A new video series on the science behind natural disasters was recently released by the National Science Foundation, the Weather Channel and NBCUniversal News Group.

The series spotlights NSF-funded geoscientists studying volcanoes, hurricanes and flashfloods, among other, often catastrophic, natural events to help explain how to mitigate disasters’ human and economic cost. The National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Geosciences (NSF-GEO) partnered with NBC Learn, the educational division of NBC News, and the Weather Channel to produce the 10-part series released on September 29.

Logo for the video series. Credit: NSF, NBC Learn, and the Weather Channel.
Logo for the video series. Credit: NSF, NBC Learn, and the Weather Channel.

The series, titled “When Nature Strikes, Science of Natural Hazards” is among various recent promotions of Earth Science, including Earth Science Week, which began October 11, and Representative Mike Honda’s Earth Science resolution.

“Our nation has become increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters,” Roger Wakimoto, Assistant Director of NSF-GEO, said in a statement. “Important research to improve our understanding of these hazards will lead to improved forecasts and warnings that will save lives and help mitigate the impact on society and the economy.”

Wakimoto led an event at NSF’s headquarters in Virginia on October 7 to introduce the series and its host, Marshall Shepherd. Shepherd is the director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia and hosts a video series on the Weather Channel called “Weather Geeks.

“Professors have to get outside of the ivory tower or we’re doomed,” Shepherd told participants at the event, alluding to misleading weather reports among news outlets. Although tornados and hurricanes are visually striking and likely to attract viewers, reporters need to focus on flood warnings and preparations since floods are typically more deadly, Shepherd said.

Although Shepherd commended South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for responding well to the historic flooding in her state, he said that people were still making bad decisions, like driving in torrential rainfall. Boosting social behavior research should be a priority, Shepherd said, so that warnings resonate with people facing hazards. Yet, both NSF’s geoscience and social behavior science research are facing potential cuts in funding authorizations.

The videos attempt to highlight proper social behavior during a disaster by teaching viewers how they can access tools and resources to minimize human and economic tolls. Soraya Gage, vice president and general manager of NBC Learn, said in a statement, “Our partnership with the National Science Foundation has provided a great platform for showcasing the latest research on natural disasters through original video content.” The videos feature gripping footage of erupting volcanoes, spreading wildfires and other events as cinematic orchestration builds intensity. “When Nature Strikes’ breaks down the science behind natural disasters through powerful storytelling and captivating video,” Gage said.