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Stanford Earth Matters

Science and insights for people who care about Earth, its resources and its environment

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Northern California coast

Newly identified 'landfalling droughts' originate over ocean

Researchers have identified a new type of “landfalling drought” that originates over the ocean before traveling onto land, and which can cause larger, drier conditions than other droughts.

Cracked road

How earthquake swarms arise

A new fault simulator maps out how interactions between pressure, friction and fluids rising through a fault zone can lead to slow-motion quakes and seismic swarms.

Wildfire and smoke

Predicting wildfires with CAT scans

Engineers at Stanford have used X-ray CT scans, more common in hospital labs, to study how wood catches fire. They’ve now turned that knowledge into a computer simulation to predict where fires will strike and spread.

Tibetan Plateau

Seismic data explains continental collision beneath Tibet

New imagery reveals the causes of seismic activity deep beneath the Himalaya region, contributing to an ongoing debate over the continental collision process when two tectonic plates crash into each other.

Santa Clara Unit Lightning Complex Fire

Does experiencing wildfires create political consensus on resilience measures?

Though partisanship makes it difficult to enact policy to deal with climate change, research shows that experience with wildfires might diminish the partisan gap.

Woodward Fire

Wildfire weather

Unusual lightning strikes sparked the massive wildfires burning across California. Stanford climate and wildfire experts discuss extreme weather’s role in current and future wildfires, as well as ways to combat the trend toward bigger, more intense conflagrations.

Wildfire smoke over Sunnyvale

Wildfires' health impacts

California’s massive wildfires bring a host of health concerns for vulnerable populations, firefighters and others. Stanford researchers discuss related threats, preparedness and ongoing research.

Flooded road

Bay Area coastal flooding triggers regionwide commute disruptions

Researchers have modeled how coastal flooding will impact commutes in the Bay Area over the next 20 years. Regions with sparse road networks will have some of the worst commute delays, regardless of their distances from the coast.

Fire

Tracking the tinderbox: Mapping dry wildfire fuels with AI and new satellite data

Researchers have developed a deep-learning model that maps fuel moisture levels in fine detail across 12 western states, opening a door for better fire predictions.

Flood

Double-whammy weather

Like an undulating seesaw, weather in some regions swings from drought to heavy rain under the weight of climate-induced changes, a new study finds.

Concrete wall

Rethinking tsunami defense

Careful engineering of low, plant-covered hills along shorelines can mitigate tsunami risks with less disruption of coastal life and lower costs compared to seawalls.

A collapsed brick wall

A new approach to managing earthquake risk from fracking

Earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing can damage property and endanger lives. Stanford researchers have developed new guidelines for when to slow or halt fracking operations based on local risks.

Deteriorated road

Seismic map of North America reveals geologic clues, earthquake hazards

A new stress map that reveals the forces acting on the planet’s crust will contribute to safer energy exploration, updated seismic hazard maps and improved knowledge about the Earth.

Collapsed floors of a building

A more holistic way to measure the economic fallout from earthquakes

Officials know how to account for deaths, injuries and property damages after the shaking stops, but a new study, based on a hypothetical 7.2 magnitude quake near San Francisco, describes the first way to estimate the far greater financial fallout that such a disaster would have, especially on the poor.

Cedar Fire, Sequoia National Forest

Longer, more extreme wildfire seasons

A new study finds that autumn days with extreme fire weather have more than doubled in California since the early 1980s due to climate change.

Aerial view of a city with networking lines overlaid.

Harnessing fiber-optic networks to map earthquake trouble spots

A new study demonstrates the potential for using cities' existing networks of buried optical fibers as an inexpensive observatory for monitoring and studying earthquakes.

Himalayas

Could climate change bring more landslides to High Mountain Asia?

Researchers used satellite estimates and modeled precipitation data to show warming temperatures will cause more intense rainfall in some areas of the High Mountain Asia region, and this could lead to increased landslide activity in the border region of China and Nepal.

Water flowing from eroded spillway of dam

More rain and less snow means increased flood risk

By analyzing more than two decades of data in the western U.S., scientists have shown that flood sizes increase exponentially as a higher fraction of precipitation falls as rain, offering insight into how flood risks may change in a warming world with less snow.

Firefighter monitors prescribed burn

Setting fires to avoid fires

Despite having proven effective at reducing wildfire risks, prescribed burns have been stymied by perceived and real risks, regulations and resource shortages. A new analysis highlights ways of overcoming those barriers, offering solutions for wildfire-ravaged landscapes.

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