Wildfires raged through Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California this summer, taking the lives of firefighters and forcing thousands to flee their homes. Months earlier and half a world away, another disaster struck when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Nepal resulted in thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands left homeless and entire villages flattened.
How can societies better predict or prevent such catastrophes? How can they help people recover more quickly from disasters?
To help find answers to these and other questions about natural hazards, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded 11 new grants totaling $27.5 million through its Interdisciplinary Research in Hazards and Disasters (Hazards SEES) solicitation. The effort is part of NSF's Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) investment.
Hazards SEES is funded by several NSF directorates and offices: Geosciences; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Engineering; Social, Economic and Behavioral Sciences; Mathematical and Physical Sciences; and the Office of Integrative Activities.
"Improving our understanding of the processes associated with natural hazards is of critical importance to all of us," says Roger Wakimoto, NSF Geosciences Directorate assistant director. "These events often result in casualties and can affect the infrastructure on which society relies. Improving our predictive capability while we build resilience so communities can respond and recover are key goals of the projects NSF is supporting through the Hazards SEES program."
Program goals include:
Advancing understanding of the processes associated with natural hazards and technological hazards linked to natural phenomena, and their interactions.
Improving understanding of the causes, interdependencies, and cumulative effects these hazards have on individuals, the natural and built environments, and society as a whole. Enhancing capabilities for forecasting or predicting hazards, mitigating their effects, and enhancing the capacity to respond to and recover from resulting disasters. Hazards SEES projects cross discipline boundaries of geosciences, including atmospheric, earth and ocean sciences; computer and information science; cyberinfrastructure; engineering; mathematics, statistics and physical sciences; and social, economic and behavioral sciences.
Hazards SEES scientists and engineers will conduct research on topics including developing an integrated approach to risk assessment and management in responding to land-falling hurricanes in a changing climate, and exploring methods to enhance emergency preparedness for critical infrastructure failure during extreme heat events.
Others will focus on land management strategies for confronting risks and consequences of wildfires, resilience in the face of prolonged and uncertain risk from persistent volcanic crises, and understanding cross-scale interactions of trade and food policy to improve resilience to drought risk.
The researchers hope to find new ways to beat disasters--in whatever form they may arrive.
2015 NSF Hazards SEES Awards:
Crystal Kolden, University of Idaho, Hazards SEES: Advancing Resilience to Compounding Disasters: An Integrated Natural-Human Systems Assessment of Wildfire Vulnerability
Abbie Liel, University of Colorado Boulder, Hazards SEES: The Risk Landscape of Earthquakes Induced by Deep Wastewater Injection
Ning Lin, Princeton University, Hazard SEES: An Integrated Approach to Risk Assessment and Management in Responding to Land Falling Hurricanes in a Changing Climate
Thomas Overbye, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Hazards SEES: Improved prediction of geomagnetic disturbances, geomagnetically induced currents, and their impacts on power distribution systems
Srinivasan Parthasarathy, Ohio State University, Hazards SEES: Social and Physical Sensing Enabled Decision Support for Disaster Management and Response
Thomas Peacock, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Hazards SEES: Advanced Lagrangian Methods for Prediction, Mitigation and Response to Environmental Flow Hazards
Justin Sheffield, Princeton University, Hazards SEES: Understanding Cross-Scale Interactions of Trade and Food Policy to Improve Resilience to Drought Risk
Brian Stone, Georgia Tech Research Corporation, Hazards SEES: Enhancing Emergency Preparedness for Critical Infrastructure Failure during Extreme Heat Events
Christina Tague, University of California, Santa Barbara, Hazards SEES: Land Management Strategies for Confronting Risks and Consequences of Wildfire
Satish Ukkusuri, Purdue University, Hazards SEES: Bridging Information, Uncertainty, and Decision-Making in Hurricanes using an Interdisciplinary Perspective
Greg Valentine, SUNY at Buffalo, Hazards SEES: Persistent volcanic crises resilience in the face of prolonged and uncertain risk