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Natural Hazards

Natural hazard

Hot topic for a hot summer: extreme weather and climate events in the ANYWHERE project – A Pan-European Platform for Multi-Hazard Early Warning and associated Impacts

Hot topic for a hot summer: extreme weather and climate events in the ANYWHERE project – A Pan-European Platform for Multi-Hazard Early Warning and associated Impacts

Henny van Lanen.

In this post, I have the pleasure to interview Dr.ir. Henny A.J. van Lanen. He is Associate Professor in the Hydrology & Quantitative Water Management Group of Wageningen University and he has been involved in several EU projects. Further, he is involved in many international groups or networks:

  • Coordinator of the European FRIEND programme (EURO-FRIEND Water, Flow Regimes from International Experimental and Network Data; cross-cutting theme UNESCO-IHP);
  • Past Global Coordinator of the FRIEND Inter-Group Coordination Committee (FIGCC) (cross-cutting theme UNESCO-IHP);
  • Coordinator of the European Drought Centre (EDC);
  • Member of the Open Panel of CHy Experts (OPACHE) of Commission of Hydrology (CHy) from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO);
  • member of the Discussion Group on Droughts of the UN-International Strategy on Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR);
  • member/chair of the Project Review Group of Global Water Partnership (WM-GWP) on Integrated Drought Management in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE-IDMP).
1. Media are talking more frequently of extreme weather and climate events: why are they so important for our society?

Extreme Weather and Climate events (W&C) cause natural hazards, and when vulnerable human and natural systems are exposed to these W&C hazards, they may lead to disasters. For instance, from 2011 to 2013, the USA faced 24 weather-related disasters that led to about 1100 fatalities, which resulted in more than $200 billion in losses. Similar experiences of weather-induced disasters and their associated losses are reported for Europe. Moreover, there seems to be a growing trend. Summer 2019 has barely begun, but temperature records are already being broken. Recent data show that the European-average temperature for June 2019 was higher than for any other June on record. Average temperatures were more than 2°C above normal and it has become the hottest June ever recorded. This led to associated dry hazards, e.g. wildfires, but also to abrupt endings, like the powerful early-July storm in northern Greece that killed six people. The apparently rising trends go hand in hand with increasing populations, assets and ecosystems’ risk.

Dry, natural hazards (drought, heatwaves, wildfires) cause severe impacts and likely will intensity in the future in multiple areas across the world (photos: Henny Van Lanen).

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The proliferation of Cyanobacterial blooms: A toxic blue tide

Dr Assaf Sukenik is Senior Scientist at Kinneret Limnological Laboratory of the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research. His research interests concern the physiology and biochemistry of freshwater and marine algae, Cyanobacteria and algal toxins, the water quality of freshwater ecosystems.

What are cyanobacteria and what is their natural habitat?

Cyanobacteria (from the Greek word κυανοσ =blue), also known as blue-green algae, constitute the largest, most diverse, and most widely distributed group of photosynthetic oxygenic (oxygen-evolving) prokaryotes[1]. They acquire their energy through photosynthesis, thus are often referred to as algae, although their prokaryotic characteristics (for example, their DNA is not enclosed in a nucleus) differentiate them from eukaryotic[2] algae. The blue-green colour of cyanobacteria is given by their suite of photosynthetic pigments, which differ from that of eukaryotic algae.

Cyanobacteria are also among the oldest organisms on Earth. They appear in fossil records, in sedimentary rocks deposited in shallow seas and lakes 3.5 billion years ago. They played a major role in raising the level of free oxygen in the atmosphere of early Earth and contributed to the evolution of plants. Sometime in the late Proterozoic, or in the early Cambrian, about half a billion years ago, cyanobacteria began to take up residence within certain eukaryotic cells, providing organic compounds for the eukaryotic host via photosynthesis in return for a home in a process known as endosymbiosis[3].

Cyanobacteria are found in a diverse range of habitats, [Read More]

I-REACT – ‘Fight disasters with your phone’

I-REACT – ‘Fight disasters with your phone’

Technology has never been more at hand than at the time we are living. Smartphones and the many apps on the market are proof of this. As I recently discovered, there is also an app developed to learn about natural hazards and, as they claim, fight disasters! This app is called I-REACT, and it was born from a homonymous innovation project funded by the European Commission and developed by a consortium of 20 partners. Their aim?

use social media, smartphones and wearables to improve disaster management

Of course, when I found out about the project, I curiously downloaded the app and started playing around with it, trying to figure out what it does and how it works. I have to say that I haven’t had the chance of reporting a disaster yet (and hopefully I won’t have even in the future), but I can say I find it user-friendly and exciting. Let’s get a bit more into details and understand this project and the app directly from the I-REACT Team!

Hi I-REACT Team! Can you tell us about who you are and how the I-REACT idea was born?

My name is Fabrizio Dominici. I’m Head of Data Science at LINKS Foundation and coordinator of I-REACT. I-REACT is an innovation project that uses big data, social media, smartphones and wearables to improve disaster management.

The project was born in 2016, within a European Commission call for proposals for more resilient and secure societies. We joined together 20 partners that are among the top experts to create a unified system for disaster management that responds to the needs of the three main actors in a disaster situation: emergency responders, decision-makers and citizens (all of ‘us’, Ed.).

The main idea of the project is to offer each one of us the best tools to prevent and face disasters. And in this context, I-REACT, as a project, provides a big data platform that crosses over inputs from different sources: satellites, social media, weather forecasts and much more. This, joined with a Decision Support System, is a crucial companion for emergency responders and decision makers.

For citizens, we developed the I-REACT app, which empowers them against disasters.

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Gaius Plinius Secundus and Sergey Soloviev, two names and awards.

Gaius Plinius Secundus and Sergey Soloviev, two names and awards.

The EGU has an award system in place aiming at recognising eminent scientists for their outstanding contribution in Earth, planetary and space science. There are different medals a researcher can be nominated to, including Division ones. Ah, before I forget: the deadline for this year nominations is 15 June! Don’t miss the chance to appoint an outstanding colleague. You can find more information on how to nominate candidates clicking on the EGU website.

The medals for the Division of Natural Hazard are two. One aims at recognising interdisciplinary natural-hazard research of scientists meeting the following criteria: outstanding research achievements in fields related with natural hazards, important interdisciplinary activity in two or more areas related with this topic, and research that has been applied in the mitigation of risks from natural hazards. This medal is named after Gaius Plinius Secundus. The second aims at awarding outstanding scientific contributions in fundamental research that improves our knowledge of basic natural hazards principles, as well as research that assesses and leads to the proper mitigation of natural hazards, from both human and environmental perspectives. This medal is named after Sergey Soloviev.

[Read More]