To Test for Climate Disasters: Build Stuff, Then Blow the idea Apart

A cannon-like device, the launcher hurls chunks of wood — meant to simulate debris flying at 100 miles an hour, or about the speed of a Category 2 hurricane — at a target about 20 feet away. “You could get debris, tree limbs, stop signs, pieces of your neighbor’s roof, all coming at you,” Mr. Gritzo said.

On the cue of “Fire!” an 8-foot-long piece of lumber flew across the lab toward a piece of plywood, the kind which might be used to board up the windows of a home or business. The ½-inch plywood didn’t do well; the projectile went clear through the idea, like an arrow through an apple.

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“Fail,” Mr. Gritzo said. (To have a reasonable chance of surviving a hurricane, the plywood might need to be closer to one inch thick.)

The team also burns things: plastics, huge rolls of paper, whiskey barrels, car parts, even frozen dinners. FM Global’s fire lab, where a musky odor of soot hangs inside air, can perform detailed analysis of the emissions which result — often a toxic mix of hydrocarbons in addition to various other chemicals.


Mr. Gritzo examined roof shingles after a test. The lab has equipment which can generate winds up to 0 miles per hour.

Benjamin Norman for The brand-new York Times

Scientists have warned which climate change will be a threat to America’s forests, with rising temperatures, drying trees in addition to earlier-melting of snow contributing to a growing number of extreme wildfires. The recent wine country fires in California caused widespread losses of commercial property in addition to the devastation they brought to residential neighborhoods.

The risks of flooding, which wreaked havoc during Hurricane Harvey, bring a whole various other layer of testing in addition to preparations. While the relationship between climate change in addition to hurricanes will be complicated, the idea will be becoming clear which a warming planet will produce wetter storms, while sea level rise will worsen the impact of storm surge.

Mr. Gritzo grills companies over their flood preparedness, creating executives wear virtual reality goggles programmed to transform the lab into a flood zone, with muddy water licking at the walls.

Flood-proofing a regular four-foot door might require piling up 250 50-pound sandbags, a highly labor-intensive task. The bags also become contaminated coming from the floodwaters, generating mountains of waste.

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