Natural Disasters

As Californians Pump Groundwater, Land Sinks and Aquifers Shrink

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 15, 2014   View Article

So much water is being pumped from the ground in parched California that the land is sinking, according to scientists.

The more Californians rely on groundwater, the worse these problems will get, experts across industry, government, and academia say. But, they said, the pumping is likely to continue given a confluence of factors that range from urban population growth to an expanding agricultural industry.

‘That Was Home’: Residents Rebuild in Wildfire-Prone Areas

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 12, 2014   View Article

The most destructive wildfire in Colorado history swept through the Black Forest community outside of Colorado Springs and destroyed nearly 500 homes last June, and scores of those residents are starting to come back. But so could the fire.

Less than a year after the wildfire, 171 permits for new homes have been issued and the rebuilding process is well underway. There’s always a possibility that another massive fire may sweep through the area, but that’s just part of life in the woods, according to residents.

Among the first homes to burn belonged to Ray and Cindy Miller, who have lived on five acres in the quiet, forested community for 32 years. “When we came back to the property, it was devastating because all of the trees were pretty much gone,” said Cindy Miller, who had fled her home with just two blouses, makeup, and a camera as wind-whipped flames and black smoke engulfed the home. “But I just closed my eyes and listened to the sounds. That was home. I knew that I had to rebuild there.”

Parched California Braces for Drought Without End in Sight

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 24, 2014   View Article

As California and other western states face what some scientists fear could be a prolonged drought amplified by global warming, water experts say there’s simply no way to predict how long the dry spell will last.

The best thing to do, they said, is to prepare for the worst and hope for rain. It wouldn’t be the first time California soil went parched for a long stretch. Tree growth rings in the region show evidence of prolonged periods of aridity in the past.

“To know that we are going into another pattern like that, that we could expect this drought to persist for 10 to 15 years is really, really, really hard to say,” Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb., told NBC News. “There is really nothing in our forecasting models that are being looked at that would suggest that we would even have the ability to do that.”

Surviving typhoons will require smart building – and a cultural shift

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 11, 2013   View Article

As the devastation from Typhoon Haiyan becomes clear, a question lurks on the horizon: How can the world’s most vulnerable communities prepare for increased storminess on a warming planet? Answers range from using nature to weaken surging walls of water to building homes that can withstand buffeting winds. All will require a shift in priorities, experts say.

“The science is very clear about the trends in climate change, and one of the impacts is definitely more intense and potentially more frequent storms,” Imen Meliane, director of the international marine program at The Nature Conservancy in Washington, told NBC News. To prepare for this stormier world, the environmental group advocates increasing the natural protections of coastlines.

Weather pattern could provide early warning for catastrophic U.S. heat waves

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 27, 2013   View Article

The emergence of a newly identified atmospheric pattern is likely to provide two to three weeks advance warning that a stifling and potentially deadly heat wave will hit the U.S., according to a new study. Since current forecasts go out no more than 10 days, the additional notice could give homeowners, farmers, electric companies and hospitals critical time to prepare for severe heat.

The precursor is a so-called “wavenumber 5″ pattern, a sequence of alternating high and low pressure systems — five each — that ring the northern mid-latitudes several miles above the Earth’s surface, according the research published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

11-year-old designs a better sandbag, named ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 10, 2013   View Article

An 11-year-old boy from Florida has designed a new kind of sandbag to better protect life and property from the ravages of saltwater floods. His invention took top honors at a science fair this week, earning him a $25,000 check and a trip to Costa Rica.

“Living in Florida, I’m keenly aware of hurricanes and saltwater flooding,” the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge grand prize winner Peyton Robertson, who is a sixth grader at the Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., told NBC News.

Warming planet could spawn bigger, badder thunderstorms

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 23, 2013   View Article

As the Earth continues to warm during this century, atmospheric conditions ripe for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes will increase in the U.S., according to a new study.

Given the amount of damage caused by the straight-line winds, golf-ball-sized hail or flash floods associated with any given severe thunderstorm, understanding whether they will increase in frequency or intensity on a warming planet is a key question in climate science.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach