Science & Technology

Potentially catastrophic natural disasters threaten 57% of U.S. structures

Calwood Fire emits smoke as it approaches the vicinity of Boulder County on October 17, 2020. Credit: Malachi Brooks

Rising temperatures and dangerous developments have contributed to increased exposure to earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires.

More than half of the buildings in the continental United States are exposed to potentially catastrophic natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, and wildfires. New research In the AGU journal The future of the earth, Publishing interdisciplinary research on the past, present and future of our planet and its inhabitants.

Rising temperatures and changing environments contribute to this trend, and the study also sheds light on another cause of how humans develop vast lands, towns and cities.

Virginia Iglesias, a research scientist and lead author of the paper at the University of Colorado Boulder Earth Lab, said: “But are losses also increasing because of the way we are developing our city, our town?”

Yes, a new analysis has been found. To assess the impact of development on natural disaster risk, Iglesias and her colleagues created a map of the dangers of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, obtained from Zillow’s database of housing and assets. Compared to a unique data set of past land use. The team identified “hotspots” of natural disasters by mapping locations where the probability or magnitude of individual natural disaster events was in the top 10%.

US natural disaster hotspots

More than half of the US building environment is at risk of being affected by natural disasters, according to a new study. These are mainly earthquakes (magenta), floods (cyan), hurricanes (gray), tornadoes (yellow), and wildfires (orange). The probability or magnitude of natural events is assumed to be constant throughout the study period (1945-2015). Credit: Inglesias et al. (2021) The future of the earth https://doi.org/10.1029/2020EF001795

“Development patterns promote exposure and loss, so more detailed mapping can improve national risk assessments,” Iglesias said. “This study bridges the gap by investigating changes in hazard exposure across the country in fine resolution, on multiple hazards, and over a long period of time.”

The study shows that 57% of structures in the continental United States are in natural disaster hotspots. These hotspots occupy only about one-third of the total land. Approximately 1.5 million buildings are located in two or more natural disaster hotspots. Despite the national slowdown in development over the last decade, the authors found that the number of natural disaster hotspot structures is still increasing.

At some hotspots, people built protections like levees and breakwaters, the authors pointed out in a new assessment. This will be an interesting question for future research. Can that infrastructure protect the property from future dangerous events?

The study also investigated regional development patterns that affect hazard risk. For example, in hurricanes and earthquake hotspots, the main factor in the increased risk was the fact that people are adding buildings, homes and other structures to already developed areas of cities and suburbs. In wildfires, floods and tornado hotspots, it was the expansion of new buildings in rural areas and wilderness that increased the risk of damage.

Iglesias and her colleagues have found that local decision makers can use the innovative methods in this study to improve risk assessments within their scope and increase risk exposure in their neighborhoods and communities. It suggests a better understanding of economic variables.

“Vulnerability is important. There is evidence that natural disasters exacerbate socio-economic inequality,” Iglesias said. “If we want to make decisions that effectively empower communities to deal with natural disasters, we need to know where vulnerable people live and the specific dangers they are exposed to.”

Reference: “Dangerous Development:” by Virginia Iglesias, Anna E. Brasswell, Matthew W. Rossi, Maxwell B. Joseph, Caitlin McShane, Megan Katau, Michael J. Kunz, Joe McGrinchy, R. Increased exposure to natural disasters in the United States ”. Chelsea Nagy, Jennifer Balch, Stefan Leyk, William R. Travis, June 8, 2021 The future of the earth..
DOI: 10.1029 / 2020EF001795

author:

  • Virginia Iglesias, Anna E. Brasswell, Matthew W. Rossi, Maxwell B. Joseph: Earth Lab, University of Colorado Joint Institute for Environmental Sciences (CIRES), Boulder, Colorado, USA.
  • Caitlin McShane: Faculty of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA.
  • Megan Katau: Human Environment System, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, USA.
  • Michael J. Fox, Joe McGrinchy, R. Chelsea Nagy: Earth Lab of the University of Colorado Joint Institute for Environmental Sciences (CIRES), Boulder, Colorado, USA;
  • Jennifer Balti: Earth Lab, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and Faculty of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA.
  • Stephen Lake: Earth Lab of the University of Colorado Joint Institute for Environmental Sciences (CIRES), Boulder, Colorado, USA;
  • William R. Travis: Earth Lab, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and Faculty of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA.



Potentially catastrophic natural disasters threaten 57% of U.S. structures

https://scitechdaily.com/potentially-devastating-natural-hazards-threaten-57-of-us-structures/ Potentially catastrophic natural disasters threaten 57% of U.S. structures

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