question: how good are we at predicting natural disasters?

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Question: How good are we at predicting natural disasters?. Hurricane Mitch, 1998. Red River Flood at Grand Forks, North Dakota, 1997. Answer: Not very. How Natural are Natural Disasters?. Hazards and a changing environment are intimately linked - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • Question: How good are we at predicting natural disasters?Red River Flood at Grand Forks, North Dakota, 1997Hurricane Mitch, 1998

  • Answer:

    Not very

  • How Natural are Natural Disasters?Hazards and a changing environment are intimately linkedChanging environment is linked to human-induced global warmingOur society is becoming increasingly vulnerable to any disaster

  • A combination of (1) greater reliance on fragile infrastructures of increasing vulnerability, (2) population growth in coastal floodplains, and (3) global-warming influences suggests that more of the population will be affected by natural disasters in the future

    (McGuire, Mason, and Kilburn)

  • The frequency and strength of El Nio events has increased, and this increase has occurred in association with global warming

  • Global warming since 1880( )

  • Global warming is particularly intense in the Arctic regions

  • The 1998 Ice Storm inflicted 5 billion dollars in economic damage inBoth Canada and the USIt occurred during the 1998 El Nio event (global warming)It would not have had as much economic impact 100 years ago(increasing vulnerability of society)

  • Hurricane Andrew spawned the growth of the reinsurance industry (reinsurers insure insurance companies against catastrophic losses)

  • Damage inflicted by Juan to Nova Scotia (Sept. 30, 2003); courtesy of Environment Canada

  • Juan was only a Category 1 hurricane

    Much stronger hurricanes will affect these same areasit is only a question of when, and not if such an event will occur

  • Global warming is also associated with an increase in Sea-surface temperaturesAn increase in SST will result in more, particularly intense hurricanesIt is inevitable that stronger hurricanes will strike a coastal city (recall that Andrews 30 billion dollar price tag would have been up to 100 billion had it shifted its track just a few km)

  • In fact, the 2005 Hurricane season was the most active on record. Consider Katrina of 2005. Current estimates of economic losses exceed 100 billion dollars (US).

  • Katrina, Monday 29 August 2005, 0715 hours Zulu time

  • Courtesy Washington Post

  • Courtesy Washington Post

  • Katrina reaches Montreal

  • Megacities are practically predestined for risks.Whether the risks are natural catastrophes, weather, environment, health or terrorism, megacities are more vulnerable than rural areas. -Munich ReFragile cities

  • Growth of megacities,1950-2015

  • The three most costly (people and economics) disasters in history?World Trade Center, New York, 2001Banda Aceh earthquake and tsunami, 2004Hurricane Katrina, 2005

    Implications for cities and megacities

  • Additional meteorological hazards associated with a changing climate

    More tornadoes (increased water vapour from warmer SSTs)More intense mid-latitude (winter) stormsMore wet spells and probability of flooding (increased precipitation at middle latitudes in the winter)More drought (less soil moisture in the summer)

  • Sea level rise(New York City)

  • Human actions

  • California wildfires October 2003

  • Scripps ranch subdivision near San Diego:urban penetration into chaparral forest

  • A pocket of the Scripps Ranch subdivision that by luck survived

  • Treat yourself to a nice vacation you so richly deserve...

  • while its still around

  • Consider the fate of a similarly-esteemed building from Camille in 1969:

  • Desperate measures on east coast beaches (Westhampton beach, Long Island, New York)3 Jan 1993, a few weeks after Dec 92 storm2 inlets opened6 Aug 1993Top inlet more open, bottom inlet closed artificially

  • 1996: after beach restoration (millions of dollars)2000: beach restored, complete with (vulnerable) houses

  • Living on the edge: near San Francisco

  • Unbridled development near San Francisco: implications for earthquake (and landslide, fire) vulnerability1950 map1980 map

  • What to do?

  • Natural Disaster Prevention and MitigationDuring 1990s, natural disasters (floods, droughts, earthquakes, storms, strong winds, torrential rains, and mudslides) hit the world 500-800 times a year and cost more than $600 billionMore than previous four decades combinedLoses by location in the 1990s45% were in Asia30% in US10% in EuropeHuman impact2 billion people affected400,000 500,000 killed (more than 2/3 in Asia) deaths from floods, with earthquakes the next-largest killer

  • Ignorance, Apathy, Indifference

  • ConclusionsMeteorological events are likely to increase because of human-induced global warmingThe impacts of these events are likely to be greater because an increase in vulnerabilityGreater percentage of population moving into floodplain and coastal regionsLack of monetary resources to build safe housing in such areasLack of education to build an awareness of any threat to the community by natural hazards



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