Tuesday, December 06, 2005

World's tallest building triggers earthquake?

The world's tallest building, Taipei 101, situated in Tawain, is being blamed for the increased number and magnitude of earthquake tremors that have occurred beneath it. The building, situated on soft sedimentary rocks, is 508m tall and exerts 0.5Mpa on the ground. It has been argued that these stresses are transferred 10km down to the upper crust and have re-activated an ancient fault. Although the number and magnitude of earthquake tremors have increased since construction commenced, some argue that this could simple reflect short-term variability in the natural cycle of events. Others also argue that stresses cannot be transferred to such a depth below the Earth's surface. Furthermore, the total load applied to the ground by Taipei 101 is negligible compared to some stuructures such as dams. What do YOU think?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Natural disasters producing environmental refugees

According to the United Nations University, there are likely to be 50 million worldwide environmental refugees by 2010. The main sources of refugees are land degradation due to unsustainable land management; and flooding, exacerbated by global warming. The UNU have calculated that the number of refugees created by natural disasters exceeds that produced by war and conflict. The problems are likely to increase as environmental refugees join poor, squatter communities in urban areas.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Rapid glacier retreat in Peru

Seracs on a melting glacierThe Peruvian tropics are host to many Andean glaciers. These are retreating rapidly due to global warming and it is anticiapted that all glaciers below 5500m will have melted in just TEN years time. The population of Peru mainly occupies a strip of arid desert lying between the oceans and the Andean mountains, and rely on glacial meltwater for their primary water supply. This meltwater supplies domestic, industrial and agricultural uses as well as providing a key source of hydroelectric power. The future for Peruvians looks gloomy.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Massive permafrost thaw in Siberia

The sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, an area spanning more than a million sq km, is undergoing permafrost thaw on a scale previously unprecedented. The delicate climatic threshold which maintains permafrost has been breached. As this essentially frozen peat bog thaws it will potentially release sufficient quantities of methane (a greenhouse gas considerably more damaging than CO2) to significantly raise global temperatures. Climatologists are said to be 'alarmed' at the finding by Sergei Kirpotin (Tomsk State University, western Siberia) and Judith Marquand (Oxford University). Further details can be found in The Guardian and New Scientist (11th August 2005).

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Tsunami warning system for Indian Ocean countries

It has been agreed by countries flanking the Indian Ocean that a system of seabed sensors and sea-level buoys will be established to warn of potential tsunami threats. While installation of these various devices is expected to take until summer 2006 to be fully operational, the earliest sensors could be in place by December 2005.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Soil erosion produces biggest desert in Europe

Centuries of unmanaged sheep grazing in Iceland has produced the biggest desert in Europe. Over 60% of the country is officially classified as desert, though the sand here is black and there is no shortage of water. Andres Arnalds, the Deputy Director of the Soil Conservation Service in Iceland, warns that desertification will happen elsewhere in the world where trees are being cleared and land is being over-used.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Soil erosion a threat to China

A national survey of China in 2004 found that soil erosion has impacted upon 37% of the total area of China. In response to this increasing threat a new, wide-ranging investigation involving more than 200 scientists and policy-makers has been launched (5th July 2005). The aim will be to determine the seriousness of the problem, raise public awareness and develop key strategies to curb erosion.

Useful link: WASER (World Association for Sedimentation and Erosion Research) http://www.waser.cn/default.asp

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bluebird Canyon Landslide

On 1st June 2005, Bluebird Canyon in California experienced a landslide. It would appear that exceptionally heavy rainfall during the winter period (esp December to February) was the underlying cause of the instability. It is thought that gradual movement of this water into and through the ground caused an unusual increase in groundwater level, subsequently leading to instability. There is concern that the area upslope of the current landslide may enlarge in the coming weeks and months.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Himalayan glaciers 'melting fast'

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says that hundreds of millions of people in the Himalays could be affected by severe water shortages because mountain glaciers are melting due to global warming.

Landslides hit north-east India

On 26th May 2005, after torrential rainfall, a number of landslides occurred in Nagaland in north-east India. The slides killed at least 10 people and many houses have been destroyed or damaged.