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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: News items From: Disaster Prevention and Management, Volume 17, Issue 2.
New United Nations (UN) Office to use space technology in disaster mitigation
In October, a new United Nations Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) office tasked with using space technologies to respond to all stages of global disasters opened in Bonn, Germany. The new office aims to carry out the UN Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER). Unlike other recent initiatives where space-based information is used for humanitarian and emergency response, UN-SPIDER is the first to employ the technologies to cover all stages of disaster, including the risk reduction phase, which could significantly cut the loss of lives and property. UN-SPIDER will provide all countries and interested organizations universal access to space-based information and services on disaster management and will have a considerable impact on the way space-based information is used in dealing with disasters around the world. The program, established by the UN General Assembly in December 2006, hopes to assist countries and organizations by acting as a gateway to space-based information for disaster management support. UN-SPIDER offices are also scheduled to open in Beijing and Geneva.
For more information on UN-SPIDER, visit: www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/unspider/index.html
Questions remain at close of 2007 hurricane season
As the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season officially came to a close on November 30, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) carefully reviewed the weather patterns that yielded lower than-expected hurricane activity across the Atlantic Basin. The USA was largely spared from significant landfalling storms; however, two back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes hit Central America. As a whole, the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season produced 14 named storms, including six hurricanes, two of which became major hurricanes. NOAA’s August update to the seasonal forecast predicted 13 to 16 named storms - of which seven to nine would be hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher. An average season has 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes, including two major hurricanes. According to Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season produced the predicted number of named storms, but the combined number, duration, and intensity of the hurricanes did not meet expectations. The climate patterns predicted for the 2007 hurricane season - an ongoing multi-decadal signal and La Niña - produced the expected below-normal hurricane activity over the eastern and central Pacific regions. However, La Niña’s impact over the Atlantic was weaker than expected, which resulted in stronger upper-level winds and increased wind shear over the Caribbean Sea during the peak months of the season (August-October). This limited Atlantic hurricane formation during that period. NOAA’s scientists are investigating possible climate factors that may have led to this lower-than-expected activity. All in all, one hurricane, one tropical storm, and three tropical depressions struck the USA: Tropical Depression Barry came ashore near Tampa Bay, Florida, on June 2; Tropical Depression Erin hit southeast Texas on August 16; Tropical Depression Ten came ashore along the western Florida panhandle on September 21; Tropical Storm Gabrielle hit east-central North Carolina on September 9; and Hurricane Humberto struck the upper Texas coast on September 13.
To read the full NOAA press release, visit: www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2007/20071129_hurricaneend.html
Record-setting tornado season in United States
A total of 87 tornadoes were reported in the USA from October 17-19, 2007, which set a new record, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. The outbreak also contributed to the monthly total of 105 tornado reports - the second highest for October, behind the 117 tornadoes reported in October 2001. The preliminary number for the three-day outbreak significantly surpasses the previous October outbreak record of 63 tornadoes set along the Gulf Coast from southeast Texas to Florida and Georgia from October 23-27, 1997. Two weather systems that co-existed over the country were the primary cause of the record-setting outbreak, according to the Storm Prediction Center. This set up conditions that allowed two different tornado-spawning systems to occur simultaneously over the USA. A low-pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico was the primary cause of storms that produced six tornadoes on October 17 through the morning of October 19 in the coastal regions of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and the Florida Panhandle. The major weather producer associated with the remaining 81 tornadoes was an upper-level trough of low pressure that extended from the Central Plains through the Great Lakes. Intense thunderstorms developed ahead of this system, and tornadoes were reported over a large portion of the central USA from Southwestern Missouri to middle Tennessee, and from central Mississippi through lower Michigan. To read the full story, visit: www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2007/20071031_tornado.html
New NOAA mapping tool provides instant hazard information
In response to the need for communities to readily access hazard risk information, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Services Center created the Hazard Education and Awareness Tool (HEAT) - an innovative tool that brings hazard information to one location and helps prepare communities for natural disasters. HEAT merges Google Maps technology with spatial-hazards data and displays detailed maps of hazard risks in an easy-to-use template format. Users can enter an address into the search boxes and find out instantly whether it is located in a hazard-risk zone. The Hawaii Tsunami Hazard Information Service was developed using the HEAT template and is currently serving as a pilot site for the tool. The service allows Hawaii residents and visitors to search an address or island area. The address search then returns an interactive tsunami-risk map, along with information on emergency planning, disaster response and preparedness kits, and when to evacuate. The HEAT template is available to any organization, and the only requirements are hazard-map data, a basic web server, and free web-mapping software. The tool’s search functionality can be readily distributed to other local disaster management agencies and integrated within their web sites. To see how Hawaii is applying the HEAT template, visit: www.csc.noaa.gov/psc/tsunami/
To find out how HEAT can be used in your community contact: Russell Jackson at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Extracted from Natural Hazards Observer, January 2008).