There are a lot more rumors and doomsday prophecies flying around, especially on the Web, than I realized. Dr. David Morrison, at NASA's Ames Research Center, takes aim at each of the wild ideas circulating and dismisses them. But I don't expect the doomsday proponents will pay much attention to the scientific community on this.
The USGS also posted details and links for more extensive resources to answer questions about each of the major disasters including:
forecasting and hazards research.
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program website
of Volcanic Unrest
States is home to 169 active volcanoes, many of which could erupt at any time.
Fortunately, volcanoes generally show signs of unrest hours, weeks and months
before they erupt. Changes in gas emissions, swelling of a volcano, and swarms
of small earthquakes are signs that a volcano is awakening. All of these
changes can be detected with proper monitoring equipment.
The USGS National
Volcano Early Warning System is designed to detect these signs of
unrest at the earliest stages. The USGS issues warnings and alerts of potential
volcanic hazards—including imminent or ongoing eruptions, ash fall forecasts,
and when eruptions have ended—to responsible emergency-management authorities
and those potentially affected. These warnings prevent episodes of volcanic
unrest from becoming volcanic disasters.
USGS Volcano Hazards
occur in all 50 states and pose a significant risk in many areas. Scientists
know landslides are likely on the west coast during its rainy season from November
to March, during spring and summer thunderstorms in the western mountain
states, and during hurricane season along the east coast. People at especially
high risk for landslide damage are those living on or below steep hill slopes.
can lead to flash flooding and debris flow, as vegetation is removed that would
have served as a stabilizing factor and the remaining burned soil is less able
to absorb rainwater. Landslides can also occur from earthquakes, volcanic
activity, changes in groundwater, or disturbance and change of a slope by
man-made construction activities.
The USGS is working with
the National Weather Service on a prototype Debris
Flow Warning System to help provide forecasts and warnings about what
areas are at imminent risk of having a debris flow or mudslide when rainfall
thresholds are met.
Landslide Hazards Program website.
Report your landslide experiences and
sightings at the new USGS “Did
You See It?” website.
plays an integral role in preparing
for and responding to wildfires.
The USGS also provides real-time geospatial support for firefighters during the
events, including up-to-the minute maps
and satellite imagery about current wildfire extent and behavior.
Storms, Floods and More
season runs from June 1 through November, with September as the peak time when
they are most likely to strike. But hurricanes and tropical storms can hit at
other times as well.
from storms is another concern, as is drought from lack of rainfall. The USGS
conducts real-time monitoring of the nation’s rivers and streams, and you can
visit USGS WaterWatch to
see whether river levels are higher or lower than normal. You can also use
USGS WaterAlert to
receive texts or emails when water levels at a specific streamgage exceed
certain thresholds. The National Weather Service relies on timely and
accurate USGS data to issue flood warnings, and the partnership between the two
agencies runs deep. Together, the USGS, the National Weather Service and the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are also developing flood inundation
maps that show, street by street, block by block, and hour by hour exactly
where the flood waters will be.
What is a
magnetic storm? The sun is always emitting a wind of electrically charged
particles that flows outward into space. If these concentrations of solar wind
are directed towards the Earth, then the magnetic field of the Earth in space
(the magnetosphere) can be disturbed, sometimes for days.
magnetic storms can cause loss of radio communication, affect
global-positioning systems, damage satellite electronics and cause electrical
blackouts. Damaging storms occur about 4 times a decade, with smaller events
occurring more frequently. Magnetic storms can be detected up to 2 days in
advance by monitoring the sun. They come in all sizes, but the largest storms
tend to occur when sunspots (concentrations of magnetic energy on the surface
of the sun) are most numerous.
monitoring of “space weather” conditions is a responsibility of several U.S.
government agencies, including NOAA, NASA, and the U.S. Air Force. The USGS has
the unique responsibility of monitoring geomagnetic activity at the Earth’s
surface, close to where most of the effects of magnetic storms are actually
realized. Learn more and view
near-real time conditions of the magnetic field.
Prepared, Every Day
to consider on December 21, 2012, and every day is: Have I done everything I
can to ensure that my family and I are prepared, should a disaster strike? This
includes preparing and practicing your emergency plan and building a disaster supplies kit with
food, water and basic needs. Natural disasters will continue to occur, on any
given day, but a more informed scientific understanding can lead to better
preparedness and safer communities.
[Thanks to NASA and USGS]