Featured in Meteorological Technology International


Jim is featured in the April 2018 issue of Meteorological Technology International in the article “Lay of the Land,” which discusses possibilities and limitations in the prevention of debris flows. Selected excerpts are below:

The other problem is that debris flows are so rare that public perception of the dangers they pose remains low, according to Northwestern University engineering professor Jim Hambleton. He believes the proof of this is seen in the fact that people continue to move into at-risk areas. “If you look at some of the places hit by the Montecito mudslide, the reality is that people shouldn’t be living there,” says Hambleton. “But the views are so great and human beings like life on the edge.” Hambleton thinks there is a group behavioral element that gives rise to a false sense of security. “If you move into the area you know the risk, but the hazard is everywhere. In other words, all the houses surrounding you face the same risk. You should worry about debris flows, but so should the whole community. At that point a sort of weird logic intrudes and you think that if other people are doing it, so can you.”

Hambleton thinks that some of the rainfall technology could be adopted by residents in at-risk areas to help them “take ownership of what’s in their backyard. If you live there you ought to have a rain gauge sitting on your deck that’s connected to your smartphone and pings you with an alarm when rain levels reach a critical level. For me this kind of citizen science is the solution to the problem.”

Read the full issue on the magazine’s website:


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