From floods to earthquakes and erupting volcanoes, during March, Horizon focuses on the science helping prepare for natural disasters.
We speak to scientists that have mapped data from over 35 000 earthquakes to identify the regions most at risk from seismic activity. We also hear from the researchers who are developing ways to test power grids, transport networks and dams for vulnerability to natural events.
In the wake of intense flooding in parts of Europe, we find out about projects that are figuring out how to improve Europe’s resilience to flooding, and we talk to the coordinator of a project that is monitoring some of Europe’s largest volcanoes to better plan for future eruptions.
On 27 March, the EU called for research proposals to improve Europe’s disaster resilience, including ways to detect chemical and biological toxins, and methods of preparing for a pandemic outbreak.
Imagine the scenario, an earthquake strikes a small Mediterranean city, forcing people out of their homes and shattering roads. Then, violent aftershocks cause a landslide, burying one of the city suburbs, but rescuers can’t get in because the roads have been damaged.
Scanning the earth’s surface to check for volcanic changes will improve volcano early warning systems when combined with ground-based measurements, according to Dr Giuseppe Puglisi, of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology. Dr Puglisi manages the EU-funded MED-SUV research consortium which brings together monitoring techniques so that it can warn decision-makers when there’s a hightened risk of an eruption.
Tsunamis are not very frequent events, but they can have a terrible impact on human life and on the economy of a country. They occur as a result of earthquakes, usually at the bottom of the sea, but at present such earthquakes cannot be foreseen.
The coronavirus pandemic rattled our supply chains, putting them under intense pressure and forcing many to become aware of these complex systems that bring us food, medicine and other goods. Was 2020 a wake-up call to rethink supply chains? Or have they proved more robust than we feared and should continue as business as usual? In February, we ask whether today’s supply chains are due for reconfiguration. We speak to Dr Tessa Avermaete, a bioeconomist at KU Leuven in Belgium, about why short and local is not always better – or more sustainable – when it comes to food supply. We look at how medical supply chains can be maintained or even set up during a crisis situation, and at the environmental and social impacts of Europe’s supply chains on the rest of the world. And we look at how, in the future, goods from food to furniture could be transported according to new concept called the ‘physical internet’, where logistics mimics how information travels through the internet.
The construction industry has a heavy carbon footprint, accounting for some 40% of global emissions, and yet, as the world’s population grows, demand for housing and building is only soaring. We kick off 2021 by looking at how the construction sector can become greener and some of the radical solutions required. We speak to sustainable architecture expert Dr Catherine De Wolf about the need to design recyclable buildings and how that will require a fundamental restructure of the way the construction industry works. We look at nearly zero energy wooden homes and investigate whether this material can help us kick our concrete habit – concrete being the most used substance on Earth. We home in on techniques to make cement greener and piezoelectric to light up spaces with the addition of vegetable waste, and at how self-healing building materials can prolong the life of civil infrastructures. And we explore the promise of fungal architecture to see whether structures grown from fungus can green the way we build.
The earliest signs of alkaptonuria are often subtle and harmless, like a diaper stained black. However, over the years, this rare genetic disease can lead to a lifetime of surgery. Now, after 20 years of research, a not-so-new drug can offer relief for thousands of patients worldwide.
Nitisinone approval brings relief for people with alkaptonuria.
Producers must act now to ensure survival, say experts.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.