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Public Lecture Sneak Peek: ARkSTORM

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Detailed Description

  • Scientists are preparing ARkStorm for emergency planning and disaster preparedness
  • A series of ‘Atmospheric River’ events slams into the West Coast with hurricane force overal several weeks
  • Weather models show expected hazards such as floods, landslides, and erosion impacting life and property
  • Storms of this magnitude are projected to become more frequent and intense as a result of changing climate conditions


Public Domain.


Amelia: Hello and Welcome to a sneak preview of our USGS Evening Public Lecture for February 25th.

I'm Amelia Barrales and today I have with me USGS Multi-hazards Demonstration Project Manager for ARkSTORM, Dale Cox.

Hi Dale, thank you for being here today and giving us this interview.

Dale: My pleasure, I'm really excited about being here on Thursday night.

Amelia : You are the manager for the Mulit-hazards Demonstration project, what IS the Multi-hazards Demonstration Project?

Dale: Well the multi-hazards demonstration project is a project within the U.S. Geological Survey. And as you know and probably many people know the USGS is made up of distinct disciplines, there's geology, water resources, biology and geography, a lot of science in between. What we are really trying to do is increase communities, communities resiliency to natural hazards and keep disasters from turning into catastrophes.

Amelia: In 2008, the multi-hazards demonstration project, had its very first and very successful event called ShakeOut. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Dale: Our first community that we focused in was Southern California which is a community of about 23 million people. We picked a 7.8 earthquake on the southern section of San Andreas fault and what we did we created a scenario, a scientifically plausible earthquake scenario. For that scenario, we had to pick a time, and the time of the earthquake was important. We picked 10 o'clock in the morning and on a November 13th. What we were trying to do with this, is to change public awareness of earthquakes. So, we crafted the earthquake, we looked at the secondary hazards then we, once we had those we said okay, what are the infrastructure damages and then the social and economic concerns and laid all that out, that was then turned over to the state of California for the Golden Gaurdian emergency response exercise, which is now an annual event.

Amelia: Great, with all of this success with the ShakeOut, you guys came up with a new scenario called ARkSTORM, what's that about?

Dale: We knew that the emergency responders asked us to do something like this. They knews that these big storms come into California. As a matter of fact there's the one that is in least written history, was the big storm of 1861 and 1862 that caused the state capitol to be moved for a time being to the Bay Area. Leland Stanford had to take a row boat to his inauguration. And it pretty much flooded the whole central valley. But there is not much data known on that, there are probably like four rain gages and there were was a lot of anecdotal information in newspapers and a lot of accounts, but not a lot of data to go on. So what we're doing is, we know that these sort of storms have happened in our past and the intergovernmental panel on climate change also projects that these extreme events, these types of storms are the type that will be coming our way because of climate change in the future, and so this would be a good one to prepare for. We have pulled together A team of meteorologists from NOAA, and Boulder Colorado and the State of California Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the Desert Research Institute, the U.S. Geological Survey, many, many people that have experience in these west coast storms which are called atmospheric rivers, these things that we normally call "pineapple express" they are scientifically termed atmospheric rivers, and what they do is they basically channel moisture from the tropics, life fire hose intensity right into the west coast. And that is where we get the name "ARkSTORM". And so what we are doing with that is that we are looking at a storm that will encompass both northern and southern California. So there was no data on that, what we did was craft...take two storms, they took 1969 and they took 1986 and they stitched those together to create sort of a "frankenstorm" if you will. And with that we had all of the data that went along with those storms. Those are modern storms that, you know...have produced data so we have precipitation data, we have wind data, we have temperature and we barometric pressure. We asked the USGS Coastal and Marine group to put together a costal inundation model that will accept this data and that could also in the future postulate the effects of sea level rise with these sort of storms, and we have laid out what we think that that's going to be and then...we are right now in position, that spot in the scenario creation to give this over to experts and engineers and say, okay here's the flooding, here's the landsliding , here's the coastal inundation, what's that going to do to your current infrastructure? And then once we get those sort of hits, then we can determine the social and economic concerns, so this is very much like the ShakeOut and then this will be the basis of the 2011 Golden Gaurdian state wide emergency response exercise.

Amelia: Wow, that's a lot. Well, sounds really exciting and thank you so much for sharing all this with us today, we look forward to your talk.

Dale: Thanks a lot Amelia.

Amelia: If you are interested in learning more about this upcoming lecture and to view any of our previous lectures, please visit our USGS Evening Public Lecture Series website at His video will be available online on at the end of the month for viewing.

Thank you for your interest in our USGS Public Lecture Series.

This a production of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Interior.

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