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natural disasters

Benchmarks: March 27, 1964: The Good Friday Alaska Earthquake and Tsunamis

During the Cold War, many Americans lived in fear of the day their town would be shaken by an atomic bomb blast. On Good Friday 1964, some Alaskans thought that day had come. Beginning at 5:36 p.m., intense ground shaking continued for almost five minutes as the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in North America struck 22.5 kilometers beneath Prince William Sound, where the Pacific Plate is subducting beneath the North American Plate. The shaking — felt over an area of more than 1.3 million square kilometers — was so severe and long-lived that some survivors later said they first thought the Soviet Union had dropped a nuclear bomb on Anchorage, 120 kilometers northwest of the epicenter.

27 Feb 2014

A tsunami by many other names

Storm-triggered waves have been recognized and recorded around the world, including the U.S. where, in addition to the Great Lakes, they have occurred in New England, on the West Coast and on the Gulf Coast. In some parts of the world, they are common enough to have special names. In Croatia, the phenomenon is called Šćiga; in Malta, it is Milghuba; in Spain, Rissaga; in Japan, Abiki; and in Finland, Seebär. Scientists everywhere call them meteorological tsunamis, or meteotsunamis. Here are a few notable occurrences:

19 Feb 2014

A history of tsunami-like waves on the Great Lakes

Severe and deadly seiche events are rare on the Great Lakes. In the last century, about 10 major waves have hit the shores of the Great Lakes, but smaller anomalous waves occur much more frequently. Many of the deadliest have occurred on Lake Michigan, but Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie have also experienced them. In addition to the June 26, 1954, event, some others were: 

19 Feb 2014

Tsunamis from the sky: Can meteotsunamis be forecast?

The Great Lakes, along with the U.S. East Coast, the Mediterranean, Japan and many other parts of the world, have a long history of mysterious large waves striking unsuspecting coastlines. Such waves have characteristics similar to tsunamis triggered by earthquakes or landslides. Only recently, however, have scientists unraveled how a storm can create and propagate these far-traveling waves — called meteorological tsunamis or meteotsunamis. 

19 Feb 2014

2013 Front Range Flooding: An Ecological Perspective

The 2013 Colorado floods may have been a record-setting event in human terms, but scientists and resource managers emphasize that what happened along the Front Range was a natural occurrence.

26 Jan 2014

When water, gravity and geology collide: Firsthand observations of the impacts of the 2013 Colorado floods

Around almost every bend in the road on our tour of the Colorado Front Range and points downstream in the weeks after the September floods, the physical devastation confronted us like a punch in the gut. Even though we had all seen graphic images on the news, observing the destruction firsthand, especially from a geologic perspective, was truly stunning and humbling.

21 Jan 2014

Disaster strikes along Colorado’s Front Range

In early September last year, the weather along Colorado’s Front Range, the urbanized corridor paralleling the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, swung from one extreme to another. The first week of the month was exceptionally hot and dry, with high temperatures averaging 7 to 9 degrees Celsius above normal. For three days in a row, the city of Denver matched or exceeded its record high temperatures, according to National Weather Service (NWS) data.

20 Jan 2014

Be prepared: Navigating the risks of hazards research

Just over a year ago, in a cavernous room of the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, Calif., hundreds of geophysicists, seismologists, volcanologists and climate scientists, as well as a few journalists and a lawyer or two, sat transfixed as a panel discussed the manslaughter conviction of six scientists and a public official in Italy a few months earlier.

11 Dec 2013

Giant quake sloshed fjords half a world away

On the morning of March 11, 2011, Leif Hus and his wife Gry Melas Hus were having breakfast in their kitchen overlooking Sognefjord in Leikanger, Norway. It was low tide on a calm and windless day with near-freezing temperatures. As they stood, coffee cups in hand, looking out the window at the fjord, they saw an unusual wave roll in. The wave continued to rise, surging over the seawall into their backyard before receding back into the fjord. Then another wave surged in, and another. As the water rose, engulfing the ladder on their dock, Leif grabbed his cell phone and started filming.

02 Dec 2013

Bailing through the Boulder flood: One neighborhood’s experience

In lieu of doing a "year in review" issue this year, EARTH asked our staff and some frequent contributors to write a short commentary on something that grabbed their attention in 2013. We gave everyone carte blanche. What follows is a collection of extremely varied, often very personal insights into how the planet impacted each individual. First up? The experience of EARTH's associate editor and her family in dealing with the Colorado floods.

18 Nov 2013

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