NSF News

In wake of wildfires and earthquakes, hurricanes and floods, NSF awards $19 million in natural hazards research grants

Each year in the U.S. and around the globe, earthquakes, storms, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters claim lives and leave people displaced. Natural disasters destroy property, devastate communities and strain social systems from healthcare to food supplies.

From 2008-2018, natural disasters caused economic losses totaling $850 billion in the U.S. and $1.5 trillion worldwide. In 2017 alone, wildfires such as the Northern California firestorm raged, Hurricane Harvey flooded parts of Texas, Hurricane Irma carved a path of destruction through the Southeast, and Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominica.

This September saw another reminder of the danger disasters pose: Hurricane Dorian tore through The Bahamas.

Natural disasters can't be stopped. But researchers supported by the National Science Foundation are working to find ways to minimize their impact. Through NSF's Prediction of and Resilience against Extreme Events (PREEVENTS) program, NSF supports researchers studying hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, coastal erosion, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, volcanoes, space weather disruption of the power grid, and other natural hazards.

"NSF's support for basic research on natural hazards will help the American people and those around the world better prepare for and respond to disasters," says Justin Lawrence, lead program director for NSF's 2019 PREEVENTS grants. The awards are supported by NSF's Directorate for Geosciences.

"PREEVENTS projects will provide important information that can be used by communities in the United States and elsewhere to further public safety and protect economies," Lawrence says.

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 our understanding of the processes underlying natural hazards and extreme events.

This year's PREEVENTS awards address hailstorm forecasts, urban areas during heat waves, extreme solar eruptions, coastal flood risk, and tsunami warnings, among other topics.


Below is a list of the 2019 NSF PREEVENTS awardees, their institutions, and project titles.

Rebecca Adams-Selin, Atmospheric and Environmental Research Inc; John Allen, Central Michigan University; Matthew Kumjian, Pennsylvania State University; Conrad Ziegler, University of Oklahoma Norman: PREEVENTS Track 2: Improving High-Impact Hail Event Forecasts by Linking Hail Environments and Modeled Hailstorm Processes

Dan Li, Boston University; Lucy Hutyra, Katharine Lusk, Rosemary White, Heping Liu, Washington State; Yuyu Zhou, Iowa State University: PREEVENTS Track 2: Land-atmosphere feedbacks over urban terrain under heat waves

Jon Linker, Carter Emmart, Tibor Torok, Predictive Science Incorporated; Xudong Sun, University of Hawaii: PREEVENTS Track 2: Quantifying the Risk of Extreme Solar Eruptions (QUEST)

Giuseppe Buscarnera, Daniel Horton, Northwestern University; Alexander Handwerger, Middlebury College; Karen Daniels, North Carolina State University; Eric Fielding, Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Giovanni Crosta, Sezione di Scienze Geologiche e Geotecnologie; Ross Meentemeyer, Jason Painter, North Carolina State; Rao Kotamarthi, Argonne National Lab: PREEVENTS Track 2: Defining precursors of ground failure: a multiscale framework for early landslide prediction through geomechanics and remote sensing

Philip Orton, Stevens Institute of Technology; James Booth, CUNY City College; Thomas Wahl, University of Central Florida; Stefan Talke, Portland State University; Jon Woodruff, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Alison Brizius, City of Boston; Jainey Bavishi, NYC Office of the Mayor; Nathaniel Plant, USGS Saint Petersburg; Kathleen White, Department of the Army: PREEVENTS Track 2: Geomorphic Versus Climatic Drivers of Changing Coastal Flood Risk

Joannes Westerink, University of Notre Dame; Clinton Dawson, University of Texas at Austin; Ethan Kubatko, Ohio State University; Laxmikant Kale, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: PREEVENTS Track 2: A Dynamic Unified Framework for Hurricane Storm Surge Analysis and Prediction Spanning across the Coastal Floodplain and Ocean

Jeffrey Donnelly, Peter Van Hengstum, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Robert Korty, Texas A&M University Main Campus; Kerry Emanuel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Kristopher Karnauskas, University of Colorado Boulder; Ning Lin, Princeton University: PREEVENTS Track 2: Predicting Hurricane Risk Along the United States East Coast in a Changing Climate

James Done, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Daniel Swain, University of California, Los Angeles: PREEVENTS Track 2: COEXIST: COnnected EXtremes In Space and Time

Glen Romine, Julie Demuth, Ryan Sobash, Morris Weisman, University Corporation For Atmospheric Research; Lance Bosart, SUNY at Albany: PREEVENTS Track 2: Multi-scale processes impacting the predictability of severe convective weather events

Taryn Lopez, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Ronni Grapenthin, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology; David Fee, Pavel Izbekov, Jessica Larsen, Michelle Coombs, Janet Schaefer, Christoph Kern, USGS Alaska Volcano Observatory; Kyle Anderson, Jacob Lowenstein, USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory; Kerstin Lehnert, IEDA: PREEVENTS Track 2: Development and testing of volcanic eruption models and forecasts through multidisciplinary data synthesis at Alaska volcanoes

Anne Sheehan, University of Colorado Boulder; Kenji SATAKE, University of Tokyo; William Wilcock, University of Washington; Kyle Stroker, NOAA; Aditya Riadi Gusman, GNS Science; Charles Meertens, UNAVCO: PREEVENTS Track 2: Cascadia Tsunami Warning with Data Assimilation and Optimal Sensor Distribution

Benjamin Zaitchik, Hamada Badr, Johns Hopkins University; Jason Otkin, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Trevor Keenan, University of California, Berkeley; Martha Anderson, USDA; Christopher Hain, Thomas Holmes, NASA: PREEVENTS Track 2: Flash droughts: process, prediction, and the central role of vegetation in their evolution

Michael Gollner, University of Maryland, College Park; Evan Ellicott, Kayo Ide, Arnaud Trouve, Steven Hawks, CalFire; Nelson Bryner, NIST; Jennifer Jenkins, BLM; Alison York, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Heidi Strader, Predictive Services: PREEVENTS Track 2: Fire Spread at the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Modeling and Data Assimilation for Prediction and Risk assessment (WUI MAPR)

Radley Horton, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University: PREEVENTS Track 1: Meteorology and Impacts of Correlated Climate Extremes