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News Release 17-087

In wake of hurricanes, floods and wildfires, NSF awards $18.7 million in natural hazards research grants

Scientists study ways to predict and respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, drought, heat waves

Finding better ways of responding to land-falling hurricanes like Harvey is a PREEVENTS goal.

Finding better ways of responding to land-falling hurricanes like Harvey is a PREEVENTS goal.

September 12, 2017

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Hurricane Harvey: It dropped a record-breaking 50-plus inches of rain across parts of Texas and left behind widespread, devastating floods. Following in Harvey's wake, Hurricane Irma has spun another path of destruction.

Beyond the Harvey and Irma disasters, wildfires raged in California this summer, forcing thousands to flee their homes. Now, dozens have perished in Mexico's strongest earthquake in a century.

In the decade from 2003 to 2013, natural disasters around the globe caused $1.5 trillion in economic damages and took the lives of almost 1.2 million people. Over that same 10-year period, the U.S. lost nearly $650 billion due to such disasters.

How can scientists better predict or prevent such catastrophes? How can they help people recover more quickly?

To find answers to these questions, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded 15 new grants totaling $18.7 million through its PREEVENTS (Prediction of and Resilience Against Extreme Events) program. PREEVENTS is part of NSF's Risk and Resilience portfolio.

PREEVENTS' goals are to improve predictability and risk assessments of natural hazards, increase resilience to these events, and reduce their effects on human lives, societies and economies. PREEVENTS also supports research that will improve the understanding of the processes underlying natural hazards and extreme events.

"The more we know about geophysical hazards and how they affect human activity, the closer we come to averting or mitigating the damage they can inflict," says William Easterling, NSF assistant director for Geosciences. The Directorate for Geosciences funds PREEVENTS. "This group of PREEVENTS studies will move us an important step in that direction," Easterling says.

PREEVENTS scientists are working to improve the understanding of natural hazards and extreme events, and to increase capabilities to model and forecast these hazards and events.

Researchers funded by the program are studying hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, earthquakes, coastal erosion, severe thunderstorms, monsoons, volcanoes, space weather disruption of the power grid, landslides and extreme heat waves.

The scientists hope to find new ways to beat disasters -- in whatever form they may arrive.


Leila Carvalho, Alan Murray, Dar Roberts, Richard Church and Charles Jones, University of California-Santa Barbara: PREEVENTS Track 2: Understanding Extreme Fire Weather Hazards and Improving Resilience in Coastal Santa Barbara, California

Robert DeConto, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Robert Kopp III and Benjamin Strauss, Rutgers University; David Pollard, Pennsylvania State University: Collaborative Research: PREEVENTS Track 2: Thresholds and Envelopes of Rapid Ice-Sheet Retreat and Sea-Level Rise: Reducing Uncertainty in Coastal Flood Hazards

Robert Field, Katia Fernandes, Alton Williams, Columbia University: PREEVENTS Track 1: Fire Prediction Across Scales Conference at Columbia University

Yihe Huang, University of Michigan Ann Arbor; Marine Denolle, Harvard University; Amanda Thomas, University of Oregon: Collaborative Proposal - PREEVENTS Track 2: Cascadia Scenario Earthquakes: Source, Path, and Implications for Earthquake Early Warning

Erkan Istanbulluoglu, Christina Bandaragoda, Brian Collins, Alexander Horner-Devine and Guillaume Mauger, University of Washington: PREEVENTS TRACK 2: Integrated Modeling of Hydro-Geomorphic Hazards: Floods, Landslides and Sediment

Andrew Kennedy, Diogo Bolster and Damrongsak Wirasaet, University of Notre Dame; Joel Dietrich, North Carolina State University: PREEVENTS Track 2: Collaborative Research: Subgrid-Scale Corrections to Increase the Accuracy and Efficiency of Storm Surge Models

Jason Knievel, National Center for Atmospheric Research; David Nolan, University of Miami: PREEVENTS Track 2: Collaborative Research: More Resilient Coastal Cities and Better Hurricane Forecasts through Multi-Scale Modeling of Extreme Winds in the Urban Canopy

Steven Krueger, Jan Mandel, Peter Willemsen, Eric Pardyjak and Adam Kochanski, University of Utah: PREEVENTS Track 2: A Fast-Response Wildland Fire Modeling Framework for Prediction and Risk Assessment

Michael Liemohn and Daniel Welling, University of Michigan Ann Arbor ; Jamesina Simpson, University of Utah; Brian Anderson, The Johns Hopkins University; Raluca Illie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: PREEVENTS Track 2: Collaborative Research: Comprehensive Hazard Analysis for Resilience to Geomagnetic Extreme Disturbances

Franklin Lombardo, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: PREEVENTS Track 1: Tornado Hazard Wind Assessment and Reduction Symposium

Elinor Martin, Jason Furtado, Michael Richman, Cameron Homeyer and Renee McPherson, University of Oklahoma, Norman; Heather Lazrus, National Center for Atmospheric Research: PREEVENTS Track 2: Collaborative Research: Developing a Framework for Seamless Prediction of Sub-Seasonal to Seasonal Extreme Precipitation Events in the United States

Kim Olsen and Daniel Roten, San Diego State University: PREEVENTS Track 2: 3D Nonlinear Simulation of Large Earthquakes on the Southern San Andreas Fault

Matteo Pozzi and Mario Berges, Carnegie-Mellon University; Kelly Klima, Rand Corporation; Bou-Zeid, Princeton University: PREEVENTS Track 2: Collaborative Research: SHADE: Surface Heat Assessment for Developed Environments

Raymond Schmitt and Caroline Ummenhofer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Laifang Li, Duke University: PREEVENTS Track 2: Collaborative Research: Ocean Salinity as a Predictor of US Hydroclimate Extremes

Gabor Toth, Ward Manchester and Bart van der Holst, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor: PREEVENTS Track 2: Integrated Modeling of Extreme Space Weather Events from Electron to Global Scales


Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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