Natural Disasters – GEOG1700

Red Rock Canyon  (taken in Las Vegas, NV)

Red Rock Canyon
(taken in Las Vegas, NV after the 2006 wildfires)

Course Description:  Students will be introduced to natural disasters; the processes and energy sources that produce them, along with the spatial distribution and pattern of natural phenomena, while developing an understanding of the impact these phenomena have on human activity.

  • Determine the roles of natural disaster mitigation at a federal and local governmental level, community level, and individual level.
  • Analyze and understand natural processes that create disaster events such as: earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, tsunamis, severe weather, disease, and climate change.
  • Understand how natural hazards become disasters and ultimately catastrophes.
  • Know how many natural processes are cylindrical, meaning that they have a frequency of recurrence, which also influences their magnitude.
  • Analyze the role humans play in creating natural disasters (i.e. population growth, poverty, environmental degradation, climate change, and politics).
  • Understand the technology used to measure and analyze natural processes such as satellite imagery, aerial photography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and ground data.

 

Reflection:

This assignment was interesting and intriguing.  We are only a few chapters into the course (at the time of this assignment) and already I can tell that my outlook on weather is changing, what a powerful force.  There is much more going on “behind the scenes” than I could have ever imagined.  Prior to my learnings from GEOG1700, I had no idea how to read a basic weather map (seriously).  Now I have the ability to interpret the map and I know what the driving forces of nature are.  The steps I took to analyze the images started a few days before writing the interpretation below.  Fortunately, when I went to the Storm Prediction Center’s website there was a current watch/warning in place; I then gathered the other two images pictured below.  The most difficult part of this assignment was understanding the colors for each map and what they mean.  I used our provided eText and read more on various weather and news websites.  There is still more for me to learn in this course, I am looking forward to gaining a better understanding of earthquakes, since Salt Lake City has such a massive fault line.  Some people are concerned with the technology of satellites and access to such sites as Google Earth, now I wonder why.  After learning about the many devastations of a natural disasters, it is imperative that we continue to improve our technology and awareness.  I don’t mean an invasion of privacy, but if something could be developed to help us understand the how and why of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc. we would see much better preparation and survival rates.  Why wouldn’t anyone want to support life, progress, and knowledge?


 

 Assessing Severe Weather (ePortfolio signature assignment)

SPC Watch

Image courtesy of: Storm Prediction Center (SPC)

In the image from the Storm Predection Center (SPC), you will see a severe thunderstorm warning for the area called “ICT,” (parts of:  Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri).  This 08/17/2014 thunderstorm is considered severe because the wind gusts are up to 70 miles per hour (MPH) and there are some areas experiencing hail that is 1.5 inches in diameter.

“A thunderstorm is defined as a storm that has lightning and thunder,” (Dastrup, n.d.).  Thunderstorms can also lead to tornadoes, if they are considered severe and usually begin as a supercell.  The thunderstorm must have the right blend of various temperatures, pressures, and winds.  Thunderstorm clouds are where you will find lightning or electrical charges.  Lightning is created when opposite electrical charges collide causing the cloud to discharge; this is when and why you hear thunder.  Lightening can become stronger when it strikes because it will “pick up” additional ions as it heads toward Earth.  All aspects of a thunderstorm are concerning for several reasons.  Most of the time there is low visibility because of heavy rains and/or fog.  The lightning can lead to wildfires if the area where is strikes is dry enough.  If a wildfire does start, the high winds present during thunderstorms can cause the wildfire to spread beyond a controllable area.  Hail is a type of precipitation that is a combination of several aspects of weather and is created in the clouds by liquid water, ice pellets and falling through warm, then cool temperatures.

The next two images are a satellite image and a Doppler radar image.  The Doppler radar is very unique because it can detect motions moving away or toward the radar, this is critical when monitoring for tornadoes.  Tornadoes are partially created because of different wind types moving in different directions.  On the Doppler image, you will see several colors, indicating the level or type of precipitation.  Rainfall increases by color on the Doppler in this order:  Light Green, Dark Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red, going from light rain to very heavy rain or rain/hail.  This storm appears to be creating small amounts of snow as well (white or blue).  The satellite image shows you the cloud cover; you can clearly see how heavy it is compared to the surrounding areas outside of the ICT area.  In the mid-southern part of Kansas, you can see how the storm is heavier by the piece that is very full and white. All three images have shown different aspects of a thunderstorm.

 

InfaredImage

Image courtesy of: National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

 Severe Thunderstorm Watch 464:

URGENT – IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED  SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH NUMBER 464

NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK

910 PM CDT SUN AUG 17 2014

THE NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER HAS ISSUED A  * SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH FOR PORTIONS OF NORTH CENTRAL KANSAS SOUTH CENTRAL NEBRASKA

* EFFECTIVE THIS SUNDAY NIGHT FROM 910 PM UNTIL MIDNIGHT CDT.  * PRIMARY THREATS INCLUDE… ISOLATED DAMAGING WIND GUSTS TO 70 MPH POSSIBLE

ISOLATED LARGE HAIL EVENTS TO 1.5 INCHES IN DIAMETER POSSIBLE   THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH AREA IS APPROXIMATELY ALONG AND 45 STATUTE MILES EAST AND WEST OF A LINE FROM 15 MILES SOUTHEAST OFRUSSELL KANSAS TO 75 MILES NORTH OF CONCORDIA KANSAS.  FOR A COMPLETE DEPICTION OF THE WATCH SEE THE ASSOCIATED WATCH OUTLINE UPDATE (WOUS64 KWNS WOU4).  PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… REMEMBER…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH MEANS CONDITIONS ARE FAVORABLE FOR SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS IN AND CLOSE TO THE WATCH AREA. PERSONS IN THESE AREAS SHOULD BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THREATENING WEATHER CONDITIONS AND LISTEN FOR LATER STATEMENTS AND POSSIBLE WARNINGS. SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS CAN AND OCCASIONALLY DO PRODUCE TORNADOES. DISCUSSION…S CNTRL NEB MCS WITH EMBEDDED BOWING STRUCTURES EXPECTED TO CONTINUE GENERALLY SE ALONG INSTABILITY GRADIENT THROUGH LATE EVE…WHILE SMALLER N CNTRL KS MOVES ESEWD. ALTHOUGH DIURNAL COOLING SHOULD LEAD TO SOME WEAKENING OF UPDRAFTS…THIS WILL BE SOMEWHAT COUNTERED BY NOCTURNAL INCREASE IN SWLY LLJ. MERGING OUTFLOW BOUNDARIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE TWO CLUSTERS ALSO MAY FOSTER NEW STORM DEVELOPMENT. MODEST NWLY DEEP SHEAR AND SIZABLE BUOYANCY SUGGEST A CONTINUED RISK FOR ISOLD DMGG WIND AND SVR HAIL.  AVIATION…A FEW SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WITH HAIL SURFACE AND ALOFT TO 1.5 INCHES. EXTREME TURBULENCE AND SURFACE WIND GUSTS TO 60 KNOTS. A FEW CUMULONIMBI WITH MAXIMUM TOPS TO 550. MEAN STORM MOTION VECTOR 33025.

Doppler

Image courtesy of: National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photographs are from my personal collection, unless otherwise noted by citation and/or external link.

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