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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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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.

River and tree

Q&A: How wildfires threaten water quality

Stanford hydrologist Newsha Ajami, an appointee to California’s regional water quality board, discusses how wildfires affect water quality, and how we can better prepare for and react to the challenges.

Satellite view of Hurricane Harvey

Damaging rains from hurricanes can be more intense after winds begin to subside

New research shows rains that occur after a hurricane has weakened may be more intense than when the storm is at its strongest.

Greenland

Flatten Greenland, and the Atlantic jet stream goes with it

Building off previous research showing the Atlantic jet stream hovers between three preferred latitudes, researchers found the topography of Greenland is responsible for its northernmost position.

 2018 Woolsey fire

Californians unwilling to subsidize wildfire prevention

Despite statewide devastation from wildfires, a new poll conducted by the Bill Lane Center for the American West shows Californians are still reluctant to subsidize wildfire prevention or support relocating communities at risk.

Collapsed bookshelves

Q&A: 30 years after the Loma Prieta earthquake

Reflecting on the 30th anniversary of Loma Prieta this week, earthquake experts recently shared their perspectives on how the event impacted them, the Bay Area and the research community at large.

Wildfire

A new treatment to prevent wildfires

Scientists and engineers worked with state and local agencies to develop and test a long-lasting, environmentally benign fire-retarding material. If used on high-risk areas, the simple, affordable treatment could dramatically cut the number of fires that occur each year.

Bahamas pier

Research suggests ecosystem investments to minimize storm damage

A new Stanford-led study provides information on how to invest in natural coastal ecosystems that the Bahamian government, community leaders and development banks are applying in post-disaster recovery and future storm preparation in the Bahamas. 

View from a satellite of smoke caused by a fire in Borneo

Satellite data can reveal fire susceptibility in peatlands

Fires in Southeast Asian peatlands release huge amounts of carbon, along with deadly smoke. Now, new satellite measurements of soil moisture may offer a promising approach to reducing those fires and their widespread haze.

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