When Hurricane Sandy struck New York City a few weeks ago, seven of the 14 under-river subway tunnels flooded as a result of the storm surge, halting operation of some subway lines for more than a week. One possible future safeguard for this kind of disaster: huge, inflatable tunnel plugs.
By Jennie WaltersPosted 06.30.2011 at 11:00 am 9 Comments
Last summer’s floods in Pakistan displaced millions of people--and millions of spiders. Although spiders rarely migrate to trees during natural disasters, the flooding was so heavy and prolonged, they had to climb trees and remain there. According to University of Akron biologist Todd Blackledge, who studies web-weaving spiders, some spin new webs each day. After weeks, the dense layers of silk, seen here in Sindh province, covered the trees--a result of continuous web spinning by the eight-legged refugees.
The ongoing flooding along the Mississippi River is the worst the region has seen in recent memory--all three of the river's three major spillways are open at the same time for the first time ever, diverting flood waters from New Orleans and one of America's major fuel refining corridors. Other areas aren't so lucky; water flowing from Louisiana's Morganza spillway (one of the big three) is flooding the Atchafalaya River basin, displacing some 4,000 people. Scenes of inundated towns, rooftops peeking above the water line, are playing out from the upper Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico.
But while the 2011 floods are the worst in years, for many places they're not the worst in that many years. The Big Muddy is topping its banks and barriers more frequently and with greater consequences than flood models tend to predict. There are several reasons for that depending on who you ask, but regardless of whether it's global warming, bad flood modeling, or simple statistical anomaly, one thing is abundantly clear: the mighty Mississippi wants out of the path that humans have determined for it, and it is increasingly finding ways to escape.
Atmospheric warming is causing saltier oceans and nastier storms
By Abe StreepPosted 05.04.2011 at 10:09 am 4 Comments
As the atmosphere warms, the water cycle—the process by which seawater evaporates, rains down, and then evaporates again—will intensify. Everywhere, the ocean surface will become, on average, saltier. The extra evaporated water vapor will rain down disproportionately in areas such as the tropics and Scandinavia, bringing stronger storms and more frequent floods. Meanwhile, the areas just north and south of the tropics, which already tend to be saltier than other regions, will become saltier and warmer.
By Caitlin KearneyPosted 04.14.2011 at 12:06 pm 2 Comments
A week before last December’s massive floods in Queensland, Australia, volunteers from the Australian Bat Clinic and Wildlife Trauma Centre rescued 150 orphaned grey-headed flying foxes, these five among them.
A team of NASA researchers has successfully completed the first demonstration of a prototype tsunami prediction system. Using global and regional real-time data from hundreds of GPS sites, the new system can quickly assess large earthquakes and accurately predict the size of resulting tsunamis.
The new system, developed by Y. Tony Song and his colleagues at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, uses GPS data from NASA's Global Differential GPS (GDGPS) and information about continental slope (where the ocean floor descends from the edge of the continent to the ocean bottom) to estimate the energy transferred to the ocean by an undersea earthquake.
Worst-case planning never hurt anybody, and certainly not federal water projects that cost millions of dollars and could be easily undone by climate change and rising sea levels. A new policy now requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to plan for future climate change when designing plans for flood control or other projects.