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Natural Hazards

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Stromboli: The Lighthouse of the Mediterranean

Stromboli: The Lighthouse of the Mediterranean

In the last months two paroxysmal explosive eruptions took place at Stromboli volcano: the first one, totally unexpected, on 3rd July (Video 1) that sadly cost the life of a person and the second and, currently, last one about three weeks ago, on the 28th August (Video 2).

Today we try to answer a couple of questions about Stromboli and its eruptions. Are these paroxysmal eruptions common or rare at Stromboli volcano? What are the hazards associated with these eruptions in the context of Stromboli’s island?

The volcanic activity at Stromboli

Stromboli, a volcano located on its homonymous island in the South of the Tyrrhenian Sea, is considered one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Already famous for its persistent explosive character during the Roman ages, they named Stromboli ‘the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’.

The ordinary eruptive activity of Stromboli is characterised by mild yet spectacular explosions, which eject gas, volcanic ash (i.e. tiny rock particles) and incandescent shreds of magma of decimetric size, i.e. pyroclasts. The latter is particularly capable of putting on a real fireworks display (like in Figure 1), and it is attracting many curious visitors; among them volcanologists, who find Stromboli the perfect natural laboratory where to collect numerous observations.
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Cyclone Fani: A success in weather forecast and disaster preparedness

Cyclone Fani: A success in weather forecast and disaster preparedness

Hurricane, cyclone and typhoon are different terms for the same weather phenomenon: torrential rain and maximum sustained wind speeds (near centre) exceeding 119 km/hour (World Meteorological Organization https://public.wmo.int/en). The terminology depends on the region (e.g. in the western North Pacific, they are called typhoons; in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea they are named as cyclones, etc). The Indian sub-continent is highly vulnerable to cyclones and the losses to life are more pronounced due to high population density (National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project, Govt of India). Studies show a decreasing trend in the frequency of cyclones over the North Indian Ocean in recent years, however, the damage and destruction from such systems do not seem to decrease (e.g. De et al., 2005). In April 2019, Cyclone Fani was the first summer cyclone to hit India’s Bay of Bengal coast in 43 years and only the third in the past 150 years. It was also the strongest tropical cyclone to hit India since 2013 and affected 137 blocks (district subdivisions for rural areas consisting of a cluster of villages), 46 municipal governments, 14,800 villages, and 15,000 km of roads. About 5 million people lost their houses, 14 million people were affected and $14 billion is now estimated for rebuilding damaged houses and public infrastructure.

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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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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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