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Rio+20 shows how shoring up natural ecosystems can help protect us from Mother Nature's fury. Rescue workers carry a body from the rubble of a village destroyed by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011. Natural disasters are a fact of life.There's no controlling Mother Nature, and her wrath can, at times, be staggering. Paying attention to any advanced signs and warnings dramatically improve the amount of time you have to react and increases your chance of surviving a tsunami or other natural disaster. The warning for the most recent tsunami in Japan was issued nine minutes after the earthquake hit.
Did the survivors of this and other tsunamis do something differently that helped them survive while others perished?
Yoshio Kimura survived the recent Japanese tsunami by climbing a hill near his home in Onagawa, Japan. Vitalia dismissed this information but her husband took it seriously and the family climbed up a nearby hill and waited for the threat to pass. Chris Chapman, a survivor of the tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004, reported that he and his travel companion were in their guest house, about a half mile from the beach.
Possibly the most famous survivors of the 2004 tsunami, Petra Nemcova survived by clinging to a tree for more than eight hours and Nate Berkus survived by clinging to a telephone pole.
Since the force of the tsunami waves can still knock you into the water, climbing trees and other structures that are in the path of the tsunami may not offer much protection but it’s better than nothing. Leif Giske also got caught in the 2004 tsunami and can credit his quick reaction for his survival. The odds of surviving a tsunami are not specifically known because they occur so infrequently. Long after Aberfan dropped out of the news headlines, the people of the town were still coming to terms with their feelings of grief, anger and even guilt.
While most of the ship's wood has long since disintegrated, copper that sheathed the hull beneath the waterline as a protection against marine-boring organisms remains, leaving a copper shell retaining the form of the ship. During a recent Gulf of Mexico expedition, NOAA, BOEM and partners discovered an historic wooden-hulled vessel which is believed to have sunk as long as 200 years ago.
The NOAA-funded 56-day expedition that ended April 29 was exploring poorly known regions of the Gulf, mapping and imaging unknown or little-known features and habitats, developing and testing a method to measure the rate that gas rises from naturally-occurring seeps on the seafloor, and investigating potential shipwreck sites.
Video footage (mp3) captured by the Little Hercules remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and camera platform during the April 26 ROV dive from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer during the Gulf of Mexico Expedition 2012.
The shipwreck site was originally identified as an unknown sonar contact during a 2011 oil and gas survey for Shell Oil Company. Significant historical events occurring in the regions around the Gulf of Mexico during this time include the War of 1812, events leading to the Texas Revolution, and the Mexican-American War, he said. An anemone lives on top of a musket that lies across a whole group of muskets at the site of the shipwreck.
Background information, web logs from scientists at sea and ashore, video clips, still images, and education lesson plans describing the expedition are available online.


BOEM manages the exploration and development of the nation's offshore energy and mineral resources. The NOAA Ocean Exploration Program is the only federal program dedicated to systematic exploration of the planet’s largely unknown ocean. NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.
A map produced by NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer's sonar shows the West Florida Escarpment, a steep undersea cliff. An octocoral, as evidenced by the eight tentacles seen on its polyps, is observed during the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer mission. A variety of artifacts inside the ship's hull relates either to daily life on board or to the ship’s cargo. NOAA's Seirios Camera Platform, operating above the Little Hercules ROV, images the ROV and an anchor inside the hull of a copper-sheathed shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico.
Last year, natural disasters—from droughts in Africa and Russia to typhoons and massive flooding in Thailand—caused a record $378 billion worth of damage.The indications are that the situation will get worse, not better.
Unfortunately, this only gave the residents in the hardest hit areas about 15 minutes to react.
Unfortunately, as the recent tsunami in Japan demonstrated, there may not always be sufficient warning of a tsunami to allow time to get to a safer location.
However, being in the water when a tsunami hits greatly increases your chance of being killed. They were not aware of the tsunami until they heard the roar of the water rushing down the streets. Once he and his travel companions observed the ocean reappear in the form of a huge wave, they took off running. The stories from tsunami survivors offer insight into how we can prepare for our own survival in case of an extreme emergency or natural disaster.
The copper has turned green due to oxidation and chemical processes over more than a century on the seafloor. Scientists on board the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer used underwater robots with lights and high definition cameras to view remnants of the ship laden with anchors, navigational instruments, glass bottles, ceramic plates, cannons, and boxes of muskets. The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) requested this and other potential shipwreck sites be investigated during NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico expedition. At the base of the West Florida Escarpment, a steep undersea cliff, explorers found a “forest” of deep corals, several of which were new to scientists on the ship and ashore. The bureau seeks to balance economic development, energy production, and environmental protection through oil and gas leasing, renewable energy development and environmental reviews and studies. NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is operated, managed and maintained by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations which includes commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps and civilian wage mariners. The base of the escarpment (2,600 meters deep) is shown in blue with the upper rim more than 600 meters above. Artifacts include ceramic plates, platters, and bowls; and glass liquor, wine, medicine, and food storage bottles of many shapes and colors (some with the contents still sealed inside).


When enough pressure is applied to buried salt by overlying seafloor sediments, the salt flows up near the seafloor where it mixes with seawater and dissolves into brine, which is then brought to the seafloor by buoyant gas and oil.
After a 9.5 magnitude earthquake hit the area, she was told by a passerby that the sea had receded from the shore. So, alternatively, experts suggest climbing onto a roof or the upper floors of a building to increase the chance of survival. Had they not been able to escape, the best solution would have been to try to grab onto a piece of debris that floats or something sturdy like a tree. Heeding warnings and responding to our natural instincts may be our best chance of survival.
Surveys and archaeological assessments are required by BOEM to aid in its decision-making prior to issuing permits for bottom-disturbing activities related to oil and gas exploration and development. For several days the expedition team also imaged deep-coral communities in the vicinity of the Macondo oil spill site.
NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research operates, manages and maintains the cutting-edge ocean exploration systems on the vessel and ashore.
ROV dives explored the physical structure of the seafloor and biodiversity on soft and hard bottom areas. Because brine is denser than seawater, it flows along the seafloor as rivers and streams, often collecting in massive pools to form brine lakes. There's no ignoring the problem, but there remains a critical question: What protects us better, human engineering or natural landscapes? On another part of the expedition, team members designed and installed a device on the ship’s undersea robot system, or ROV (remotely-operated vehicle), to measure the rate that gas rises in the water column.
There's a natural human urge to rely on the things we make, but the lessons of the past decade have led in a different direction.Often, the great works of civil engineering that we built as insurance against disaster had the opposite effect. Over the past century, the levees built to protect low-lying New Orleans choked off the natural wetlands that once served as a buffer between the Big Easy and the Gulf of Mexico.
So when the hurricane hit—with the area's natural buffers mostly gone—the resulting flooding overwhelmed the city's elaborate man-made defenses, leading to the worst natural disaster to hit the U.S.
But in other places, it's the sheer complexity of the human-built environment that makes it more prone to catastrophic failure. It was bad enough by itself, but it was made worse when it set off a chain reaction that caused a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.That's why the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) will take a look at disaster preparedness from a different angle. Is it possible to use "green" methods to avert catastrophe?"The natural infrastructure provided by ecosystems is often more locally accessible and less expensive to maintain than human-made, or 'gray' infrastructure," UN Environmental Program (UNEP) Director Ibrahim Thiaw said recently. Even the Netherlands—one of the most engineered countries in the world—has instituted a program to make "Room for the River," re-establishing the floodplains of its rivers.Can sustainable development plans go hand in hand with disaster prevention?



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