is urgent.

"We could have up to 140,000 cases of cholera," Sabatinelli (WHO) said. "We are preparing ourselves for that."

This disaster is "epic"

The after effects of this Pakistan flooding are worse than the 2004 Tsunami or the earthquakes in China and Haiti. Rebuilding roads, bridges, and buildings, and providing food, water and shelter to the many millions of flood victims is going to take billions of dollars.

Learn more about the Pakistan flood disaster

This made all the weekend news clips, but here's a little more extended version of the storm chaser video of the Wilkin County. Minnesota, tornado from Saturday.

Jun
28
2010

Tropical Storm Alex, which formed over the northwestern Caribbean Sea out of a westward-moving tropical wave on Friday and Saturday (June 26 and27), emerged overnight into the Bay of Campeche from the Yucatan Peninsula. Since emerging from that landmass as a tropical depression (signifying sustained winds weaker than 35 knots), it has strengthened back to Tropical Storm status. Current forecasts place it as a hurricane — possibly major — near the northern Mexico Gulf Coast later this week.

It's Friday, so it's time for a new Science Friday video. Science Friday
Science Friday
Courtesy Science Friday
"Lightning is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the atmospheric sciences, researchers say. Scientists at the International Center for Lightning Research and Testing in Florida are inducing lightning to strike so they can understand it better. Though summer doesn't begin officially for a few weeks, one of the signature marks of summer may already be in the air near you -- the evening thunderstorm. Thousands of lightning strikes occur on the planet every minute, but the summer heat and humidity help to ramp up the number of lightning-producing thunderstorms. We'll talk about the science of lightning."
Learn more.

A sinkhole in Guatemala: The image looks fake, but it's the real thing.
A sinkhole in Guatemala: The image looks fake, but it's the real thing.Courtesy Gobierno de Guatemala
Hopefully someone else can get explain this in more detail, but I thought I'd toss this up here:

Severe rain from tropical storm Agatha has overwhelmed and broken sewage pipes in Guatemala City, washed out sediment beneath certain parts of the city, and caused horrifying spontaneous sinkholes.

The one in the picture is over 60-feet-deep and 45-feet-wide, and it swallowed an entire 3 story building when it opened up. Because of the underlying geography and poor urban engineering, this isn't the first time this has happened (here's an article about an even bigger sinkhole from 2007), and supposedly other sinkholes are still forming in the city.

Everything has been made worse because a nearby volcano erupting just two days before Agatha hit, and the ash it released is forming a muddy, almost concrete-like material with the rainwater. It sounds like a pretty bad situation.