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After Hurricane Irma, satellite images indicated a widespread browning of many Caribbean islands in the storm’s destructive path. These natural-color images, captured by the Operational Land Imager(OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite, show the Island of Barbuda before and after the storm. The views were acquired on August 27 and September 12, 2017. Image credit: NASA.

Science

Hurricane Harvey dropped a record-breaking 50-plus inches of rain across parts of Texas and left behind widespread, devastating floods. Following in Harvey's wake, Hurricane Irma has spun another path of destruction.

In the decade from 2003 to 2013, natural disasters around the globe caused $1.5 trillion in economic damages and took the lives of almost 1.2 million people. Over that same 10-year period, the U.S. lost nearly $650 billion due to such disasters.

How can scientists better predict or prevent such catastrophes? How can they help people recover more quickly?

To find answers to these questions, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded 15 new grants totaling $18.7 million through its PREEVENTS (Prediction of and Resilience Against Extreme Events) program. PREEVENTS is part of NSF's Risk and Resilience portfolio. PREEVENTS' goals are to improve predictability and risk assessments of natural hazards, increase resilience to these events, and reduce their effects on human lives, societies and economies. PREEVENTS also supports research that will improve the understanding of the processes underlying natural hazards and extreme events.

"The more we know about geophysical hazards and how they affect human activity, the closer we come to averting or mitigating the damage they can inflict," says William Easterling, NSF assistant director for Geosciences. The Directorate for Geosciences funds PREEVENTS. "This group of PREEVENTS studies will move us an important step in that direction," Easterling says.

PREEVENTS scientists are working to improve the understanding of natural hazards and extreme events, and to increase capabilities to model and forecast these hazards and events. Researchers funded by the program are studying hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, earthquakes, coastal erosion, severe thunderstorms, monsoons, volcanoes, space weather disruption of the power grid, landslides and extreme heat waves.

The scientists hope to find new ways to beat disasters -- in whatever form they may arrive.

2017 NSF PREEVENTS Awards Related to Ocean and Coastal Science

Robert DeConto, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Robert Kopp III and Benjamin Strauss, Rutgers University; David Pollard, Pennsylvania State University: Collaborative Research: PREEVENTS Track 2: Thresholds and Envelopes of Rapid Ice-Sheet Retreat and Sea-Level Rise: Reducing Uncertainty in Coastal Flood Hazards

Andrew Kennedy, Diogo Bolster and Damrongsak Wirasaet, University of Notre Dame; Joel Dietrich, North Carolina State University: PREEVENTS Track 2: Collaborative Research: Subgrid-Scale Corrections to Increase the Accuracy and Efficiency of Storm Surge Models

Jason Knievel, National Center for Atmospheric Research; David Nolan, University of Miami: PREEVENTS Track 2: Collaborative Research: More Resilient Coastal Cities and Better Hurricane Forecasts through Multi-Scale Modeling of Extreme Winds in the Urban Canopy

Raymond Schmitt and Caroline Ummenhofer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Laifang Li, Duke University: PREEVENTS Track 2: Collaborative Research: Ocean Salinity as a Predictor of US Hydroclimate Extremes

And that’s not all:

A full list of funded projects, including everything from modeling extreme space weather events to earthquake and wildfire studies, is available here.

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