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The recent passage of a massive meteor in Russia is quite a unique and unusual hazard. Hazards from outer space have received some attention from the UK government (who included space weather in the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies) and elsewhere, but some of the more obvious ones like meteors, comets or even asteroids clearly also need to be taken into account although their risk of impact may be low (the last incident of this kind happened in 1908 in Siberia).
Some videos that have appeared online of the meteor falling near the city of Chelyabinsk show just how incredible this event really was. But it wasn’t simply awe-inspiring as it led to 1,200 reported injuries including 200 children. The majority of injuries were caused by flying glass after the meteor’s passage sending a shockwave that shattered thousands of windows (a nice explanation of a shockwave is given by geologist Sue Kieffer on her blog). Local industry also took on heavy damage. According to the most recent estimate of its size made by NASA, the meteor had a mass of 10,000 tonnes prior to entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
Meanwhile, there has been some talk within the scientific community of developing meteoroid and asteroid detection systems that could provide warnings in advance. Fragments of the meteorite have been recovered, but not only by scientists. Many have been sold online, along with fake fragments. Here is footage of the meteor traveling through the sky and crashing into the landscape. It is extremely bright and quite spectacular. Read more
I didn’t have the pleasure of attending AGU 2012, but thanks to their video on demand session and lecture series you can still watch some really great sessions online. I highlight several of them that I think have particular implications for research in hazard and risk from geohazards to climate change and communicating science in the case of the 2009 L’Aquila Earthquake after which seven scientists were prosecuted and sentenced to jail for six years for failing to predict the earthquake. An incredibly controversial decision that has been met with ferocious criticism from scientists and non-scientists alike.
The Race to Understand a Changing Planet
Dr Piers J. Sellers
How modelling is trying to keep up with planetary change. Some really nice visuals. Read more
Not something you see everyday — a snow-covered desert. The Taklimakan Desert in western China, the country’s largest desert, was covered with snow after a storm swept through the area in late December 2012 and continued into early January (the area also received snow in 2008). The cold wave hit different parts of China including Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, north China and northeast China. Could it be attributed to the melting of arctic sea ice pushing colder weather south? This seems a question worth further exploration. Clearly, extreme weather events of this kind are not limited to certain geographic areas as last year’s cold snap in Europe also demonstrated.
References and Further Reading
Storm turns Taklimakan Desert White. Earth Observatory
Temperature continues to drop as cold snap lingers. Xinhua News Agency
China’s ice weather shatters records. Mother nature network
Catching up with some of the news on extreme weather events in the US for 2012, according to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) it was the second most costliest year for weather disasters behind 2005, which included Hurricane Katrina. In 2012, US insurance companies spent about 58 billion USD on natural disasters, with Hurricane Sandy (25 billion USD) accounting for 43 percent of the total cost. In comparison, damages caused by Hurricane Katrina cost 46.6 billion USD, according to Insurance Information Institute. Currently, large parts of the US continue to experience severe to exceptional levels of drought (see US Drought Monitor).
This video reviews extreme weather in the US for 2012.