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Number 516• December 18, 2008 | Past Issues













1) Chu Among Those Picked to Take Bite Out of U.S. Climate Issues

President-elect Barak Obama formally announced his energy and environment dream team Monday, including Nobel laureate Steven Chu as the next possible Energy Secretary. Others named to tackle environmental issues include former New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson, who will head up the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Clinton-era EPA administrator Carol Browner in the newly created position of White House Coordinator of Energy and Climate Policy; and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar, tapped as Secretary of the Interior.

Nominating Chu, a prize-winning physicist and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, would indicate Obama’s plans to make good on campaign promises to allow science to guide climate policy. Chu’s views, which include support for a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gases and other policies to reduce energy consumption reduction, would be “among the most forceful ever held by a cabinet member,” according to an article in the Washington Post.

That’s bound to be greeted as good news internationally, where the Copenhagen Climate Council will be relieved to have one of their own as a U.S. ally in discussions to create a global treaty by 2012, according to an article in the Think Progress Progress Report. But Chu’s fervor and that of others on the Obama team could also hinder the next president’s plans to address climate change by spooking a Congress fearful of high-cost energy plans in a declining economy, according to a New York Times report. Still, Obama indicated the appointments were a necessary risk in the face of looming climate issues.

“This time must be different,” The Times quoted Obama as saying at a news conference in Chicago. “This will be a leading priority of my presidency and a defining test of our time. We cannot accept complacency, nor accept any more broken promises.”

To see what other climate pundits have to say on the subject, visit Andrew Revkin’s Dot Earth blog.

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2)Poznan Progress Less Than Promising for Poor Nations

While Barak Obama was finalizing his environmental cabinet choices, many poorer nations meeting at the U.N. climate summit in Poznan, Poland were looking to him and the leaders of other developed nations to do more to help struggling countries weather the impacts of climate change.

A rift between poor and wealthy nations about the extent of measures to address impacts such as droughts, floods, and sea level rise ended the talks on a sour note and don’t bode well for negotiating a treaty by this time next year, according to a Reuters report. The talks were the halfway point in the negotiations expected to culminate in Copenhagen in 2009.

In dispute was a perceived lack of ambition in cutting industrial emissions by wealthy nations and a dearth of funds to help developing countries adapt to a changing climate, according to the article. Only about $80 million—far from enough by all accounts—will be available to help those countries mitigate climate impacts. Poor nations wanted an increase in the levy that feeds the adaptation fund, but developed nations drew their ire by not supporting the plan, according to a BBC article.

"It is not clear how a 'strong political signal' can be sent by not paying for pollution that you have caused," Pakistan's delegate Farrukh Khan was quoted as saying. "We would have hoped that our partners would have taken this necessary step on the road to Copenhagen; but unfortunately the road to Copenhagen is being paved with good intentions."

Although discussions ended on a pessimistic note, some believe involving world leaders—especially Barak Obama—will make the situation less intractable.

"They're going to have to enter full negotiating mode—full speed ahead," Angela Ledford-Anderson of the Pew Environment Group told the BBC. "But President-elect Barack Obama has said he's going to engage vigorously, so that brings new hope.”

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3)Drilling Fluke Could Rock Out Studies of Magma

Scientists now have a chance to study magma in its most natural form, thanks to a twist of circumstance that unveiled what’s being called the world’s first “magma observatory.” The singular opportunity to examine the molten rock while still beneath the earth’s crust was the result of a happy drilling accident in Hawaii, according to a articles in Wired Science and National Geographic Magazine.

"This is like Jurassic Park for magmatic systems," John Hopkins Geologist Bruce Marsh is quoted as saying in Wired. "You can go to museums and see dinosaur skeletons. But if a paleontologist could see a dinosaur frolicking in the open countryside, it would be absolutely spellbinding. And this is what it is for me to see this thing in its natural habitat."

Marsh discussed the find at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco this week.

The live magma bed, which lies about 1.5 miles below the Puna Geothermal Venture, has implications for volcanologists as well as geologists, who believe they’ll now have a better idea of how the earth’s crust forms. At over 1,000 degrees Celsius, it could also serve as a prime source of geothermal energy, according to National Geographic.

For now, though, scientists are still discussing how to best move forward with their research.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," Marsh is quoted as saying in National Geographic. "We don't know where it's going to lead, but it's a golden opportunity.”

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4)Disaster, Schmisaster: Southern California in the Clear

Southern California earthquakes and wildfires may have shock value, but for killing folks you can’t beat an old-fashioned heat wave or the bitter cold—a fact that means you might be more likely to die during extreme weather in Iowa than in the California region famed for it’s disasters.

The less-than-obvious conclusion comes from an examination of more than three decades of death data from two national databases, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. The results of that study, Spatial Patterns of Natural Hazards Mortality in the United States, found that more frequent disasters, such as extremes in heat or cold, flooding, and tornadoes, were responsible for more deaths that those that steal headlines.

"There is a public perception that the risk of dying in earthquakes and hurricanes is higher than that from everyday hazards," The Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute’s Susan L. Cutter told the Times. "Most people say earthquakes are big events that kill lots of people, but they don't. The same is true for hurricanes."

Cutter and Kevin Borden fashioned the study using geographical and epidemiological methods, mapping deaths recorded between 1970 and 2004 in the Spatial Hazard Event and Loss Database for the United States (SHELDUS). Of the nearly 20,000 deaths, nearly 20 percent were caused by heat and 18 percent by winter weather.

The peer-reviewed report was published in the International Journal of Health Geographics Wednesday and is available online.

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5)Disaster Research Takes a Holiday

‘Tis the season for taking a break—even from Disaster Research. The newsletter will be on a two-week hiatus during the holiday season, so look for Disaster Research 517 to return January 15. We’ll start the new year with the same great news items, resources, conferences, and job postings and you’ll start with one less thing to catch up on in your inbox.

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6) Call Outs: Calls for Abstracts, Papers, Proposals, and More

Call for Session Proposals
Natural Hazards Workshop
The Natural Hazards Center
Deadline: December 31

The Natural Hazards Center wants to hear your ideas on session topics for the 2009 Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. The annual workshop is a dynamic forum that showcases diverse opinions and perspectives from the hazards and disasters community. The 2009 Workshop will be held July 14-17 at the Omni Interlocken Resort just outside of Boulder, Colorado.

At the Workshop, hazards researchers, practitioners, and students discuss the latest issues in hazards and disasters, society’s efforts to address them, and ways to improve those efforts. But these discussions don’t happen in a vacuum—that’s why we need your input.

We’ll take your thoughts, mix in our own, and try to stir up some of the stimulating discussions for which our Workshop is known. So, please take a moment to fill out our online form and let us know what you want to talk about in July.


Call for Applications
Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researchers
North Carolina State University
Deadline: February 15

Applications are now being accepted for Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researchers, a National Science Foundation-funded program that supports junior faculty members building careers in the area of hazards and disasters through mentoring and training.

Up to 16 fellows will be selected for the two-year program. Fellows will be introduced to methods and theoretical perspectives in disasters and hazards research, have the opportunity to meet with leading researchers in the field, and work closely with project mentors to plan and develop their careers. Activities include writing scholarly articles, book proposals, and grant proposals.

Fellows will be selected through a competitive application process. Tenure-track faculty members who have not attained tenure and promotion are eligible to apply. Applications from underrepresented groups such as women, racial, and ethnic minorities are especially encouraged.

The fellowship covers travel expenses and offers a modest stipend. Application materials and other information are available at the project Web site. Questions can be directed to Tom Birkland at 919-513-7799 or

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7) Some New Web Resources

[Below are some new or updated Internet resources we have discovered. For an extensive list of useful Web sites dealing with hazards, see]

Ushahidi collects crisis information sent from citizen’s cell phones, e-mails, or other web-based technologies, aggregates it, and maps it. Although created at the beginning of the year to chart political unrest in Kenya, developers plan to make the Ushahidi technology open source and customizable for any organization needing to track crises.


SPIN Registry
The Center for Disaster Risk Policy at Florida State University recently developed what will be a nationwide registry of people with special needs. The Special Population Information Registry, which is expected to launch January 31, will allow officials to track emergency information, housing plans, transportation needs, health conditions, and prescription and medical equipment needs. During a disaster, the registry can be queried to provide reports such as who needs transportation assistance, electricity, or medication. 


"Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Disease, Disasters, and Bioterrorism" 
The sixth annual report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health, which scores state health preparedness based on 10 factors, found more than half of U.S. states have improved in their ability to provide services in a public health emergency. Report authors, however, warn that funding cuts at the state and federal level could threaten that progress.


Ethnic Media as Emergency Responders
As part of its focus on the use of ethnic media during emergencies, has compiled a wealth of resources, articles, and reports on disaster communications in ethnic communities—including this New America Media interview detailing the lack of ethnic communications during Hurricane Ike and the recent Southern California wildfires.


USFA Coffee Break Trainings 2.0
The same folks at the United States Fire Administration that have been keeping fire and building inspectors, hazmat crews, and emergency teams in the know are taking their trainings digital. The USFA Learning Resource Center recently announced plans to add information and web technology to the topics of their online coffee break trainings. Offerings are a little light, so head over and let them know what you’re yearning to learn.


India’s Emergency Preparedness and Response
Less than a week after the terrorist attacks on Mumbai ended, the EPR India Web site was founded by Indian youths wanting to help others become more prepared in emergency situations. The nascent group has vowed to start EPR chapters on college campuses and begin a safety rating system for stores, hotels, and other crowded areas in the country. 

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8) Conferences, Training, and Events

[Below are some recent announcements received by the Natural Hazards Center. For a comprehensive list of upcoming hazards-related meetings, visit our Web site at]

February 9-13, 2009
FEPA 2009 Annual Conference
Florida Emergency Preparedness Association
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $250 nonmember, open until filled
Local, state, and federal emergency management professionals will meet to improve natural disaster preparation, response, and recovery. A wide range of topics will be covered, including rapid assessment planning, wind and surge probability, and long-term recovery innovations.


February 11-14, 2009
2009 EERI Annual Meeting
Earthquake Engineering Research Institute and Western States Seismic Policy Council
Salt Lake City, Utah
Cost and Registration: $650, closes January 21
The theme of this year’s conference is “Earthquake Risk Reduction: Are Voluntary Actions the Key?” The conference will examine issues such as voluntary hazard ordinance adoption, challenges of seismic rehabilitation projects, and more.


March 2-3, 2009
Summit on the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges
Duke University, University of Southern California, and Olin College
Durham, North Carolina
Cost and Registration: $190, open until filled
This conference brings together engineering, science, humanities, and social science scholars from across the nation to articulate challenges and opportunities related to the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges and stimulate conversations about the importance of engineering and science that enhances quality of life.


March 5-6, 2009
18th Annual Land Use Conference
The Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute
Denver, Colorado
Cost and Registration: Not posted
The conference, entitled Sustainability: Beyond the Platitudes, will examine the need for a paradigm shift in societal attitudes, laws, and governing structures to achieve long-term sustainability. Proposed topics include the exploration of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies such as natural disaster planning, floodplain management and regulation, and drought adaptation.


March 29-April 1, 2009
DRJ Spring World
Disaster Recovery Journal
Orlando, Florida
Cost and Registration: $895 before January 29, open until filled
This conference is designed to provide business continuity solutions. Session topics include the future of disaster recovery, community preparation for pandemics, and incident management plan assessment. A mock disaster exercise will also be held.


March 30-31, 2009
Summit on America’s Climate Choices
The National Academies
Washington, D.C.
Cost and registration: Not posted
The summit is an opportunity for the Climate Choices Committee and panel members to interact with scientists, engineers, public health officials, members of Congress, and federal agency officials. Summit attendees will frame the study questions to be addressed by the committee, which was formed in response to a congressional request for advice on addressing the changing climate.


May 4-8, 2009
Sustaining the Millennium Development Goals
International Center for Remote Sensing of Environment, The Joint Centre of the European Commission, and others
Stresa, Italy
Cost and Registration: $509 before March 6, open until filled
The symposium focuses on the use of earth observation systems and airborne techniques to understand and manage the environment and natural resources. Sessions will examine disaster reduction and response, risk assessment and mitigation, early warning systems, and emergency response and damage assessment.

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9) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

[The following job postings provided an overview of some selected openings in hazards-related fields. For more information on a particular job, please follow the links provided.]

Environmental/Historic Preservation Specialist, GS-11
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Biloxi, Mississippi
Salary: $54,494 to $70,834
Closing Date: December 22, 2008
The specialist will assist in managing FEMA environmental and historic preservation compliance responsibilities. Duties include gathering data, analyzing and coordinating interagency projects, and providing technical policy assistance. One year of specialized experience equivalent to GS-10 is required.


Emergency Education Capacity Development Manager
Save the Children UK
London, England
Salary: $57,453
Closing Date: January 4, 2009
This position oversees the development and effective delivery of education in emergencies, facilitates training where appropriate, or manages others to do the same. Requirements include a master’s degree in education, experience designing humanitarian education field programs, and familiarity with emergency education in complex, rapid onset emergency settings.


Emergency Planning Coordinator
County of Santa Clara
San Jose, California
Salary: $65,195 to $79,277
Closing Date: December 29, 2008
This position plans and coordinates Santa Clara County emergency preparedness plans; develops comprehensive emergency plans; conducts technical disaster planning studies; and analyzes potential county disasters. At least two years at an accredited college or university, major coursework in a related field, and two years of administrative disaster relief, emergencies, or civil defense experience is required.


Executive Director
Stephenson Disaster Management Institute
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: January 30, 2009
This position will guide the institute’s research and education missions; build fiscal resources; develop and support an applied, multi-disciplinary research agenda; and build partnerships with scholars, emergency responders, and the business community. A master’s degree in a related field is required. Substantial expertise in emergency preparedness and response as a senior-level practitioner in a public safety-related field is desired.


Emergency Management Faculty
North Dakota State University
Fargo, North Dakota
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: January 15, 2009
The person chosen for this tenure-track Sociology, Anthropology, and Emergency Management Department faculty position must be able to teach about two or more of the following: disaster preparedness, mitigation and prevention, response and recovery, special needs populations in disaster, research methods, voluntary organizations in disaster, or possibly emergency management and disaster courses in your area of interest. A PhD in sociology, anthropology, emergency management, or a related field is required.


State Hazard Mitigation Supervisor
New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Salary: $43,056 to $76,544
Closing date: January 2, 2009
This position is the state project officer and principal staff advisor for pre- and post-disaster mitigation grants; develops and coordinates hazard mitigation planning statewide; and promotes structural and nonstructural mitigation practices that reduce the impacts of natural hazard events. A bachelor’s degree in engineering, hydrology, planning, environmental science, or a related field and five years of combined work experience is required.

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If you or your organization would like to add a job posting in the DR, please feel free to e-mail the information to

Questions for the readership and contributions to this e-newsletter are encouraged. Questions and messages should be indicated as such and sent to

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