Reading Around the Internet: December 1, 2014

With the turn of the calendar page to the first of December comes the joys of the end of the semester… For me, that means grading term papers, writing final exams, grading final exams, and preparing final grades — and deadlines. Lots of deadlines! Oh, and there’s the whole preparation for the holidays, which this year includes decorating my new living quarters for the first time. My Christmas tree goes up this week — I can hardly wait… And as I type on a balmy 60 degree Sunday evening, there’s a parade happening outside my apartment windows. It seems to me there’s an unusually high number of doggies with reindeer antlers on their heads out there giving their owners some pointedly pathetic looks… It’s nice to have front row seats to the parade!

Even with all that happening, I did find a couple of items in my on-line reading the last week that I thought some of my readers may also find interesting, especially should you want a break from your year-end deadlines or holiday festivities/preparations.

Predicting Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Imagine how much better prepared we could be if we could predict when and where a giant earthquake or tsunami will occur. Researchers have been working on doing just that for quite some time. In a paper published on November 17th in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, a research team led by University of South Florida professor Tim Dixon discusses “slow slip events”, a geological phenomenon that may allow researchers to identify the precursors to major earthquakes. My understanding from a summary of the paper here is that a slow slip event is a bit like an earthquake, only it releases its energy very slowly and over a longer period of time (weeks or months). It appears that slow slip events may be precursors to much bigger earthquakes. If so, they could provide us with valuable information that will help people living in earthquake and tsunami prone areas prepare for major events.

More About Earthquakes

A group of researchers from laboratories at Geosciences Rennes, Geosciences Montpellier and Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, and a scientist in Taiwan have released findings supporting a theory that erosion may also trigger earthquakes. This has consequences for land use planning. If surface activities matter to subsurface movement of the earth, not only does deforestation and the subsequent erosion of land matter, but so would other natural hazards, such as flooding, which often increases the speed of erosion.

In Oklahoma, geologists and other scientists attended a meeting focused on the need for updating national earthquake maps with information concerning man-made hazards, i.e., earthquakes triggered by disposal wells and/or hydraulic fracturing. The three-day workshop was co-hosted by the US Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey. KOSU, which is where the link above goes, interviewed the attendees concerning the importance of including such information for planning and building purposes and summarized the discussions.

Volcanoes

Mount Aso in Japan erupted. According to Newsweek, the last time it blew was 22 years ago. It is one of the largest volcanoes in the world.

In the meantime, Iceland’s Bardarbunga (which, in Icelandic is spelled Bárðarbunga) continues its eruption, This is the longest, continual eruption that Iceland has experienced in centuries. You can see a video here and read about it at the Newsweek site.

Hawaii’s volcano is also still active and still a potential threat to communities in its path. Here’s an update from Hawaii News Now.

First Responders, Robots and Ebola…. Wait… Robots? Yep. Robots. 

NPR ran a story a couple of days ago about first responders learning to use robots in disaster scenario drills in a training site called Disaster City. Apparently, the possibilities for handling future Ebola breakouts may include using robots in search and rescue operations. Researchers think they can design robots that may be able to interact with infected patients, or assisting caretakers with various other tasks. There are many questions that arise in creating such robots. The article is fascinating both for its description of the training site as well as possible uses for technology in a wide variety of disaster scenarios.

Reading Around the Internet

SIU Campus Lake (Carbondale, IL)

There’s been a lot of writing about issues that interest us here at DPP. Here are a few I found most interesting:

Philippines

For the readers interested in disaster recovery in the Philippines, first an apology: I have yet to find someone who can blog for us. But I have kept an eye on the developments there. One of the most useful resources has been the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation.

The he UN has, recently, asked the international community to help with urgent needs that remain in the areaCoconut farmers and fishermen, in particular, are struggling to get back on their feet. CARE has been working to help families re-establish themselves.

In the meantime, The New York Times carried a story earlier this week about two families struggling to recover from the typhoon that is both touching and insightful.  

Cold, Snowy Winter Weather

It’s cold!  The photo that heads this post comes from my wintertime walks around the campus lake at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale…  We, like so many others, are experiencing a very cold, icy and snowy winter (unusual for us that it should last so long!). We’re not the only ones, though! The Climate Depot has a page containing a whole lot of information about the cold so many of us have been experiencing.

Gulf of Mexico/Hypoxia

The health of the Gulf of Mexico is in the news again, with a link to agricultural practices in the midwest. Americanwaterblog.com provides a summary of some recent research that some of our readers will find very interesting.

Here, by the way, is a link to the EPA’s page on hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Colorado Flood Recovery

Colorado recently received Transportation Department funding for flood recovery.

Gov. Hickenlooper has appointed a new recovery chief, Molly Urbina.

Boulder County residents have more assistance coming — be sure to check out the story with information here.

Flood Insurance Politics

Logan has been writing about flood insurance issues of late. In the meantime, the Washington Post reported late last week that the Senate had approved a delay in increased flood insurance premiums. We’ll be writing about this some more, but for now we’d simply like to note that the legislation has the unfortunate name, Grimm-Waters Act, and you can read some more about it here.

Supreme Court/EPA Greenhouse Cases

SCOTUSblog, a favorite of ours around here, is publishing a very interesting symposium on Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA. I summarized the case here.