Could We Use Floods to Prevent Forest Fires?

A new study analyzes millions of Twitter posts during a hurricane to understand how people communicate in the event of a disaster.

Faced with a potentially catastrophic storm like Hurricane Aida, people go to Twitter and other social media sites to convey important information.New research published in the journal Risk analysis By monitoring and analyzing this social media “chattering” during natural disasters, decision makers can learn how to plan and mitigate the effects of bad weather in their communities.

“People in more resilient communities are willing to volunteer and help each other in the event of a disaster. They also have more information, so who to ask for help and what resources are available.”

Jose E. Ramirez-Marquez of Stevens Institute of Technology and Gabriela Gongora-Svartzman of Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon University analyzed more than 6 million Twitter posts between the three. Major hurricanes Hurricane (Texas), Irma (Florida) and Maria (Puerto Rico) landed in 2017. The goal of their research was to develop and test new methods for measurement. Social cohesionAn important element of community resilience during stormy weather events caused by climate change…READ ON

Could We Use Floods to Prevent Forest Fires?

But could we somehow even it out again, perhaps by using the floods themselves to fix the things they break? Could we, say, corral the waters that flooded Tennessee farms, New York City subway tracks, and Californian forests and dump them on the parched land that’s fueling the Caldor and Dixie fires?

Water floods a field in Los Banos, California, on May 25. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A similar idea was proposed as a drought solution back in the 1960s: If the U.S. constructed a series of interconnected and targeted water-transfer pipelines and dams across North America, Western areas facing water shortages could regain a steady supply and avoid future droughts. But a few major problems hobbled this project: The amount of tunneling would have upturned more than 30 billion cubic yards of land, leaving behind horrible environmental effects. The estimated cost soared up to $200 billion—which, in today’s dollars, would surpass the price tag of Congress’ current infrastructure package. And the amount of construction time required would have spanned multiple decades.

It’s not that massive water transfer projects themselves are unworkable. The lengthy California Aqueduct moves water from the wetter northern areas of the state toward the much drier SoCal, covering hundreds of miles. But even intrastate water projects require plenty of coordination and local considerations. For instance, California’s Los Angeles Aqueduct has successfully provided water from the distant Owens River for L.A.’s residents, but this has also come at a steep cost to the community that lives around the river. And with the state’s water sources quickly running low, these aqueducts can only depend for so long on the mountain snowpacks, rivers, and dams that feed them…READ ON

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