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Chapter 16: Natural Disasters and Catastrophes

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1 Chapter 16: Natural Disasters and Catastrophes

2 Hazards, Disasters, and Catastrophes
Natural processes are physical, chemical, and biological changes that modify the landscape. Common denominators of vastly destructive natural events are transport of material (water, air, and earth) and expenditure of energy.

3 Earthquake Earthquakes result when the rocks that are under stress from the internal earth processes that produce our continents and ocean basins rupture. mostly at depths of 10 to 15 km along faults Earthquakes release vast amounts of energy. they can release more energy than a large nuclear explosion.


5 Volcanic Eruption Volcanoes are the result of extrusion at the surfaces of molten rock (magma). May be explosive and violent, or they may be less energetic lava flows. Generally occur at boundaries between tectonic plates Some volcanoes also occur in more central parts of tectonic plates where hot spots deep below heat the rocks. E.g. Yellowstone National Park and the Hawaiian Islands.

6 Landslides A general term for the down slope movement of soil and rock. Occur when the driving forces that tend to move materials down a slope exceed the resisting forces that hold the slope material in place. Resisting forces are produced by the strength of the material on slopes. The dominant driving force on slopes is the weight of slope materials influenced by the force of gravity. The steeper the slope and the heavier the slope materials, the greater the driving forces.

7 Landslides Human processes that add to or increase the slope angle increase the drive forces. Resisting forces reduced by increasing the amount of water on or in a slope, or by removing vegetation that reduces the root strength of the soil or rock.

8 Hurricane A hurricane is a tropical storm with circulating winds in excess of 120 km (74 mi) Move across warm ocean waters of the tropics. Hurricanes gather and release huge quantities of energy Water is transformed from liquid in the ocean to vapor in the storm


10 Tsunami A series of large ocean waves produced after the ocean water is suddenly disturbed vertically by processes such as Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, submarine landslides, or the impact of an asteroid or comet Over 80% of all tsunamis are produced by earthquakes.

11 Wildfire A rapid, self-sustaining, biochemical oxidation process that releases light, heat, carbon dioxide, and other gases and particulates into the atmosphere. Fuel is rapidly consumed during wildfires helps maintain a balance between plant productivity and decomposition in ecosystems. The primary cause is vegetation built up When microbes are not able to decompose plants fast enough to balance the carbon cycle.

12 Tornado A tornado is a funnel-shaped cloud of violently rotating wind
Extends downward from large cells of thunderstorms to the surface of Earth. May occur when a cold air mass collides with a warmer one. Water vapor in the warmer part of the atmosphere is forced upward where it cools and produces precipitation. As more warm air is drawn in, the storm clouds grow higher and thunderstorm activity increases in intensity. Tornadoes concentrated in the Plains States

13 Flood The inundation of an area by water.
Produced by a variety of processes ranging from Intense rainstorms to melting of snow, storm surge from a hurricane, tsunami, and rupture of flood protection structures, such as levees or dams. River flooding Shapes the landscapes through erosion and deposition. Erosion has produced features as small as gullies and as large as the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.

14 Heat Wave A period of days or weeks of unusually hot weather
A recurring weather phenomenon related to heating of the atmosphere and the moving of air masses. Hypothesized that human-induced global warming has increased the number and intensity of heat waves in recent years. Now considered the most deadly of all weather hazards

15 Drought A period of months, or years, of unusually dry weather.
Related to natural cycles of wet years that alternate with series of dry years. Thought to be related to the heating of ocean waters and the moving of major air masses.


17 Hazards, Disasters, and Catastrophes
These processes are natural Become hazards, disasters or catastrophes when people interact with or live and work where they occur. Natural hazard Any natural process that is a potential threat to human life and property.

18 Hazards, Disasters, and Catastrophes
A hazardous event that occurs over a limited time span in a defined geographic area Catastrophe A massive disaster that requires significant expenditure of money and time for recovery.

19 Hazards, Disasters, and Catastrophes
No area in the world is hazard free Average annual loss of life around 150,000 Financial losses exceeding many billions of $$ Hazards that produce extensive property damage are not necessarily the same ones that cause the greatest loss of life. Economic cost increasing because people moving to the coast.


21 Taking a Historic Point of View
Natural hazards are repetitive events To evaluate the flooding of a particular river we can evaluate the history of flooding for that river Need to link the historic record with prehistoric records and modern measurements to gain greater insights into the flood hazard.

22 Fundamental Concepts Related to Natural Hazards
How natural processes and hazards, might be reduced, minimized or eliminated: Natural processes have service functions. Hazards are predictable. Linkages exist between hazards. Linkages exist between different hazards and between the physical and biological environment.

23 Fundamental Concepts Related to Natural Hazards
Hazards that previously produced mostly disasters are now producing catastrophes. Risk from hazards can be estimated. Adverse effects of hazards can be minimized.

24 Natural Process Have Natural Service Functions
Nature provides a number of natural service functions Clean air, water purification, mountain building, etc. Fault can produce springs and seeps Habitat for animals and plants


26 Natural Process Have Natural Service Functions
River and flatland adjacent to it form a floodplain. Many benefits for the environment Water and nutrients are stored on the floodplain. Deposits on the floodplain contribute to the formation of nutrient-rich soils. Wetlands on the floodplain provide an important habitat for many birds, animals, plants, and other living things. The floodplain functions as a natural greenbelt that is distinctly different from adjacent environments and provides environmental diversity.

27 Natural Process Have Natural Service Functions
Volcanic eruption produce new land Over millions of years volcanoes produce the Hawaiian islands



30 Natural Process Have Natural Service Functions
Dust storms carry nutrient rich soil Landslides may form lakes. Physical processes linked to a varied landscape W/o diversity in land diversity of life would be reduced.

31 Hazards are Predictable
Most hazards can be mapped Where they have occurred in the past Monitored for present day activity Predictability Spring snow melt and flooding Earthquakes often clustered Volcanic eruption from dormant volcanoes usually preceded by precursor events

32 Hazards are Predictable
Statistic and probability useful in evaluating the frequency of a particular event. “100 year flood” Used to determine flood insurance and restrict development Another important variable in predicting hazardous events is geography Forecasting events like tsunamis



35 Linkages Exist Understanding the links between hazards and between the physical and biological environment is a important part of understanding the consequences of natural hazard. Hazards can be linked Volcanic eruption-landslides Landslides-flooding Hurricanes-flooding-landslides Submarine earthquake-tsunamis


37 Linkages exist Links to biological environment
Global scale; comet-extinction Regional scale; hurricane-beach erosion and vegetation destruction Wildfires remove vegetation-landslides Erosion-loss of fish habitat

38 Hazards that previously Produced Disasters are now Producing Catastrophes
During the last 10,000 years human population grown exponentially >6.6 billion today Now have 15 cities exceeding 10 million people Most in areas vulnerable to natural hazards


40 Hazards that previously Produced Disasters are now Producing Catastrophes
Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia Mudflow in 1845 killed 1,000 people Mudflow in 1985 killed 21,000 people Events predict and even mapped but warnings largely ignored



43 Land Use Transformation and Natural Hazards
Landscape transformations From forest to agriculture or urban May turn a disaster into a catastrophe E.g. flooding after deforestation along Yangtze River in China E.g. landslides after Hurricane Mitch and deforestation in Honduras

44 Risk from Hazards Can Be Estimated
Risk is defined as The product of the probability of that event occurring times the consequence should it occur. Determining consequence fairly straightforward Property damage, loss of life More complicated is determining acceptable risk

45 Risk from Hazards Can Be Estimated
Acceptable risk The risk that individuals or society are willing to take E.g. millions of people choose to live in CA even though high probability of earthquakes

46 Adverse Effects of Hazards can be Minimized
Active vs. reactive response Response include search and rescue, firefighting and provision of emergency food, water and shelter following an event.

47 Adverse Effects of Hazards can be Minimized
Proactive choices 1. land-use planning to limit construction in hazardous locations 2. construction of hazard-resistant structures, such as floodwalls and levees 3. protection of ecosystems on coastal floodplains and wetlands that provide natural protection from hazards 4. well-thought-out plans for evacuation and relief following a disaster.

48 Impact and Recovery from Disasters and Catastrophes
Direct effects People killed, injured, dislocated, made homeless or otherwise damaged by the event. Indirect event follow a disaster Donations, shelter, taxes to help finance recovery and emotional distress. May effect society as a whole


50 Perceiving, Avoiding and Adjusting to Hazards
People generally optimistic about natural disasters. Laws and regulations designed to control development in particular areas. Land-use planning is one of the best tools we have to avoid some hazards. Insurance may be required for flooding and earthquakes People often rebuild in the same spot

51 Perceiving, Avoiding and Adjusting to Hazards
Evacuation Hurricanes can often be spotted days or weeks out Disaster preparedness also minimizes impact of hazards Requires working chain of communication Control of hazards Many people have been led to believe they are protected by levees E.g. Sacramento area



54 What does the Future Hold with Respect to Disasters and Catastrophes?
Every year we seem to set new global records Economic losses from disasters and catastrophes # of disasters has increases significantly in the last ½ century In part because of human population pressure Urbanization affects severities of events Oceans getting warmer effects severity of storms




58 What does the Future Hold with Respect to Disasters and Catastrophes?
Anticipating hazards rather than simply reacting to them will help minimize economic losses and reduce pain and suffering. E.g. large earthquake in China


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