Earth Observatory Blog

Submitted on 10 Nov 2021 by:

On 25 October 2010 at 9:42 PM local time, the people living on the southern Mentawai islands, a chain of islands located off Sumatra, Indonesia, felt a slow, gentle rocking of the rocks below their feet1. Initial reports of the earthquake indicated that a magnitude-7 to -7.2 earthquake had occurred seaward of the islands2. Five to 10 minutes later, a large wave inundated the western coasts of the islands, locally flooding areas more than 10 metres above the ground surface1. Together, the earthquake and tsunami killed more than 400 people and left 300 missing.

Such a large tsunami would typically require an earthquake of magnitude greater than 8. In this case, while the early data from the Mentawai earthquake suggested a much smaller event, a more complete assessment of...

Submitted on 18 Oct 2021 by:

Lying at the junction of several tectonic plates, Myanmar is exposed to geohazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. To help prepare for these hazards, scientists produce hazard assessments using their understanding of the region’s geology and tectonic activity. They seek to answer questions such as: how do the tectonic plates interact with each other, how deep the magma is, where the faults are, and what kinds of earthquakes can we expect? 

Scientists from the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) and their collaborators proposed a new 3D velocity model for the subsurface structure of the Earth’s crust and lithosphere down to a depth of 80 kilometres (km) below Myanmar. 

In this study, published in ...

Submitted on 08 Oct 2021 by:

Forests help us in many ways. They preserve biodiversity, combat climate change, and even protect us from floods. However, quantifying the value of these benefits has been a challenge for many years. 

Scientists from the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) have found a way to evaluate the impacts of nature-based solutions, such as forest protection, on flood risk. In a new study published in One Earth, they show that protecting forests from deforestation in Myanmar’s Chindwin River basin could reduce the economic and human costs of floods by 14 per cent, saving US$1 million in flood-losses annually and protecting 30,000 people in the next decade.

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Submitted on 26 Aug 2021 by:

In this interview series, we learn about the perspectives of the PhD students whose wide-ranging work contribute to the SEA2 Program and share what drives them in their research.

The past sea levels of the Holocene period can be reconstructed via the use of paleo-proxies, including the use of mangrove sediments, which contain organic materials that can be carbon-dated and serve as age markers and one person working on such historical records is Christabel Tan, a second-year PhD student on Professor Benjamin Horton’s research team. 

Collecting sediment core data for her thesis at Pulau Ubin, she studies and analyses their contents to help fine-tune sea-level...

Submitted on 19 Aug 2021 by:

Bangladesh, a densely populated country of over 160 million people, regularly faces climate hazards caused by flooding and typhoons. However, another natural hazard lies silently beneath the country: active tectonic faults. The fault system below Bangladesh is estimated to be able to generate an earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or greater – a phenomenally dangerous possibility, given that it lies only a few kilometres below the surface. Such an earthquake would also trigger secondary hazards: liquefaction, flooding, and possibly even abrupt shifts in the course of rivers. Despite its extreme hazard, this fault system remains poorly understood.

Bangladesh sits on the eastern border of the collision zone between India and Eurasia, where the Indian plate is subducting eastward...

Submitted on 13 Jul 2021 by:

In a world largely driven by technology, the Global Positioning System (GPS) is ubiquitous. Best known for providing positioning, navigation, and timing services, the incorporation of this system into smartphones and smartwatches has made it almost indispensable for many.

Scientists at the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) have explored the use of this system for climate research by observing the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere. Atmospheric water vapour, albeit invisible, plays a crucial role in shaping the Earth’s weather and climate.

GPS radio signals travel from GPS satellites at an altitude of ~20,000 kilometres to ground receivers through the Earth’s atmosphere. Because of its physical properties, the atmosphere slows and bends the GPS signals. As...

Submitted on 15 Jun 2021 by:

In April 1991, the authorities in the Philippines began evacuating people from their homes located within 30 kilometres (km) of Mount Pinatubo. More than 60,000 people were evacuated by early June 1991. This huge undertaking came after recommendations from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), and the US Geological Survey (USGS). 

Pinatubo had not recorded any eruption in the past 500 years, yet just a few days after the evacuations, the first explosive eruptions of the volcano in centuries took place.

On 12 June gas-charged magma reached the surface of Pinatubo, creating a series of explosions that formed spectacular...

Submitted on 08 Jun 2021 by:

Did you know that the coral reefs of Southeast Asia account for a third of the world total? Spanning an area of 100,000 km2, these reefs are rich in biodiversity and provide critical services to coastal communities, including fisheries, tourism, and coastal protection. 

While reef health and resilience are often measured by metrics such as the amount of coral on a reef or the number of different species, the quality of the coral skeleton itself is also a critical part of the services reefs provide. In Singapore, we found that some coral skeletons deformed and fractured more easily than their counterparts from other reefs, which may make them more vulnerable to climate change.

As corals grow, they deposit calcium carbonate crystals underneath their tissue, building...

Submitted on 21 Apr 2021 by:

Visitors to the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) will be familiar with the exhibition of polar and tropical marine wildlife by some of the world’s leading photographers.

The driving force behind the ‘Elysium Epic Trilogy’ exhibition is Mr Michael Aw, the entrepreneurial underwater photographer who organised three expeditions to the Arctic, Antarctic, and Coral Triangle to document the species featured in this unique exhibition.

The locations of three disparate Elysium expeditions share one common feature – they are all in the front line of climate change. Of his experiences in the Antarctic, the Arctic, and the Coral Triangle, Michael set the scene: “It is humbling and challenging because we can see what we will lose and how much or how little we can do about...

Submitted on 18 Mar 2021 by:

Singapore is known as one of the safest places in the world. Why, then, would we choose Singapore as a case study for developing new methods for disaster risk reduction?

People tend to be surprised when a natural hazard occurs and shocked when disastrous impacts follow. We wanted to create a new framework that can help preempt such surprise. We developed a guided process to explore potential outcomes that we do not naturally want to consider due to our optimistic human nature. And, regarded as one of the world’s safest countries, where could be a more surprising location for a disaster to happen other than Singapore?

First, we needed to better quantify and understand the past disasters Singapore has experienced. We started by looking into the past records of...

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