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Content about Disaster management

November 10, 2010

Link of the week - ImpactEarth

A screenshot of the ImpactEarth website. Click on the picture for a larger version.

The destruction of the Earth by an asteroid is among our favorite horror stories.
But what would really happen if an asteroid hit the Earth?
Jay Melosh and Robert Marcus of the University of Arizona, and Gareth Collins of Imperial College London created a web-based program to estimate the consequences of a comet or asteroid impact.
A basic version was created in 2005, but the version recently created by Purdue is much more attractive - and fun to use. Check it out at this week's featured link!
-Miriam Boon, iSGTW

October 20, 2010

Feature - Climate model tackles clouds

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Animation from the NICAM model simulation of 21 May - 31 August 2009, showing cloudiness (based on outgoing long-wave radiation) in shades of gray and precipitation rate in rainbow colors, based on hourly data from the simulation. The cloudiness is shaded in brighter gray for thicker clouds, and the colors range from shades of green, indicating precipitation rate less than 1 mm/day, to yellow and orange (1 - 16 mm/day), to red (16-64 mm/day) and magenta (> 64 mm/day). The animation begins zoomed in over India and the Bay of Bengal, showing the fact that tropical cyclone Aila, which in reality made landfall near Calcutta killing dozens of Indian and Bangladeshi citizens and displacing over 100,000 people from their homes, was very accurately predicted in the simulation.
Video and caption courtesy NICS

Few areas of science are currently hotter than clima

September 22, 2010

Feature - Surfing for earthquakes

Aftermath of Haiti earthquake. Image courtesy UN Development Program

A better understanding of the ground beneath our feet may come from research by seismologists and an organization called RAPID—a group of computer scientists at the University of Edinburgh.
The very structure of the Earth controls how earthquakes travel and the amount of damage they cause. Therefore, a clear picture of this structure would be extremely valuable to earthquake planners — but it requires the analysis of huge amounts of data.
To help, the RAPID team developed a system that performs the seismologists’ data-crunching, and have made it easy to use by relying on an interface familiar to all scientists: a web browser.
Seismologists measure vibrations in the Earth at hundreds of observatories across Europe, which allows them to study earthquakes as they travel across countries and continents. By measuring the speed and strength of the vibrations at d

June 9, 2010

BP oil spill: Scientists mobilize to create new disaster response science

The Gulf's wildlife is increasingly being affected by the spill. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Less than two weeks after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion killed 11 and began leaking between two and four million liters of oil per day, the calls started coming in. The oil would soon reach the Louisiana coast, where it would do untold amounts of damage to the local marshes, wetlands, and channels. Could the team that successfully modeled hurricane storm surges along the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas coastlines help?
“We started working on the project fairly quickly, probably around the 10th of May,” said Clint Dawson, head of the Computational Hydraulics Group at the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin.
With the highly accurate descriptions of the Gulf of Mexico’s coastline Dawson and his colleagues previously used for hurricane si

June 9, 2010


Link of the Week - If it were my home

When centered on West Hartford, Connecticut, the oil spill stretches over seven U.S. states.
Image courtesy Miriam Boon, taken as a screenshot on 4 June 2010.

It isn’t easy to get perspective on a major disaster such as the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
But this week’s link of the week, “If it was my home,” can at least help us to understand the scale of the oil spill.
The website automatically detects your location, then superimposes an approximate image of the oil spill, based on NOAA data, centered on your location. On the website you can move the oil spill around by entering other locations, or by clicking the button, “Put it back in the gulf.”
By seeing how much familiar ground the oil spill would cover, you can get a better sense of the spill’s physical size.
Of course, the information displayed on this map is just the tip of the, ah, oil; much of the spill remains underwater.
It is

June 9, 2010

Video of the Week - Simulations show scenarios for oil spill

This animation shows one scenario of how oil released at the location of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico may move in the upper 65 feet of the ocean. This is not a forecast, but rather, it illustrates a likely dispersal pathway of the oil for roughly four months following the spill. It assumes oil spilling continuously from April 20 to June 20. The colors represent a dilution factor ranging from red (most concentrated) to beige (most diluted). The dilution factor does not attempt to estimate the actual barrels of oil at any spot; rather, it depicts how much of the total oil from the source will be carried elsewhere by ocean currents. For example, areas showing a dilution factor of 0.01 would have one-hundredth the concentration of oil present at the spill site.
The animation is based on a computer model simulation, using a virtual dye, that assumes weather and current conditions similar to

April 28, 2010

Announcement - Tell us your travel tales coming back from the User Forum, win a T-shirt

Screen shot showing air traffic over Europe, and places with closed airports as of Friday night, April 16. Blue is closed, yellow is open. Image courtesy

Now that air transportation is slowly getting back to normal in the wake of that ash cloud from the Iceland volcano, stories have been streaming in from User Forum attendees about their adventures in returning home from the conference site in central Sweden. To collect them all in one place, GridCast is encouraging travelogue blogposts on its site.
To get the ball rolling, here’s our adventure tale:
iSGTW and company had some . . . colorful . . . moments on the way home to Geneva, such as the incident with the bus tickets we didn’t need, gave away, and then realized we did need — and then found in the trash at the ticket counter.
Or the all-night bus on Sunday between Stockholm and Copenhagen with the br

April 28, 2010

Image of the Week - Earthquake comics

Image courtesy PHIVOLCS

In the EUAsiaGrid Disaster Mitigation Workshop at ISGC 2010, Bart Bautista of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) reminded delegates that it is not enough to simply detect earthquakes and the tsunamis they produce with sophisticated sensors, or simulate them with grid computing. Countries in earthquake-prone regions must also invest heavily in preparing the population to cope with major natural disasters. This starts in schools, where outreach material like the comic book shown above is used to raise awareness among children.
— Francois Grey, EUAsia Grid

March 17, 2010

Feature - Sixty seconds to save a city

Circles indicate warning times for the earthquake that hit Taiwan on 4 March 2010, using a new approach to detection that gives up to 40 seconds more early warning. Taipei is the northernmost city indicated on the map, on the 50 second circle. Image courtesy Nai-Chi Hsiao, Central Weather Bureau, Taiwan.

At the International Symposium on Grid Computing (ISGC 2010) in Taipei last week, a special two-day EUAsiaGrid Disaster Mitigation Workshop devoted a day to the latest technological progress in monitoring and simulating earthquakes and tsunamis. In a situation where every second counts, grid computing could one day help authorities assess the potential impact of an earthquake quickly enough to avoid the worst consequences.
The day before ISGC 2010 began, Taiwan was hit by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in the south part of the island, making headlines worldwide.
But earthquakes are a daily reality for Taiwan’s inhabitants, and indeed

March 17, 2010

Computationally mapping damage in Haiti

Image courtesy of MAGIC.

This image maps earthquake damage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti as of 13 January 2010. Areas overlaid by the translucent orange squares suffered the most damage, followed by dark and then pale yellow. (To see a larger version of the image and read the legend, click on the image above.)
A variety of data sets crucial to disaster relief efforts, including these maps, are hosted on the Corral system at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. The Mid-American Geospatial Information Center (MAGIC) at the Center for Space Research (CSR) at the University of Texas at Austin curates remote sensing data gathered via satellites, aerial reconnaissance, radar, LiDAR, and photography.
According to Gordon Wells, program manager and principal investigator for MAGIC, data needs to be processed before it is distributed to emergency responders.

Satellite images captured obliquely from space distort the Earth’s topography such that th

January 27, 2010

Announcement - Register now for Security Jam, to be held 4-9 Feb (on-line event)

Image courtesy Security Jam

The European Commission and NATO are joining together as co-sponsors of a worldwide online brainstorm — the Security Jam — with the aim of producing recommendations on how to make our world a safer place.
To be held online from 4 February to 9 February, this event will feature topics such as: Climate Change, Crisis Management, Afghanistan, Human Rights, Piracy, and Development. This format will allow stakeholders direct access to a broad level of input from NGOs, security & defence practitioners, political and military figures, think tanks, academics and journalists.
Several thousand participants will debate online over the 5-day period. And, as an online session, it allows participants to log in and log out at their convenience, from anywhere in the world, once they’re registered.
Security Jam is organized by a number of think-tanks, including t

January 27, 2010

Image - Satellite maps aid Haiti earthquake relief

Click on map for full-screen, PDF version. Original courtesy UNOSAT

Emergency response teams in Haiti are getting a helping hand from UNOSAT, the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Program. Operating out of  CERN, UNOSAT is supplying maps of the roads in Port-Au-Prince to help humanitarian aid workers avoid road blockages. The maps show the location of debris that is blocking roads and bridges outright (shown in red) or partially restricting access (shown in orange).
The computer-intensive raw images from UNOSAT are transferred to EGEE, where programs compress the satellite images for transmission over low-bandwidth connections, allowing users to access the latest maps from devices as simple as mobile phones — essential in areas where land-lines are down and infrastructure destroyed. The location of the debris is captured by the GeoEye-1 satellite and placed on top of the c

November 25, 2009

Event of the week: D4Science World User Forum

Climate change will produce major shifts in the productivity of the world’s fisheries, with an average of 30–70% increase in high-latitude regions and a drop of up to 40% in the tropics. This will affect ocean food supply throughout the world, particularly in the tropics.
This image shows the change in maximum catch potential (percent change relative to 2005) from 2005 to 2055 in each ½ x ½ degree cell under one of the climate change scenarios described by this study. Image courtesy the Sea Around Us project. Click on map to enlarge.

There are several independant projects studying things such as climate change, the decline in the the world’s fisheries, and the effects upon our food supply — such as the map above from the Sea Around Us project.
But how do you bring all this source material together into one centralized, coordinated place? How can you produce computer-generated, reproducible rang

October 28, 2009

Feature - In case of emergency, call SPRUCE

A part of the complete synthetic social contact network of Chicago obtained by integrating diverse data sources and methods based on social theories. This sort of simulation can bring insight into how a virus will transmit through a population. Check out this SciDac Review article for more information about this research. Image courtesy of Madhav Marathe and SDSC.

When disaster strikes, simulations could give authorities the information they need to save lives. But simulations are computationally intensive, and during a crisis, there’s no time to wait in line for access to computer resources. That’s where urgent computing comes in.
“What you really want is to be able to hook together or have access to all the supercomputers that you need, wherever they are,” said Pete Beckman, project lead for TeraGrid’s Special PRiority and Urgent Computing Environment, or SPRUCE. “The purpose of this sort of urgent com

September 23, 2009

Feature – New organization shakes up earthquake consortium

Earthquake engineers at University of Nevada, Reno test a 110-ft bridge model to failure. Image courtesy of Joan Dixon/University of Nevada, Reno.

We cannot stop earthquakes and tsunamis from happening. But with well-engineered buildings, we can prevent some of the death and damage these natural disasters leave in their wake.
First, however, engineers must understand how buildings react when shaken by earthquakes or pummeled by tsunami waves. To accomplish that goal, researchers use a combination of specialized equipment: giant tables that shake, wave tables filled with water, and high-end computing resources that can simulate just about anything.
To find out how sound a building will be during an earthquake, researchers can build a model on top of a large shake table. But most of the shake tables in the United States are not large enough to accommodate an entire building. Instead, they accommodate individual building com

August 26, 2009

Image of the Week - Watch a tornado

Large-Eddy simulation of a tornado's interaction with the surface. Image courtesy Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Just what does the interior of a tornado look like as it swirls over the land?
To find out, researchers W.S. Lewellen, D.C. Lewellen and Aytekin Gel of West Virginia University made high resolution, fully 3-D simulations in an attempt to answer questions about the character of the turbulent eddies in this unique flow.
The following animated clip, made by Gel in close cooperation with the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center’s (PSC) Scientific-Visualization Group, uses particle advection to represent wind direction and isosurfaces to show pressure inside a 400 m x 400 m x 400 m domain from a simulation involving approximately 100 hours of a Cray C90 supercomputer at PSC.
As a resource provider in TeraGrid, a National Science Foundation program of coordinated cyberinfrastructure for education and research, PSC works with its T

July 29, 2009

Feature - Burning down the house (with FireGrid)

Fire at a warehouse. Image courtesy London Fire Brigade

About noon on 29 October 2008, a fire broke out in a small apartment in the town of Watford, UK.
The fire had been deliberately started in a sofa in the living room. With no intervention, the sofa soon started to burn fiercely, allowing the fire to spread to a nearby table and TV. The temperature within the room increased to such a high level that the walls and other furnishings burst into flames, a phenomenon known as “flash-over” that would have been potentially fatal to anyone in the apartment. As the flash-over occurred, a ball of fire coursed down the hallway, creating a plume of flame that curled around the front door. At this point, the fire was calmly extinguished.The fire was actually a test, run in a state-of-the-art “burn hall facility” — essentially a large hanger in which the apartment rig was assembled — at the Building

May 6, 2009

Opinion - Food for thought at EUAsia Grid

Image courtesy Raffy Saldana. Image on previous page courtesy Steve Wood,

“Ni chi le ma” is a common greeting amongst Chinese. It means “how are you?” but translates literally as “have you eaten?” The central role of mealtime in Chinese culture was made abundantly clear to a group of participants in the EUAsiaGrid project last week at Academia Sinica in Taipei, as they sat around a table laden with Taiwanese specialties. The food helped stimulate several good ideas for future grid applications that could help to build new scientific collaborations in Asia.Participating in the dinner were a Malaysian, an Indonesian, a Czech, an Italian, an Australian, two Filipinos and half a dozen Taiwanese. While enjoying steamed ginger fish, tea-flavored dumplings and other exotic dishes, the researchers bounced ideas back and forth for ways to promote joint efforts in earthquake and tsunami research in the region, us

April 29, 2009

Feature - Foreseeing floods

A typical forecast for France. Green represents good weather, yellow is possible rain, darker yellow (at bottom center) is Level 3 Hazardous Weather Alert. Image above  courtesy Meteo France. Image on previous page courtesy Gavin Spence,

During the last decade, flash floods have become one of the most significant natural hazards in Europe.
In September 2002, the Cévennes mountain range in south central France experienced a storm that lasted for 15 hours and caused 600 mm (almost 2 feet) of rain within one day — the normal equivalent of one year’s rain in the Paris area. Unexpected flash floods caused the deaths of more than 20 people, and economic damage estimated at 1.2 billion euros (about $1,555,261,897 in US dollars as of press time).
The ability to predict such situations is vital.
“There were not forecasting systems set up at that point (of the 2002 flood),” says Vincent Thierion, a geo-informatics researcher

April 22, 2009

Feature - Flood of data can help prevent hurricane damage

These scientific visualizations of Hurricane Katrina were created at the LSU Laboratory of Creative Arts + Technology (LCAT)  by the CCT sci-viz group.
New Orleans Perspective from Lake Pontchartrain, LIDAR elevation, GOES-12 satellite imagery, and Adcirc sea elevation and levee system,  AUG 26 - AUG 31st.
The LIDAR heightfield is color coded: yellow/green for land above sea level, blue at sea level and violet below sea level. The land above sea level in New Orleans was formed by the Mississipippi River naturally flooding and depositing sediment. The natural levee that surrounds the river can be seen in green as well as the Gentilly, Metairie Ridge. The height of the storm surge is indicated by dark blue.  The Adcirc levee system is shown in pink.
Image courtesy of

When the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane advisory, emergency teams have little time to predict the locations a

April 15, 2009

Feature - DANTE dances to the volcano

Doin’ the volcano dance. Image this page and previous page courtesy CityDance Ensemble

In late March, an American modern dance company on tour in Cambridge, England, performed to some truly “earth-shaking” music, created by DANTE engineer Domenico Vicinanza. His collaborators in creating the music were  . . . volcanoes from Italy, Ecuador and the Philippines.Researchers have long sought to predict a volcano’s eruptions by looking for patterns in its seismic behavior. With the use of complex sonification algorithms, Vicinanza found he could take recordings of a volcano’s seismic behavior and translate what he found into audible sound waves, thereby transforming the raw seismic data into something easier to use for predicting eruptions.  Intrigued, Vicinanza went one step further, using the computational power of the grid to convert audible sound waves from multiple volcanoes — Mount Etna, Mount Tungu

April 8, 2009

Image of the week - Emergency management at your fingertips   Image courtesy of RENCILed by Jessica Proud, a project team from the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) has partnered with the North Carolina State Climate Office and the National Weather Service to develop and deploy NC-FIRST. NC-FIRST is a program designed to help first responders and county emergency managers decipher weather data, understand weather threats and choose actions that minimize the threats to lives and property caused by extreme weather. This customizable Web portal environment aggregates information — radar imagery, watches and warnings and surface observations — from a wide range of weather Web sites, satellites and radars into a format that is easy-to-use — and easy to carry.

February 4, 2009

Feature - Anticipating "The big one" Click here or on image  to view the animation.The detailed, perspective views show the ground shaking from a viewpoint two miles (three kilometers) above the earth looking towards each location. The left panel shows a map view of the area with the fault rupture highlighted in red, the epicenter (location where the rupture starts) identified by the red ball, and the location shown in the right panel labeled in yellow. In the right panel the deformation of the ground associated with the propagation of the seismic waves is exaggerated by a factor of 1000. Simulations developed by the Southern California Earthquake Center ShakeOut Simulation workgroup. Animations courtesy of the U.S Geological Survey and the Southern California Earthquake Center. At 10 a.m. on November 13, 5.3 million people in Southern California participated in the largest earthquake preparedness activity in U.S. history. The Great Southern California ShakeOut — an earthquake drill that was a collaborati

July 30, 2008

Feature - ORIENT grid project supports Chinese earthquake aid work The idea behind the sending of high-definition image of China's earthquake damage on the ORIENT grid can be traced to the transmission of radio-telescope data from the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory to Europe. Image courtesy of GÉANT2 When a major earthquake struck Sichuan, China last May, rescue workers urgently needed high-resolution satellite images of the affected areas in order to identify the extent of the earthquake’s devastation and aid in post-disaster relief. They also wanted the information to help protect the area from further risk during rebuilding efforts.To do so, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology turned to the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) for a key item to analysis and reconstruction: The ORIENT project’s high-capacity data communication route. Normally used to link research and education networks between China and Europe for things such as high speed transmission of astronomical d

July 9, 2008

Feature - World Community Grid to Tackle Rice Crisis IBM and researchers at the University of Washington launched a new programon World Community Grid, a humanitarian research effort,  to developstronger strains of rice that could produce crops with larger and morenutritious yields. Image courtesy of the University of Washington. As concerns of a global hunger crisis mount, researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, have launched a new program on IBM’s World Community Grid to develop stronger strains of rice that could produce crops with larger, more nutritious yields and greater resistance to changing weather patterns. Jumpstarted by a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the “Nutritious Rice for the World” program will harness over 160 teraflops of the grid’s volunteer-donated processing power to study rice at the atomic level.  Researchers expect the results to transfer to other cereal crops such as corn, wheat, and barley and to have a major impact on global hea