Earth Observatory Blog

Submitted on 06 Nov 2017 by:

Typhoon Hato–one of the strongest typhoons in 53 years–struck the coasts of southern China on August 23, 2017. The typhoon, which claimed 26 lives and resulted in billions of dollars in economic losses, generated widespread storm surge flooding in the coastal cities of Macau and Zhuhai as it coincided with an usually high astronomical tide.

While Macau and its neighbouring city, Zhuhai, frequently experience storm events, the severity of flooding during Hato was the worst in recorded history.

Three days after the event, our survey team–a collaboration between the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS), National University of Singapore (NUS), and Tsinghua University–was deployed to Macau and Zhuhai to investigate the impacts left by Typhoon Hato.


Submitted on 02 Nov 2017 by:

In 2010, Assistant Professor Wang Xianfeng and his Brazilian colleague were in a cave deep in the Amazon jungle, wading through waist-deep water in almost complete darkness. The only sources of light came from the head torches mounted on their foreheads.

They were collecting rock samples from caves to study climate changes in the Amazon during the last ice age 21,000 years ago.

Asst. Prof Wang was leading the way, when his colleague spotted something up ahead and told him to stop.

“I was laughing. I thought he was kidding with me as that’s what we often do to boost morale on field trips,” Asst. Prof Wang said. He waded on. “But my colleague told me to stop again, and this time I could sense he was serious. I immediately stopped and asked him what had...

Submitted on 26 Oct 2017 by:

On 25 April 2015, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, destroying buildings and infrastructure across 31 of Nepal’s 70 districts. Approximately 9,000 people lost their lives to the earthquake that day, 22,000 suffered from injuries, and eight million were affected.

I arrived in Kathmandu one week after the quake, as part of the World Bank disaster risk management team, to support the government of Nepal in various response and recovery activities.

In the days before getting on the plane, I worked with the Stanford Urban Resilience Initiative to develop an initial earthquake impact estimate, based on an impact model I had already developed for Nepal.

I had been researching the seismic risk of Kathmandu for my PhD at Stanford. More specifically, I was...

Submitted on 24 Oct 2017 by:

Our Earth is warming. In fact, the planet’s average temperature has risen by 0.6°C over the past century, and is projected to rise another 2 to 6°C over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.

The evidence is clear. Rising global temperatures have been accompanied by notable changes in weather and climate. Many places have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. The planet's oceans and glaciers have also experienced major changes – oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising.

Sea-level rise is one of the more...

Submitted on 23 Oct 2017 by:

The media’s use of alarmist words to communicate science is a challenging and multifaceted issue. Peeling back the layers, we find that there are many complex processes involved in science communication.

On the one hand, we have a large, relatively disaffected populace who are not necessarily familiar with scientific discourse. They may find the specialised language and vocabulary of science and scientific terminology inaccessible.

On the other hand, we have scientists and researchers, as well as media channels, who may or may not be informed about the nature of the scientific research they are communicating to the public.

Oftentimes, a call to action tends to incorporate the sensationalisation of issues, and discourses can veer away from accuracy...

Submitted on 21 Oct 2017 by:

The air-guns stopped shooting at 5:00am. Years of preparation, countless financial resources, hours of effort, and bright minds from twelve different countries went into making the MIRAGE II expedition a reality. On Friday, the 20th of October, congratulations were in order for a job well done.

As the seismic team retrieved the streamer and air-guns for the last time, everyone on board began to pack their belongings, data, and experiences, and bid the R/V Marion Dufresne farewell.


A huge box of envelopes had been resting in the Captain’s office for the duration of the expedition. These envelopes are part of a tradition that started in 1896, when a resident of...

Submitted on 19 Oct 2017 by:

For the past three weeks, the scientists on board the R/V Marion Dufresne have had a great deal of work to do. Previous voyages to the Wharton Basin yielded evidence of the formation of a new plate boundary, and one of the research goals of this expedition was to image the subsurface of the sea floor, down to a depth of 30-40 kilometres (km).

These research goals were only made possible by the tremendous effort of the ship’s crew and the resident Marine Mammal Observers, who continuously worked to support the scientists. For one day, I observed the comings and goings on the decks of the Marion Dufresne. This is what it looked like. 

06:00 Dawn has broken on...

Submitted on 18 Oct 2017 by:

A flash of light catches my eye and I raise my binoculars to check it out. A dolphin perhaps? Or a basking turtle? I search until I spot it again. The object is bobbing high in the water, doing a little dance in the light breeze. It is a stick. It has bobbed far to get here, over 300 miles from land, through waters five kilometres (km) deep.

I keep watching, straining to keep my tired eyes entertained. It is hot on the bridge, and the 12:00pm to 2:00pm shift – immediately after a heavy French lunch complete with cheese and wine – is dragging. The incessant heat of the midday sun drives me from the roof of the bridge. I gain shade but lose what little breeze there was and now must find a way to stay alert for another hour and 12...

Submitted on 17 Oct 2017 by:

Follow the progress of MIRAGE II between 25th September and 20th October 2017 on the EOS blog, and spread the word using #MIRAGEcruise.

Submitted on 16 Oct 2017 by:

If you know anyone who has ever been out at sea for a long period of time, they will tell you just how difficult it is to have access to certain luxuries such as internet connection. On board R/V Marion Dufresne the internet speed varies wildly, but it is at best, slower than mediocre bandwidth on land.

With this in mind, Chief Marine Technician Sacha Fouchar had to try every trick in the book to make our conference call with the United Nations (UN) in Geneva possible.

Chief Scientist Satish Singh was invited to share his experiences in a joint event organised with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. The goal was to discuss how to reduce disaster risk in order to achieve the UN sustainable development goals.