NCED participated in an NSF Hazards Research Showcase on September 6th and 7th in Washington DC. The showcase, in which NSF hosted over 30 different research groups from around the nation, featured interactive demonstrations, research, and technology related to predication, preparation, and mitigation of physical hazards (storms, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, landslides, etc.). The first day of the showcase occurred at the NSF building in Washington DC for NSF staff and the general public, and the second day entailed taking the showcase to the Senate Hart Building on Capitol Hill for Senate congressmen and women as they start deliberating on how to allocate funds for basic hazards research.
The NCED exhibit, titled "The Hazards Cascade: The Science of Predicting Landslide and Flooding Hazards" used a 9-foot experimental flume to illustrate how hazards, specifically landslides, generally do not occur as isolated incidents. Landslides, which can be triggered by other hazards such as storms or earthquakes, can initiate additional hazards such as flooding or channel migration when landslide deposits interact with waterways. The flume, which contained a constructed channel form, had two attached 'landslide' boxes that allowed for the immediate addition of sediment into the channel, simulating landslide events. One configuration demonstrated channel response when a landslide deposit fully dammed the river (causing flooding upstream of the dam followed by catastrophic failure of the landslide dam to initiate flooding downstream), while another showed channel response to a landslide deposit when it partially blocked the channel (initiating channel migration). This 'hazard cascade' helps illustrate how hazard impacts can reverberate through an entire watershed, leading to additional loss of land, infrastructure, and lives.
Run by Barbara Burkholder, Stephanie Day, Peter Wilcock, and Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, the NCED exhibit was well received at both NSF and at the Senate Hart Building, with several people mentioning the value of being able to 'see' channel processes as they occurred in the flume rather than from a numerical model on a computer screen. Overall, the exhibit reaffirmed the advantage of physical experiments, in that they can provide insight and quantitative results that can be used to help inform numerical modeling and vice versa.
Other exhibits in the research showcase included earthquake simulators, tornado pads, search-and-rescue robots and more. "Fundamental research on natural and man-made disasters is required to tease out paths to prediction, preparation, mitigation and efficient and effective post-disaster response," said NSF Director Subra Suresh. "The National Science Foundation's investment provides a continuous pay off in local, state, and national policy toward these efforts."