Artificial Intelligence Helps to Contain Wildfires, Predict Wild Weather

On a tower in the Brazilian rainforest, a sentinel scans the horizon for the first signs of fire.

Only these eyes aren’t human. They don’t blink or take breaks, and guided by artificial intelligence they can tell the difference between a dust cloud, an insect swarm and a plume of smoke that demands quick attention. In Brazil, the devices help keep mining giant Vale SA working, and protect trees for pulp and paper producer Suzano SA.

Oregon Lagging on Disaster Preparedness, Scientists Warn

Oregon state lawmakers abandoned a multimillion-dollar project to develop early warning systems for earthquakes and wildfires, and scientists warn that the funding shake-up could endanger public safety and put Oregon further behind other West Coast states in preparing for natural disasters.

Researchers were shocked when nearly $12 million to expand ShakeAlert and AlertWildfire – early warning systems to help detect significant earthquakes and wildfires – unexpectedly went up in smoke last month, just days before the end of the legislative session. Money for the projects was included as part of a larger funding package, but was stripped in a last-minute amendment.

Another Extended Fire Season for Santa Cruz, California

(TNS) - As California continues to grapple with heightened wildland fire risk, Santa Cruz — with less exposure to risk than some areas — is readying for its worst-case scenarios.

As a rule, late summer and early fall is when fire response statewide and across jurisdictional borders tends to be hard and fast — stopping the conflagrations before they have time to take hold, according to Santa Cruz Fire Chief Jason Hajduk. Leading up to the fire season, however, the city has been doing extensive preventative work, creating “defensible space” that can stop a spreading fire in its tracks.

Cyber Alert: New Era in Privacy Liability to Begin. California’s Data Privacy Law Could Be Game-Changer

As the nation’s most far-reaching data privacy law, California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), is set to begin Jan. 1, 2020, businesses and their insurers are preparing for a new era in cyber liability.

Anxiety is on the rise and a sense of urgency has set in for Robert L. Wallan’s clients. Wallan, a partner in Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in Los Angeles, Calif., handles class actions, insurance recovery and business-related litigation.

Cities Turn to Hackers to Protect Their Tech

In early May, the city of Baltimore was struck by a ransomware attack that completely crippled the city’s computer networks and online services. Five weeks after the attack, the city was only able to restore one third of employees’ emails and the city’s billing system for water services was still offline. By July, email access for employees was finally restored, according to the Baltimore Sun, but the city’s email archive was still not accessible. Experts estimate that the Baltimore ransomware attack will cost the city approximately $18 million to restore all systems, yet the perpetrators of the attack demanded just $80,000 in cryptocurrency.

While Baltimore continues to make headlines, smaller cities and government agencies are also generating news about ransomware attacks. Three additional cities in Florida have been attacked and two of them — Lake City and Riviera Beach — agreed to pay the ransom, ranging from U.S. $500,000 to $600,000.

ShakeAlertLA Works, but Residents Want Even More Notice

(TNS) — More than 500,000 people have downloaded Los Angeles County’s new ShakeAlertLA app to warn them of impending earthquakes.

So when the two strongest earthquakes in almost two decades hit Southern California this month, those residents were surprised by what they saw on their smartphones: nothing.

Officials were quick to explain to outraged app users that the shaking in the county wasn’t strong enough to trigger an alert.

Southern California Quakes Raise Interest in West Coast Warning System

The powerful Mojave Desert earthquakes that rocked California ended a years-long lull in major seismic activity and raised new interest in an early warning system being developed for the West Coast.

The ShakeAlert system is substantially built in California and overall is about 55% complete, with much of the remaining installation of seismic sensor stations to be done in the Pacific Northwest, said Robert de Groot of the U.S. Geological Survey.

More Extreme Wet, Dry Seasons on the Horizon in California

(TNS) — California will get shorter bursts of more intense rainfall as the climate warms, a new study by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography suggests.

The study, “Precipitation regime change in Western North America: The role of Atmospheric Rivers,” was published Tuesday in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. It projects that California will face greater extremes of wet and dry seasons, with rainy periods dominated by atmospheric rivers — powerful plumes of airborne moisture that drench the West Coast.

Planning Transportation Projects Using 'Ultrasound for Roads'

When transportation officials consider a construction project, they typically drill into the ground to determine the composition of the earth beneath the work site. The information gleaned from those tests helps determine the design or repair requirements, but it’s an imperfect science, as the results can contain information gaps due to differing conditions between drilling locations—even if they’re just feet apart.

In Arkansas, officials address that problem by using non-invasive seismic imaging—a so-called “ultrasound for roads” that uses existing technology to help highway planners more accurately map the subsurface. The project, a research partnership between the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) and the University of Arkansas, aims to help road projects stay on schedule and on budget by providing detailed information without the need for exploratory drilling.

An Earthquake’s Impact Can Be Predicted – But Only After it Hits

Over the next week, Southern California has only a 27% chance of experiencing a third earthquake greater than magnitude 6, but a 96% chance of going through a tremor of magnitude 5 or higher.

Those precise probabilities were generated by scientists at the United States Geological Survey (USGS), using models based on longstanding principles of seismic behavior and decades of data on aftershocks from earthquakes.


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