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Center for Natural Hazards Research


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Research Projects

Global Precipitation Analysis for Climate and Weather Studies
NASA NEWS funding $1,347,000 total; $105,000 to ECU

This proposal focuses on the science question: How are the characteristics of global precipitation changing in terms of means, variations and extremes, and what is the confidence in our conclusions? Important characteristics of global precipitation (including global and regional means, extremes, variations and trends, and the confidence limits thereof) will be determined by extending, improving and analyzing the 25+ year standard merged precipitation analyses of the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) of the WCRP/GEWEX and other shorter, high quality data sets such as from TRMM and Aqua/AMSR.

This project will also actively contribute to the integrated NEWS effort to analyze the full global water cycle as a whole, examining all the relevant observational global data sets (e.g., ocean evaporation, clouds, water vapor, etc.) to identify inconsistencies, artifacts and limitations in the data sets and better understand both the means and variations in all the water cycle components. This integration of the global observational data sets in concert with similar analyses of the water cycle in global models will likely be one of the major advances of the NEWS program.

Principle Investigator: Robert Adler (NASA/GSFC)
CO-Principal Investigator: Scott Curtis (ECU)
CO-Investigators (in alphabetical order): Guojun Gu (UMBC/GEST)
  George Huffman (SSAI)



Mercury Contamination of Floodplain Sediments from Historic Gold Mining in North Carolina
National Geographic Society $19,581

The first gold rush in the U.S. began in the Piedmont of North Carolina in the early 1800s. Mining operations used mercury to recover fine gold particles, which has led to the release of unprecedented amounts of mercury to the environment. Nevertheless, relatively little is known about the environmental impacts, long-term dispersal, and ultimate fate of this contaminant. Mercury is a major ecological and health concern because it can be transformed in aquatic environments into forms that can enter the food-chain to be bio-accumulated and bio-amplified in humans and biota. Although North Carolina led the nation in gold production until 1848, and produced more gold than any other state in the southern Piedmont gold belt, few studies of mercury contamination associated with this mining exist. The purpose of this study is to determine the magnitude and explain the distribution of mercury contamination in floodplain sediments nearly 100 years after large-scale gold mining ceased in the region. Preliminary data suggest that floodplain sediments are highly contaminated downstream from the most intensive area of mining at Gold Hill. This study provides a unique opportunity to gain insight into the nature of mercury dispersal in river systems, to assess the regional history of floodplain sedimentation, and to construct the first mercury mass budget for watersheds in the North Carolina Piedmont.

Principle Investigator: Dr. Scott Lecce(ECU)



The “New” New Orleans: Evaluating Preferences for Rebuilding Plans after Hurricane Katrina
NSF ABSTRACT 0554987 $170,459

In the wake of near total destruction of infrastructure in some parts of the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, policy makers are faced with a quandary. New Orleans has considerable economic value, not only as a commercial port, manufacturing hub, and tourist destination, but has a rich and colorful history and thus unique cultural value. However, the present location of New Orleans and the legacy of engineering interventions have created a city so vulnerable that catastrophe was inevitable. It is apparent that any redevelopment of the current location must contend with present and future vulnerabilities. To evaluate possible future planning options for the restoration of New Orleans, it is necessary to consider the contributions of three primary planning disciplines, Environmental Planning, Urban Planning, and Housing Planning. Each of these three components, when bound to the evolved city, is essential in defining the possible options for reconstruction. This project submitted under the Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER) program investigates public attitudes toward different options for the future New Orleans. To assess the social value of different restoration plans for the New Orleans area, a survey will be administered to a cross-section of the United States population. In order to be sure that there is sufficient information on preferences across diverse households, data will be gathered from a stratified random sample, composed of (i) New Orleans residents and evacuees, (ii) regional households, and (iii) households in other parts of the nation. This study will elicit local and national valuation of the historic and cultural attributes that make New Orleans unique. The study will also elicit public valuation of mitigation that can harden the city against future hurricanes and tropical storms. The results of this study will be useful for policy makers at the city, state, and national level as they formulate a restoration plan for the city of New Orleans.

Principle Investigator: Jamie Brown Kruse (ECU)
CO-PI’s (in Alphabetical order): Okmyung Bin (ECU)
  Craig E. Landry (ECU)
  Harold Stone (ECU)
  Kenneth R. Wilson (ECU)
  John Whitehead (Appalachian State University)



Spatial, Environmental and Behavioral Determinants of Valuation of Coastal Erosion Risk
ECU 2005 Research Development Grant $30,000

Coastal populations have expanded rapidly in the past twenty years. The population growth has gone hand in hand with unparalleled increases in coastal real estate property values. The increases in real estate prices have occurred in spite of the fact that some of the most valuable property along the Atlantic Seaboard is vulnerable to erosion, wind damage and flood damage produced by hurricanes and nor’easters. While wind and flood damage are generally limited to extreme weather events, shoreline erosion has an additional long-term component associated with sea level rise. The desirability of near-shoreline properties is tied to the esthetic notion of ocean views and coastal lifestyles. The question is whether the public has adequately accounted for the inherent risks of these attractive locations in their investment decisions. This project is designed to examine how the public perceives the risk in conjunction with the amenities that make coastal property markets unique. This study will utilize a variety of research methods from economics and geography to uncover risk attitudes and time discounting behavior of coastal property owners. A geographic information system (GIS) will be used to generate variables describing spatial, environmental, and market characteristics of coastal properties. Viewshed, based on LIDAR will be constructed for each property in the sample in order to provide an objective measure of the amenity, ocean view. The information on spatial and market characteristics of coastal properties will be meshed with information derived from surveys of coastal residents and laboratory experiments to understand the risk attitudes and risk perception. By gaining a better understanding of what coastal residents understand about erosion and flood risk, this research should produce useful information and insights on how to reduce the economic impact of hurricanes or severe windstorms on the eastern North Carolina region as well as other Atlantic and Gulf Coast states.

Principle Investigator: Jamie Brown Kruse (ECU)
CO-PI’s (in Alphabetical order): Okmyung Bin (ECU)
  Tom Crawford (ECU)
  Craig E. Landry (ECU)



Collecting Economic Impact Data: Implications for Disaster Areas and Host Regions
ABSTRACT NSF 0553108 $29,881

This research will examine the economic impact of Hurricane Katrina upon both the metropolitan regions that were directly struck by the hurricane and the metropolitan regions that served as host regions for the thousands of evacuees who left New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. Initial estimates indicate that Katrina will likely be the costliest storm in United States history. More than a million Gulf coast residents were displaced by the storm. The research will focus upon the collection and analysis of ephemeral, time-sensitive data. Economic, social, psychological and experiential data will be collected from a sample of approximately 400 evacuees. The study will focus upon three primary economic issues: 1) the number of jobs lost, new jobs created from recovery efforts and job sustained; 2) value-added (in dollars) to the local economy from enterprise operations (including household income, excise and sales taxes, self-employed income, property income such as rents, etc.); 3) total output lost in the local economy. By looking at the economic impacts on both the destroyed and the host communities, a more complete understanding of economic impacts of disasters will be obtained. There is a strong educational component of the research, as graduate students from both East Carolina University and Texas Tech University will be involved in data collection and analysis.

Principle Investigator: Jamie Brown Kruse (ECU)
Collaborators: Bradley Ewing (Texas Tech University)
  Farooq Malik (Southern Mississippi-Long Beach)
  Mark Thompson (Stephen F. Austin College)



Natural Disasters and Bank Performance
2005 FDIC Center for Financial Research Grant $10,000

This study examines bank performance in several tornado-prone areas and hurricane-prone areas. When a hurricane or tornado outbreak occurs, evidence indicates that regional labor markets, insurance markets, as well as housing markets exhibit strong responses to the event. There are several reasons why we might expect a community bank to be vulnerable to economic shocks caused by a natural disaster. Community banks tend to be less diversified geographically than their larger competitors. According to conventional wisdom, community banks have greater credit risk due to the geographic concentration of their loan portfolio and therefore are more vulnerable to local economic shocks. A second source of vulnerability is the disproportionate number of small business loan customers typical to many community banks. Due to their ability to collect soft information, community banks are considered a significant source of credit for small businesses which are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters.
In this study we examine the time series behavior of regional bank performance in response to severe wind storm events. The regions that we study include Nashville, Oklahoma City, and Fort Worth-Arlington, each of which has been hit by one or more major tornadoes; and Corpus Christi, Miami, and Wilmington, NC each of which has been hit by one or more major hurricanes. Our analysis utilizes event study methodology that allows for the possibility that changes in measures of bank performance may be significantly affected by a severe wind storm. Our analysis relies on three bank ratios: nonperforming loans to total loans, net chargeoffs to total loans, and return on assets (ROA). Our goal is to identify the impact of a wind disaster on both large and small banks.

Co-Investigators (in Alphabetical order): Bradley T. Ewing (Texas Tech University)
  Scott E. Hein (Texas Tech University)
  Jamie Brown Kruse (ECU)


 

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