congressional briefing

Sizing up sinkholes: science and technology to mitigate karst hazards

A sinkhole in front of a home in Kentucky. Image Credit: FEMA/Photo by Rob Melendez

Sinkholes have engulfed entire homes, sewer systems, and eight classic cars from the National Corvette Museum. However, with the help of science and technology, communities are developing solutions to the challenges of living in areas prone to sinkholes. These areas, also known as karst landscapes, cover more than one-fifth of the United States and can pose risks to lives and property.


Geoscience in the Arctic: Permafrost, Energy, and Trade Routes in the Last Frontier

Icebergs in Greeland

Geoscience information is integral to strengthening the economy of the last frontier. This briefing will highlight the importance of the geosciences for sustaining infrastructure, supplying energy to the nation, and expanding commerce in the Arctic.

At this widely attended briefing, learn more about the critical applications of geoscience information as communities brace for dynamic subsurface freezing and thawing, maritime trade routes expand, and new energy resources are discovered. In this dynamic landscape, geoscience is critical to inform economic decision making.

Extreme Rain Events and Flooding: Research, Modeling, and Response

Critical Issues Webinar thumbnail image

Atmospheric rivers are a key feature of the global water cycle that produce significant amounts of rain and snow, particularly on the West Coast, and contribute to both water supply and flood risks. Although atmospheric rivers can provide beneficial precipitation, some of the more powerful events can disrupt travel, induce mudslides and other hazards, and cause catastrophic damage to life and property. Flash floods also pose a major threat to life and property, and usually occur as a result of torrential rain. These are a particularly dangerous type of flood because they combine the destructive power of flooding with incredible speed and unpredictability.

The briefing will discuss the science behind extreme rain events such as atmospheric rivers, and highlight the application of research, observation, and modeling to improve flood mitigation and response. Speakers with expert knowledge in hydrology and disaster management will explain the importance of modeling and forecasting to help improve the resiliency of communities. The briefing will also highlight operational tools that engage emergency managers, businesses, government agencies, and others in preparing for heavy rain events and flooding aftermath.

Watching The World: Saving Lives Through Hazards Mapping And Monitoring

The Peru earthquake of May 31, 1970 caused slumping and cracking of this paved road. Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

Natural hazards affect every state in the nation. Earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, tsunamis, hurricanes and other hazards, result in billions of dollars in annualized losses to the United States. These hazards threaten lives and property, disrupt services, damage infrastructure and threaten economies.
Mapping and monitoring of these hazards is a proven way to effectively save lives and protect our nation’s infrastructure.

Lahars: Preparing for Volcanic Landslides

Mt. St Helens following its catastrophic 1980 eruption. Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey/Photo by Tom Casadevall

Lahars are rapidly rushing rivers of water and rock fragments that slide down volcanoes. They occur on the Aleutian volcanic arc in Alaska and the Cascade Range in the Northwest U.S. Lahars can flow down slopes at over 120 miles per hour and grow to 10 times their initial size.

Lahars can trap people in hazardous areas and move bridges, buildings, and other manmade structures caught in their flow. To better understand how and when lahars happen, scientists use technology to observe, describe, and model the events as they unfold.

Advances in Earth Science: Data as a National Asset for Decision-Making

Technology background

Robust data collections are vital for understanding and managing Earth’s natural resources and hazards:

  • Earthquake data can help identify quake-prone areas and inform earthquake preparedness.
  • Air quality data can reveal potential health risks and hazards from air pollution.
  • Water quality data can capture noteworthy trends and changes in safety and accessibility.

Ongoing efforts to build comprehensive and reliable data sets for various sectors of Earth Science help experts make informed decisions that keep communities safe.

Advances in Earth Science: Offshore Energy

An oil drill rig in the Gulf of Mexico that drills up to 20,000 ft. Image Copyright © Noble Corporation.

Offshore energy is a huge and growing resource. About 18 percent of U.S. oil and natural gas is produced offshore and production is growing. Globally, the offshore provides 30 percent of oil and natural gas.  Offshore wind is also a growing source of electricity, especially in Europe. The U.S. has significant offshore wind power potential, but no commercial wind facilities are in development. Ongoing technological advancements assure all these resources will continue to grow while addressing heightened environmental concerns.

Underpinning Innovation: The Science and Supply of America's Critical Minerals

Excavator mining

Critical minerals and materials are key components of the innovation economy. Minerals are a part of almost every product we use on a daily basis, either as the raw materials for manufacturing processes or as the end products themselves. Advanced technologies for communications, clean energy, medical devices, and national security rely on raw materials from mines throughout the world. In 2010, China curtailed exports of rare earth metals and sparked major concern about the security of global supply chains for a range of vital minerals and materials.


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